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Trekking in Ladakh with the first female guide


Summary of story from The Guardian, November 4, 2011

Thinlas Chorol was born in Takmachik, a remote village in western Ladakh. Her mother died when she was just a baby.

“In my holidays, I used to go up the mountain with my father and our herds of goats and sheep,” she explains.

” I was afraid something might happen to him if he was alone.” Wandering the mountains with her father was, she said, “the bliss of my childhood”.

Making her way in the wider world wasn’t so easy. She went to a college near Leh, the only opportunity for Ladakhis from remote villages to study in their native language.

Thinlas began trekking with foreign volunteers at her college.

One woman told her how having had to beat off unwanted sexual advances from her male guide, she now wanted a female guide. “I had been born in the mountains. It was natural for me to slip into that role,” she says.

It turned out to be a very different experience from wandering with her father. Locals assumed she was a tourist, since there was no such thing as a female guide, and spoke to her in English.

But the trip was a success, and at the end her client suggested she should make her living from being a guide. With that encouragement, Thinlas began looking for work.

Local travel agencies offered her cultural work, taking tourists around the famous monasteries along the Indus valley, and she was told that local custom wouldn’t tolerate a woman going into the mountains with foreigners.

But with help from her American English teacher, Thinlas persevered, got some qualifications and, after a few years as a freelance, set up her own agency.

Now she is training more female guides.

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