See what you think of the following. For myself, reading it without any
additional information, it sounds about par for travelling in remote places.
Why was this considered to be the fault of the travel company? (I tried to
contact Donna, via The Guardian, but have heard nothing.)
Spiti is not an uncontentious trip!
What level of risk is acceptable when you have entrusted your life to a travel company? Donna Dickenson and a friend chose Explore Worldwide to chaperone them on a 17-day trip through the remote Spiti Valley in India, but the itinerary began to disintegrate after a monsoon caused floods and landslides. "Our bus attempted a mountain pass which had been blocked and no action was taken by the tour leader for several hours," she claims. "The leader ignored suggestions to try a different route next day and said we should attempt the pass again; that day two road workers were killed there."
Dickenson alleges that after other routes were also blocked, the local guide became disoriented and it was decided to attempt a road where she claims a party of trekkers were known to be stranded by a landslide. A two-day trek was compressed into one to make up for the delays and Dickenson feared that inexperienced members of the party would be overstretched. She said she found the risks intolerable and abandoned the holiday.
"We also felt the tour had deviated too extensively from the original schedule to be acceptable; we spent the better part of a week on 15 to 8-hour bus rides on dangerous roads," she says. She wants a refund of half the cost of the land tour for herself and her companion. "Explore has refused on the grounds that it cannot be held responsible for unpredictable weather," she says. "We argue that the monsoon occurs at roughly the same time each year. It seems to us the adventure travel industry is in need of urgent investigation in the wake of the tourists deaths in Uganda and Yemen and the canyoning tragedy in the Alps this year."
Explore, which has offered Dickenson an ex-gratia payment of £200, argues that only two days were spent on journeys of 15 hours or more and that its brochure warns of tough travelling conditions. An experienced crew, including local guides, led the party and Land Rovers were laid on as an alternative to buses when the roads became impassable".
"Our tour leader attempted to reassure the travellers that the region benefits from a good air-rescue helicopter service in the event of passengers needing to be evacuated to two main medical centres," says a spokeswoman. "In view of the fact that military roads such as this one are usually repaired with the minimum of delay, we feel it was reasonable for the party to wait at the landslide with a view to continuing the route as scheduled."
According to a spokeswoman for the Association of Independent Tour Operators, "It's up to the tour operators to assess the safety of the package and the holidaymaker must understand that there are risks involved in adventure holidays. Explore takes safety very seriously and warns of unpredictable events in its literature. Its holidays are definitely not suitable for people who expect everything to go as planned." A spokesman from the Health and Safety Executive says that all adventure holiday providers must have accreditation approved by the HSC, but UK regulations don't apply to trips abroad.
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