Very early on in the life of HunzaOnFoot, we realised that there are countless Shepherd huts all over the region in which we operate, called Gojal (otherwise known as upper Hunza).
These shepherd huts are very basic structures constructed with a combination of stone, wood and mud and are primarily used as emergency overnight shelters for shepherds in the region and have never been rented out to travellers. This is an opportunity that could initiate a new stream of revenue for these shepherds as well as offer the travellers that rent them, a unique off-grid cottage to stay in.
The locations that we have picked for The Shepherds Inn are all very unique and off the beaten path. They are almost always in a cluster of 3 to 6 huts, all near potable water sources (from local glaciers) and never with any noise/waste pollution around them, making them the perfect destinations for adventure and eco-friendly tourism. The closest location to the main Karakoram Highway is about a three hour trek which ensures there will never be any vehicular or walk-in traffic and that is exactly how we want to keep these sites.
What we decided to do with these shepherd huts is convert them (always two at a time) into basic, off-grid and self sustainable bed & breakfast style cottages with very minimum resources and a neighbouring hut that will be renovated to serve as a kitchen/dining/storage facility, both that can be sustained long-term via rental to tourism and small-sized retreats.
Why two at a time? Because we want to keep the cooking/eating away from the sleeping/living huts. This makes sure that we keep the sleeping areas clean and attract the least amount of critters and smell as possible. Hence, one hut will be renovated into a kitchen/dining hut and the other, located close by, will be renovated into a comfortable, clean sleeping space.
This is where we need your help!
With your help, we want to be able to collect enough materials and equipment by the beginning of August in order to install a basic solar power system (two panels at 100W + 150W = 250 Watts in total) that can supply enough power for a few LED light bulbs and charge smartphones, laptops and camera batteries.
Going off grid is without a doubt amazing; but as more and more photographers have started to visit this region again, what people like us don’t want is to run out of batteries in the middle of the journey. This is one reason why they prefer to stay close to/or inside towns that have power, unless they’re prepared to carry very heavy packs on their backs to sustain their photography throughout their time away.
Aside from the solar installation, we want to bring some other equipment that will not only make it easier/comfortable for tourists, but also make it easier for the shepherds that own these huts to rent them to other tourists. This equipment includes a basic kitchen inventory (cookware/utensils), basic bedding for overnight stays, a portable toilet (with biodegradable waste management) and a solar water heater for cooking and hygiene.
What we want to do at the end of the renovation is for travellers to make a booking, pick up their trail maps, hire porters to take their packs and just show up with their food supplies and personal equipment. Once we are done with this renovation, travellers will be able to stay at the Shepherd’s Inn on their own and feel right at home, in the middle of majestic landscapes fitting for a true retreat in the wild.
This project takes care of a few key issues: It provides tourists with more off-the-beaten-path locations and helps minimise at least some crowds in towns. It promotes the heritage and culture of places that not many people visit because there’s no place to stay. Staying away from large towns and hotels forces (local) tourists to connect with nature in a way they normally don’t, since they currently opt to drive from one location to the next.
The Shepherd’s Inn also creates a new stream of income for the local communities where these shepherd huts are located. It enables poor shepherds who own these huts extra income from a place that has never given them any income at all. Because even when our groups use these huts in their current state, we pay their owners $5/person per night and our group size is usually about 6 people, while we spend about two nights each in these huts. That is about $60 for two nights that go straight to the shepherds. This is $60 more than they have ever earned from these huts.
Since our pilot renovation in late June 2018, we took a group and charged them $10/person per night and asked them if what they paid was a fair amount and their answer was a big and solid YES! This is of course once the huts were fixed up and retrofitted with some type of power and furnishings to make our stay more comfortable.
Most importantly, the Shepherd’s Inn project has great environmental benefits as we shift towards clean (solar) energy, organic diets (through locally grown fruits and vegetables), zero plastics waste in and around the huts and using only biodegradable materials.
To go the extra mile, we even have our own portable toilets and all our waste goes straight into 5’ - 6’ waste holes away from the huts, that end up degrading into soil. If that isn’t green enough, we have even started sourcing biodegradable soaps for washing and cleaning so that no chemicals end up in the water streams or the land around us.
This takes care of all our renovation costs for one set of sleeping and kitchen huts; including waterproofing, solar panels and batteries, lighting, paint and paint supplies, bedding, shelving, screening, transport costs for the hut inventory and a stock that will last half a season for one shepherd hut. Donate us this amount and you will get one free week per year for you and your friends at any of our sites, for up to two years (based on hut size and availability at the time of reservations). We will even lead your tours into the destination and include your name in our marketing materials and signage at the hut that you sponsored.
This helps us with all of our solar panels and batteries, lighting, bedding, transport cost of the related inventory of one set of two shepherd’s hut. Donate us this amount and you will get five days per year for you and your friends at any of our sites, for up to two years (based on hut size and availability at the time of reservations). We will even include your name in our marketing materials and signage at the hut that you sponsored.
Depending upon what you’re donating, your contribution helps us with our solar panels and batteries, lighting, paint and paint supplies, transport cost of the related inventory of one set of two shepherd’s hut. Donate us this amount and you will get three to four days per year for you and your friends at any of our sites, for up to two years (based on hut size and availability at the time of reservations). We will even include your name in our marketing materials for the hut that you sponsored.