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Mountain Trails as Infrastructure: Trekking Tourism and Development in Solukhumbu, Nepal
Solukhumbu District of Nepal, located on the southern foothills of Mt. Everest, is a famous region for mountain tourism. More than 30,000 foreign tourists visit this area yearly and most of Sherpa people, the local residents, are now taking part in tourism industry as climbing/trekking guides, porters and lodge owners. There are no transportation facilities as in roadways except a small airstrip; therefore steep mountain trails connect this region directly to global tourism flow. These mountain trails often disappear because of weather conditions such as heavy rain and snow, and only reappear as people or animals start to move on them again. Sherpa people always complain about the inconvenience of mountain life and insist that building broader roads is a sign of development and definitely good, however, they also know that well-paved roads will prevent the “adventure-oriented” tourists who constitute a large portion of the inflow from visiting this area. This paper reports the discourse about the trails in this region and describe the road construction/maintenance activities conducted by local people. Based on these ethnographic resources, I will examine their ambiguous notion of the trails and point out that they imagine the ties with outside world and their future through mountain trails as infrastructure, which differs from urban residents who commonly regard trails as an absence of infrastructure.