Trekking for a Good Cause—the Community Eco-Lodge Trek

A view of Annapurna range seen from Mohare Danda(3300m).

A view of Annapurna range seen from Mohare Danda(3300m).

Dr. Mahabir Pun won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2007 for Community Leadership. He is famous for his untiring efforts to develop information communication technology in the rural areas of Nepal. He was born in Nangi village in western Nepal where he has set up the Himanchal Educational Foundation to support education and development projects there. An Ashoka Fellow, he is on the board of more than half a dozen organizations involved in ICT, education, conservation, and research. A famous man, yes, and he is also credited with developing the Community Eco-Lodge treks that begin from Pokhara and go through a region rich in natural bounty, which includes his birthplace, Nangi.

There are two versions of this trek, the short one lasting six days, and the longer one lasting 10 days. Here’s how the 6-day trek works. You start off from Pokhara driving down to Galeswar via Beni. From here, you begin trekking and reach Bas Kharka (1525 m) in some three hours. You’ll be crossing the Kali Gandaki River on the way and your accommodation at Bas Kharka will be at somebody’s home (homestay). The following morning, you hike for 5-6 hours, mostly uphill, and it’s going to test you, that’s for sure. Eventually, you reach Nangi (2300 m), a Pun Magar settlement that is making efforts to demonstrate how communities can come together for development. One fine example is the Himanchal High School, a model educational institution that is worth visiting. You will be spending the night either in a community lodge or at a homestay.

Annapurna Community TrekHope you had a good night’s rest because the next day you’ll again be going up quite a distance to Mohare Danda (3300 m), a hike of some 6-7 hours. It might be a trying walk, but your labors will be somewhat mitigated by the fact that the you’ll be coming across some fantastic scenery and walking through forests of oak and rhododendron, and clumps of bamboo groves. Mohare Danda offers you spectacular views of sunrise and sunsets over the magnificent Himalayan peaks. Here, you’ll be making use of community lodge facilities. Day four is a most relaxing one because you will be walking for only about 2-3 hours, and that too downhill, to reach Danda Kharka (2800 m). You stay here in a community lodge. The next day, you walk for 5-6 hours to reach Tilkot (2300 m), which is another charming settlement inhabited by Magars, and spend the night either in a community lodge or in someone’s home. The final day, day 6, you walk down to Tiplang (about 3 hours) along the Kali Gandaki River banks, cross the bridge, and then drive on to Pokhara.

The longer version of this trek (10 days) is similar to the above till Danda Kharka. After that, however, the route changes. Instead of going to Tilkot, you trek instead to Swanta (2200 m, 4-5 hours). The route is fantastic, to say the least. You’ll walk through forests full of rhododendron and lokta, from which Nepali paper is made, and wade across burbling streams. You may sight some interesting bird species such as the white-collared black birds and the Yuhinas. The following day, a 5-6 hour trek takes you to Dhan Kharka (2980 m). The view of the Dhaulagiri range (8,167 m) accompanies you most of the way. You walk down to the river; passing Libang on the way, then cross over to the other side and hike uphill through an oak forest.

Day 7 will be a most undemanding one as you will be walking only for a couple of hours. Your destination is Khopra (3650 m) which has a dramatic location, right next to Annapurna South and Baraha Shikhar. This place provides panoramic views all around, and is so lovely that it’s worth spending an extra day in, which is what you do. You can use this extra day to visit the Khayer Lake (4600 m) if you want to; it’s about 2-3 hours away.  The next day, refreshed, you walk through verdant forests of pine and rhododendron before reaching Narchang (2000 m, 4-5 hours). After a night in a community eco-lodge or at a homestay, you walk down to the road and cross the suspension bridge over the Kali Gandaki River, and then drive back to Pokhara, passing through Tatopani and Beni on the way.

You know now why it’s called a community eco-lodge tour; you’ll be staying over at some community lodge or a homestay in all the places on the route you spend a night in. It’s a community welfare program that’s aimed at improving the living standard of the locals in the area. So, not only will you be walking in magnificent nature’s lap, and getting lovely views of the great Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges (two of the world’s 14 eight-thousanders), you will also be contributing towards the region’s overall development.

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