Trekking Through Rebel Territory—the Guerilla Trek

Maikot Village, Rukum, the guerilla trek./ Image: Alonzo Lyons

These are fast moving times; changes happen overnight. Such has been the case throughout different regions of the world, and such has been the case here in Nepal too. One of the biggest changes to happen was the fall of the 250-year-old Shah monarchy some years ago and the rise of the Maoists to power. One day, someone may write the details of these changes in the history books; right now, however, it seems premature to do so since things keep on changing so fast. One cannot say whether there will be a return of monarchy or whether the country will ever have a stable government. At the same time, on one thing most people agree—it doesn’t look likely that the Maoists, or any other similar outfit for that matter, will return to the old ways of the jungle.

Nepalese soldiers on patrol in 2005, during the country’s civil war. Image: Gurinder Osan/AP

This is why the newly introduced the ‘Guerilla Trek’ through trails previously used by the Maoists during their revolutionary years has attracted a fair bit of attention. It can be foreseen that these trails will sooner than later disappear altogether with progress and development which makes it all the more urgent for thrill seekers to make a beeline to Nepal and do the ‘Guerilla Trek’. According to some, this trek has added attraction for foreigners who are a bit flabbergasted to know that communist parties have such a big hold on the country’s political scenario, and they want to know why this is so, given that communism has more or less been given up by most countries as a failed philosophy.

For such people, the ‘Guerilla Trek’ could give some answers, going as it does, over scores of villages and towns of far-western Nepal over which the communists have a firm grip. On the way, they are sure to meet with people of many indigenous tribes, most of them downtrodden and poor, and eking out the barest of living—in other words, fertile ground for a philosophy such as communism to flourish. The ‘Guerilla Trek’ passes through Myagdi, Rukum, and Rolpa, places that were almost always in the limelight during the 10-year conflict (1996-2006) as Maoist strongholds. In fact, for much of those years, these towns and villages were ruled by the revolutionaries, with the locals paying allegiance more to them than to the legal government.

Indeed, this recent history promises to make this particular trek a very interesting one since the often sensational events of those days are still fresh in the minds of most Nepalis.

Geographically, the far-west has a character of its own, being endowed with plenty of natural resources like rivers, forest, lakes, caves, waterfalls, et al. Since this region is considered to be the least developed in the country, one can expect to discover many unexpected sights and many locals whose lifestyle might seem to be still stuck in the Middle Ages. This, of course, is something that makes any trek all the more interesting—the unexpectedness.

A traditional house along the trail. Image: Alonzo Lyons

Now, coming to the trail he trail itself, it begins at a small town called Beni, goes along the boundary of another quaint mountain town, Baglung, and then passes the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, one of the country’s three such reserves. Then, the trail carries on to Rukum and Rolpa, two towns where the Maoist guerillas held absolute sway during the insurgency years. It must be emphasized here that the trekker will come across some pretty interesting characters on the way, many of whom might have interesting tales to tell; worth sitting down with a cup of tea at some wayside eatery to listen to eye witness accounts of events during the insurgency years.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you might have to make use of homestay facilities during the trek.

A typical ‘Guerilla Trek’ organized by a professional organization could look like this:

Day   1: Kathmandu – Beni by bus— 9 hours
Day   2: Beni to Takam (1,665 m)—6 hours
Day   3: Takam to Lamsung (2,250 m)—6 hours
Day   4: Lamsung to Gurjaghat (3,020 m)—7 hours
Day   5: Gurjaghat to Dhorpatan (2,860 m)—5 hours
Day   6: Dhorpatan to Nisi Dhor—5 hours
Day   7: Nisi Dhor to Tallo Sera—7 hours
Day   8: Tallo Sera to Rujhikhola—6 hours
Day   9: Rujhikhola to Thabang—5 hours
Day 10: Thabang to Jaljale—5 hours
Day 11: Jajala to Jelbang—6 hours
Day 12: Jelbang to Suliochaur—6 hours
Day 13: Sulichaur to Kathmandu by bus—13 hours

On the way, look out for mountain goats and bharials (blue sheep), especially in the Dhorpatan Reserve. Look out also for some fabulous birdlife around the area. And, aside from these and some fascinating indigenous culture and lifestyles in the area, rest assured also that you will still not be far from the mighty Himalaya, some of its peaks you will see being Gurjal Himal and the Dhaulagiri range,

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