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"To achieve an economically perceptible result, a village needs the income from just one tourist party a year. And that is really the maximum. We intend to prevent commercialization and show the villages how to combat the relentless tourism in a positive way. Village trekking should retain its exceptional quality."
- Marcell Nimführ

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Nepal

Modern travels in Archaic Country - village trekking in Nepal
by Marcell Nimführ and Martin Kramar, Kathmandu, Nepal
photos by Martin Kramar
Feb 18, 2000

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Gorkha lies between Katmandu and the tourist stronghold of Pokhara. Although the region offers quite a few cultural treasures, only few travelers have strayed here. This is the birthplace of modern Nepal. In 1768, the Guerkha king Prithvia Narayan conquered the valley, uniting the country. One of the most beautiful temples still bears witness to this historical event. Its climate is pleasant, its nature untouched. For CCODER tourist parties, this translates to ten days of village trekking without telephone, cars and other tourists.

The trekking paths wind through hilly country, the towering peaks of Annapurna and Ganesh are visible in the distance. October, the best time to travel, is blessed with clear views. The itinerary calls for six hours of trekking a day. By the end of the tour, after a week-and-a-half, your legs are weary, your muscles sore and your lungs are tired of processing the pure mountain air.

Meetings with the native Nepalese, so rare on conventional travel tours, happen again and again: an American tourist who also happens to be a Doctor of Naturopathic and Ayurvedic medicine, meets the village doctor. The latter, more medicine man than doctor, leads him to a patient. They consult, learn from and teach each other; respectfully and amicably. "A unique experience," concludes the trek participant. "We have so much to give to each other and complement each other with."

Martina Mäscher and her co-workers walk a fine line between the blessings of revenue and the curse of mass tourism. Commercial enterprises have wreaked havoc both on the social fabric and on the environment. Luxury tents with warm showers, along with imported European foods make colonists of the travelers, and reduce the natives to load-carrying coolies. "To achieve an economically perceptible result, a village needs the income from just one tourist party a year. And that is really the maximum. We intend to prevent commercialization and show the villages how to combat the relentless tourism in a positive way. Village trekking should retain its exceptional quality."

The trekkers are put up in simple tents or the houses of host families. The kitchen is steeped in the flickering light of oil-lamps, the tiny butane stove won't work, the lady of the house resorts to the old wood oven. She cooks a standard Nepalese meal: Dal Bat, rice with lentil soup and various vegetables. Following local custom, we eat with our fingers. Three fingers and the thumb of the right hand are used to mix and pick up the rice and sauce and bring it to the mouth, where the food is flicked in with the back of the thumb.

The following morning, the trekkers are given an effusive send-off. There is still enough time to trek back to Trisuli Bazaar and have a look-see at the communal bank.

Each villager saves a certain amount each month - be it ever such a small amount. The savings are managed in a small shed that has been erected between the dairy and the community's grocery store.

Binod Kumari, the local banker, received his business training in Katmandu. He lets us see the balances and credit volumes and explains that the savings are earning good interest in a (large) bank. You can't go very far with a minimum deposit of four Austrian Schillings per person and month. The money is used for the tiniest of loans, available only to those who also participate in the bank. The loans are used to finance looms, goats and water buffaloes, whose milk is then offered to traveling tourists... and so we come full circle.

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