View at the Daulaghiri massif and the main valley towards it.
Last night we arrived in Beni in the lower Anapurna Region at 7 PM just before the curfew. The streets were totally deserted, so unlike Nepal where the nights are lively with shops open till 10 PM. Soldiers guarding the village did not allow us to set up a camp and we had to sleep in a local lodge.
During the 12 hour trip in the bus from Katmandu, I saw very little military activity, only few fortified buildings, re-enforced with sandbags. The last two hours, on entering the mountains, we passed roadblocks guarded by small groups of soldiers. Here the Maoist are active.
This morning there is some commotion as pressure cookers are not allowed in this area. They are used by the Maoists to make bombs. We need them for cooking at high altitude but at a police check post they would be confiscated when carried by the kitchen boys. Meinhard is asking for volunteers to carry the parts as the police would only check the Nepali and not the foreign members. I put the lid of one of the two pressure cookers in my rucksack. We also distribute the three walkie-talkies in pieces among the members. Our satellite phone in also prohibited and the Maoist would be very keen to find it. We also hear the communist major of a village was killed last night by the Maoist.
He is in his mid-twenties and had this since a child, since he can remember, he tells us. The scene is gruesome, I do not even take pictures and leave quickly. Bram and Henny, our doctor, stay behind and ask him about his condition. We all donate generously, also the Sherpa guides, and the money quickly piles up to a large amount, over a 1000 Roupies, a monthly wage in this area.
Near the junction were the trail splits into one to Dolpo and Daulaghiri we have lunch at a tea-house. Dolpo is closed off to tourists as the Maoist control most of the villages. Over the pasy few days we have not meet any tourists. The presence of Maoist also has its advantages.
Our Sherpa leader tells us after lunch that we have a big problem. The tea-house owner is obliged to ask a donation of 1000 Roupies (14 dollars) per tourist to the Maoist Party. We do not have a choice as not paying could result in severe repercussions, possible they could send us back or demand a ten fold amount as a penalty. We will get a receipt to prove the donation in case we are checked.
The older group members and the girls do not mind, the amount is similar to the trekking fee and there is hope that some of the money will be spent on the infrastructure like bridges and on improving the lifes of the people in the villages. Most of the farmers in the villages are supporters. The young guys, below 30, protest loudly but I reply that the1000 Roupies we paid to the government will never be spent on the locals. Besides, it is tax deductible. They finally agree after Meinhard reminds us that we were warned this could happen. Still, they keep on complaining calling it robbery and Luc calls it physical rape. To me it sounds like someone needs to grow up, this is not very travel wise.