Nepal is renowned as an excellent trekking destination partly because of the abundance and quality of accommodation available to trekkers. ‘Teahouse trekking’ is a household name that practically defines trekking in Nepal, and ‘teahouses’ refers to the simple, locally run lodges that can be found along popular trekking routes. While teahouse trekking along the popular routes is certainly recommendable, a drawback these days is that much local character has left the towns that are full of lodges. In the Sherpa town of Namche Bazaar, for instance, practically every building is a trekkers’ lodge or hotel, and it can be hard to see what traditional Sherpa life looks like.
An alternative can be found on the currently under-travelled Annapurna Community Trek. The five-day trek starts at Galeshwor—five kilometres from Beni, in the Myadgi District of the Annapurna Himalayas—and passes through Bhanskharka, Nangi, Mohare Danda and Tikot. It goes through very similar terrain as the more popular Poon Hill trek. In fact, from just below the highest point of Mohare Danda, Poon Hill is visible. But the Annapurna Community Trek has the advantage of housing trekkers entirely in homestays and community-run lodges.
This trek was devised by Magsaysay Award winning social entrepreneur, Mahavir Pun, who is from the town of Nangi. Before the route’s formalisation, the only way to stay here was to camp. But around six years ago, a series of community lodges and community dining halls were built—simple but comfortable rooms serving meals to trekkers. Some of the towns en route have community dining halls but not community lodges. In these places—such as Bhanskharka and Tikot—trekkers stay in spare rooms in local villagers’ houses.
My friend and I were the only trekkers on this route, which made a change from the more crowded treks elsewhere in the Annapurnas. We were invited to sit with local Magar women and eat sel roti—slightly sweet rings of fried dough—that they were making for a wedding. We chatted with the proprietess of the homestay in Bhanskarka, situated behind the simple church, and learned about her conversion to Christianity. We sat in peace and watched the local children play basketball and soccer on the Tikot Youth Group playground. These were the kinds of local experiences that can be had on the Annapurna Community Trek.