Led by Mahabir and Chitra Pun, homegrown, inspired leaders operating outside the mass tourism industry, the community below the Annapurnas here has quietly built a network of trails and facilities beyond the trekking highways. Routes with a full complement of services have been set up to the nearby Khopra Danda and Mohare Danda, with exceptional viewpoints adjacent to the iconic Pun Hill.
These magnificent locations may one day outshine Pun Hill in terms of vistas, and because they offer ridge-top accommodation sorely lacking elsewhere. Khopra Danda (3650 m) is the highest and closest vantage point to the massive Annapurna South, and the well-furnished inn at Mohare Danda (3300m) has jaw-dropping views with a panorama that extends from Gurja Himal right up to Himalchuli, and looks down on Phewa lake.
Visitors are treated to stupendous sunrises without the hour long pre-dawn hike to Pun Hill. The only requirement at dawn is emerging from a warm bed, daunting at a cool 3,000 plus meters.
Mahabir Pun, the man who has single-handedly plugged the digital divide in Myagdi by bringing internet to schools and received the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award for it, knows a good thing when he sees it. He is now tapping into the tourism potential of these amazing mountains to fund his work in education and health. For this he is offering all the benefits of the main routes and none of the crowds.
Much of the work was completed with local funds and the UN-Micro Enterprise Development Program. The group prefers performing tasks within the community and has income generating ventures such as a lokta paper mill in Nangi Village and a yak-cow crossbreed project at Mohare Danda, as well as a 150-strong yak farm at Khopra. Prospective income is reserved for school and health clinic funding.
These routes are for the unique tourist seeking an experience that could once be had on popular routes in an industry that is becoming over-regulated. Khopra Danda and Mohare Danda provide alternatives to well-established areas and will be a pleasure for returning visitors and all Nepal lovers.
PICS: ALONZO LYONS