News from Nepal
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the mountains.
Kathmandu, Dec 8 (IANS) Even as a red-faced Nepal government arrested two Maoist guerrillas after the tale of their assault of a Swiss tourist hit the headlines worldwide, complaints started pouring in from more and more foreigners about their harassment at the hand of the rebels, whose leadership takes pride in saying no foreigner was ever attacked during the 10-year armed uprising. A team of Swiss journalists, who had gone to the Annapurna region about a week ago, ironically to write about the tourism potential of Nepal, are alleging Maoists forced them to pay NRS 2,000.
'We were harassed by the Maoist activists and eventually, had to pay NRS 2,000,' Lorenz Kummer, foreign editor of Swiss daily Der Bund told the Himalayan Times daily.
'We argued that the (Maoist) leaders had said there would be no extortion,' the daily Saturday quoted Kummer as saying. 'But they did not let us pass.'
'They did not attack us but we had a very bad time,' Kummer said.
It's weird, but I almost have a feeling of satisfaction from hearing this. Nepal is still a mess. I can still count on that. In a world of uncertainty and impermanence, some things are permanently messy and uncertain.
When asked about travel in Nepal, I always have to tell the stories of how the Maoists were extorting donations last year, complete with printed receipt. The receipt featured portraits of Lenin, Trotsky, Marx, Stalin and Mao, in a Mount Rushmore pose.
No, I always had to say...but I have photos of them from friends who did.
This never fails to disappoint.
Well, now I have a chance to get my very own Maobadi souvenir, once again. And so do you!
Eventually, the tourists agreed to pay NRS 2,000 after being told that their Nepali porters would be in trouble if they refused to 'donate'.
After they made the payment, the group was handed a receipt with a flourish...written in English.
The 'Appeal to foreign tourists' said that Maoists survived on 'voluntary donation from well wishers and supporters' at a time there was a vicious propaganda against them.
'We loathe the very idea of extortion,' the pamphlet said. 'We humbly appeal to you to make a voluntary donation according to your capacity.'
The assault came at a time Nepal is expecting tourist arrivals to cross the half a million mark and triggered protests to the government from hotel and travel trade associations.
To be fair, it probably is safe to go trekking, as long as you don't try to haggle. All the Maoists have ever wanted from foreigners is money. So, bring an extra couple of thousand and be ready to part with it.
Don't forget to get a receipt!