The tourists trekking around the Annapurna area are undeterred by the Maoist demand for donation. The locals of the Ghorepani say that the Maoists demand donations from tourists ranging from Rs 1000 to Rs 500 per head and make about 150,000 every day.
This extortion has however, not reduced the number of tourists visiting the area. Some 200 visitors reach Ghorepani each day. "Though the Maoists demand money from the tourists they behave with them in a very good manner. This makes the visit pleasant and comfortable," said Basudev Parajuli, the general secretary of Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN), Pokhara. He adds, "But we wish they would not continue to ask for donation." Parajuli clamed that the maximum donation was Rs 2,000 from an Australian tourist. One tourist entrepreneur of Ghorepani says the rebels ask only Rs 500 from those who have less money. Nepali visitors are, so far, exempted from donation demand.
The Maoists are collecting money at the foothill on the way to Pun hill from Ghorepani and at a new bridge near Birethanti on the sector of Pokhara-Baglung road. The Maoists issue receipts to the tourists and check the receipts in the hotels where they are staying. The receipts have made it easier both for Maoists and for the tourists.
The TAAN, Pokhara informed that the Maoists did not collect donations during the Tihar. Some weeks ago, Pokhara Tourism Council had urged the Maoists not to ask for donation from the tourists. Six Maoist cadres stay in Ghorepani to collect donation. It is said that though not heavily armed, the rebels carry grenades in their bags. People also say that the Maoists have hung banners urging the tourists not to try to evade the donation payment.
The Ghorepani area is famous for viewing sunrise and the largest rhododendron forests of the world, which attract both domestic and foreign tourists.
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