By John All
The Maoists are finally gone
When last I visited the remote Hinku valley a decade ago, the Nepali civil war still lingered - even though a ceasefire had been signed several years before. When I was there studying climate change in the Himalaya, I saw the Maoist posters on houses and Maoist slogans painted on all structures. I was told by locals that those without the Maoist slogans had been reduced to the burned foundations scattered throughout the valley.
I also saw Maoist foresters clearcutting timber by hand and sawing it into boards. Boards that were used to build the new homes and tea houses that were springing up around the valley as tourists were drawn to Mera Peak - a nearly 6500 m Peak that is one of the easiest 6000 m peaks in the world.
Ten years later, when I was planning this trip I was told by a local that when the Maoist’s made their bid for power in 2014 and closed Mt. Everest, it was a Pyrrhic victory because they lost the support of the local Sherpa people. He told me that now people don’t care about politics, all they care about is making money.
Our visit and interviews in the Hinku valley over the past week have borne that out. Two students from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu interviewed the local people while the rest of us took data on the local botany and how climate change had affected it. We found dozens of new stone built tea houses in the valley and none of them had any Maoist posters or marking. The old wooden structures with the Maoist markings were deserted and generally has their roofs collapsing from lack of maintenance.
Now the valley has 24 hour electricity from dozens of solar panels. There is internet and your choice of baked goods in the larger settlements. When the Nepali students asked about the Maoists, they people said things like ‘that was before my time’ and ‘they left a while ago’ - and there didn’t appear to be any regret at the loss.
Overall, it was a great week of research in the Hinku valley - where now we can appreciate a yak burger without fearing Maoist political instability while we work and climb an easy 6000 meter peak.