The most surreal part of the trek is to watch majestic peaks of Annapurna protruding through the clouds. Yes, once you are at the altitude of 3,000 m, vegetation thins offering undisturbed view in 360 degree above the deep valley filled in clouds. This dreamlike place in Annapurna could be reached with a short and easy trek from Pokhara.
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Mardi Himal trek is the most unspoiled trek in Annapurna as it was opened only in 2012. There are no villages along the trails and more than 95% of the walk is in Rhododendron forest and pasture. The region have been used as summer grazing by villages down the valley. The trail have been accessed only by expedition teams in the past.

Annapurna region is the most popular trek destination in Nepal. With its neighboring Dhaulagiri and Manaslu ranges, the region offers trekking and climbing adventure ranging from easy to strenuous.  However haphazard development have jeopardize the trekking tourism in its once popular trails. Socioeconomic change is so pathetic that the charming teahouse villages have abandoned look now. Scores of youths migrated abroad or in Pokhara and Kathmandu for alternative opportunities.
In such opening of trail to Mardi Himal base camp for tea house trek have once again revived the craze of Annapurna trek.
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Until 2012, the beaten trail to Mardi Himal base camp was traversed only by shepherds and occasional expedition groups. Buttresses of Mt Fishtail and Mardi Himal provides grazing for cattle for Gurung village down the valley. Thick Rhododendron forest and steep face of the mountain kept most off the higher reaches until now. The expedition group had to be self-sufficient with tents and food to embark on the journey.
The coming up of teahouse along the trail brought overwhelming numbers of tourists. The trek being relatively easier and closer from nearest city Pokhara got attentions of more trekkers. Unlike tedious ups and downs of other treks, Mardi trek just climbs to the first range of mountain and follows the ridge to its base camp without going down. To avoid altitude sickness, everyday walking is just set to 4 hrs. Also it could be combined with other two popular destinations Annapurna base camp and Ghorepani.
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First part of the trekking, passes through beautiful Rhododendron forest. At higher reaches the trail comes above the tree line offering undisturbed view of Himalayas and sweeping valleys. The valley is often filled with clouds with only snow peaks protruding through them, makes the place other worldly. For those looking for more challenge, 4,500 m based camp exploration and Mardi Himal 5,587 m climb is intriguing.
Mardi Himal trek is 8 days long starting and ending in Pokhara. Combining the trek with Ghorepani and Annapurna base camp, trekking could be planned for about two weeks. This is the most popular short trek that is in easy access from the near by city Pokhara.
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The alarm buzzes and I wake up, bit tired at 4:30 AM. We had a late night yesterday. First thing I did was call Prakash. He is going to check if the bus for Dhadingbensi is leaving. It has been halted for a few days because of a strike called by different groups demanding federal structures based on ethnic identity. Prakash is just leaving for the bus station. I still have to pack. After the packing was finished, I woke up Anna and Alex, who had an orientation with Mrs. Rijal at a Montessori school. The idea was to implement these play-way methods of teaching, along with the educational materials, to the village primary school of remote northern Dhading. Prakash calls me back and reports that we have to hurry as all buses are full. We caught him in Balaju and together we drive for Dhadingbensi. The 82 km drive was scenic and offered Himalayan views as we skid down from Nagdhunga. We joined Trishuli basin and took a diversion at its confluence with Thopal Khola. Dhadingbensi is 18 km upstream from Thopal Khola.

Here we will have to wait for a few hours as the SUV (Force Toofan) for Fulkharka will leave only at around 2:00PM. Anna and Alex are very excited and wanted to know all about the village, and the primary school they are going to volunteer at.

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Fulkharka is a cosmopolitan village in the northwest of Kathmandu. The village is perfectly located in the alluvial center of the Himalayan foothill with its ridge rising over 3,000m. Its spurs offer an up-close view of Manaslu and Ganesh Himal ranges. Its higher reaches are steep forested territories, providing grazing and drinking water for about 30 villages. Over the last 15 years, the rampant exploitation of natural resources has adversely affected the village’s ecological system. While during the later years, mass youth exodus to the cities and abroad has jeopardized the traditional labor based agriculture. One can hardly see any young adults in the village today. A similar experience is crippling all villages throughout Nepal, as they rapidly undergo this drive to urbanization.

We had our Dal-Bhat and spend a good length of time talking about Fulkharka village before cruising away from Dhadingbensi, venturing deeper into our Fulkharka adventure. As we hit the dirt road, reddish brown dust swirls into the air behind us, covering roadside houses and terraces in dust. After the 4 hrs long journey along  the bumpy road, we felt good to get out and breath in fresh air. The primary school and the village were at the ridge, still an hour’s climb away. It was tiring, but the view was rewarding as we were overlooking layers of green hills towards the south and the snow peaks towards the north.

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Anna & Alex:
“When we started our journey we didn’t imagine how hard it would be to arrive at the village. Everything was fine until we took the SUV. The road was bumpy but also straightened and, in my opinion, far too much close to the cliff. Less than ideal for those suffering from vertigo! During the first half hour, the only thing that was going through my mind was to stop the bus, go down and keep walking till the village; however, it’s just the first half hour and you soon become accustomed to it. Once you reach the village, you’ll automatically forget all the scary moments and you’ll feel good, like you’re on the top of the word. You’ll surely be captivated by the spectacular views of the valley!

Pokhara, Fulkharka, is a small charming Tamang village at the altitude of 1,600m. Our stay was arranged in the house of a retired Indian Army personal.  I was helping within the family kitchen, making sure there was proper hygiene and adequate nutrition. We consumed local vegetables, cereals and other agricultural production during our meal.
Anna & Alex:
“We felt very good in that house, despite the absence of facilities many Europeans are accustomed to. The whole family, Rabi and Prakash make us feel as welcomed guests, as though we are back at our own home. We really believe they were the perfect hosts: very kind, friendly and helpful. To sum it all up, we ate very tasty, homemade and freshly cooked food, prepared by Rabi himself (He won’t admit it, but he’s an excellent cook).
During the day we went to the primary school and helped them with teaching materials, arts and crafts classes and even painted the classrooms after school.
We were the first volunteers at the primary school in the village and it probably was the first time that most of them had seen foreign people. At school the children typically learn everything through memorizing by heart, which is why we tried to teach them other ways to learn, such as: playing didactic games, doing arts activities together, and drawing charts to fix them around the classroom. They understood us perfectly, despite our attempts to speak a few words in the Nepalese language (again, thanks to Prakash and Rabi for their immediate translation). Initially, the children were very shy, but after building some familiarity it had been very easy to work with them as they were both very intelligent and motivated. During the afternoon, we underwent the process of repairing the blackboards and painting the classroom walls. The children assisted us where possible and helped pick out the colors of the walls. They were very excited!

Anna & Alex:
We had just 5 days and there was still much to do. We found our volunteering in Pokhara, Fulkharka, much more meaningful and safe in spite of its remoteness. The reasons being the outstanding organization of iTourNepal.com P Ltd. (Nepal) & Riki Tiki Tavi (Spain), the beautiful Ganesh Himal Range, and finally a well-defined project and purpose. It was a scenic place with ample opportunities for hiking and trekking in its higher reaches. We are most thankful to these organizations for thorough planning and preparation, resulting in both a safe and enjoyable experience in Fulkharka.

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I really encourage you to visit Fulkharka. It has been a really good experience for us to spend these days as volunteers in Pokhara, Fulkharka. Not only did we share our time and knowledge with the children, we learned that we can foster change, little by little. We’re not teachers by any stretch of the imagination and it was the first time that we were volunteering, but we believe that anybody can make children smile and that’s the most important thing. Doesn’t matter where they live, their religion, or the color of their skin, children must be happy everywhere they are!
Thank you to everyone for your help and support. As my Nepalese friends would say:
Namaste didis and bahinis!