Nepal guerrilla tourist trailThe one-time leader of Nepal’s Maoist insurgency on Tuesday launched a new tourist trekking trail, giving visitors the chance to retrace the guerrillas’ footsteps.

The Guerrilla Trek, a three-week hike which stretches across central and western Nepal, is designed to draw in more foreigners as the Himalayan nation seeks to rebuild an economy devastated by the 1996-2006 “People’s War”.

“I hope this will be a new chapter in Nepal’s tourism. Many countries that have emerged from war have tried to capitalise on the memory of war,” Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, told reporters.

“A huge political change occurred in Nepal but we cannot sustain it unless there is an economic transformation. I hope the Guerrilla Trek will play an important role.”

An estimated 16,000 people died in the decade-long conflict fought by Prachanda and his fellow Maoists against the once-absolute monarchy. The rebels later turned to politics and took power in elections two years later.

Prachanda himself became prime minister but stood down in 2009 after nine months in power following a dispute over the sacking of an army chief.

The trek passes through Nepal’s lush valleys that stand in the shadow of mountains including Dhaulagiri and through dramatic waterfalls, lakes and the country’s only hunting reserve, the organisers said.

“Everest, Annapurna are famous. But if you want to take a unique route, this is the one,” Alonzo Lyons, an American travel writer who trekked the route last year, told AFP.

“Its natural scenery is simply captivating. You also come across diverse cultures.”

He said trekkers would be able to see the remnants of the war and become familiar with the recent history of Nepal.

The Maoists were the largest party in the parliament until its dissolution in May over the failure to deliver a post-war constitution.