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Monday, September 1, 2008

An Alternative Route; Practice Run to Powerhouse

Quite bummed about the canceled flight to Jomsom, we were in a big dilemma about what to do. With still half a day left, we decided to go on practice trek around Pokhara, more like a warm up exercise.

First choice would have been the Forestry Campus Jungle, but considering that it was just 5 minutes away, we decided on a hike to Fewa Powerhouse instead; just located at the foot of Pokhara is an amazing place where I used to go when I didn't have chest hair...I need to stop mentioning that.

Anyways, we set off after a light brunch + lunch, with just a bottle of water and large amount of trekking enthusiasm. Walking around Pokhara is pleasant when its not sunny and while the sun is setting; however, a sunny summer day means sun burn and wet arm pits (WAP).

The weather was just right, sun was few hours away from setting and it was partially cloudy, perfect for an afternoon hike.

Its amazing how empty Pokhara feels, especially for someone from Kathmandu; pollution free, cleaner and 6 lane roads that you can drive blind-folded! You just feel like grabbing a few thousand from the capital and dumping them here.

The road to Fewa Powerhouse was indeed a pleasant one, since it was rice growing season, the fields were laden with stretches of greenery. Walking from within rice fields is great fun, although you might want to take proper shoes, by this I mean water-proof ones, rice needs water-logged land, and Pokhara isn't low on water, you might be walking alongside and on little streams.

The most prominent thing I remember about the Powerhouse was the long steep steps, and by steep I mean really steep, a few degrees and it would be a cliff! As a child, I would often go there to swim, quiet fun then but when coming back home, climbing the stairs would take an eternity.

A 30 min walk through little "gallies", across the deep seti gorge, rice fields, puddles and streams of water, we reached the massive stairs. Before gently descending, careful not to tip over, we enjoyed the view of the river from above. It was a soothing sight. The river had changed its course slightly, global warming...maybe not, but definitely due to the numerous landslide along its banks. I wondered if the swimming spot was still there. Stories I've heard said otherwise.

Construction work was going on; it was a little uncomfortable to see boys, barely the age of 16 carrying construction material heavier than themselves, up and down the steps. A misplaced foot, and next thing you know is that you are at the bottom, either dead or unconscious.

The descend was easy-peasy, within minutes I was at the bottom and on my way to the river. From the bottom, I noticed a few changes, there were new water-falls, thanks to leaking irrigation water channels from the Fewa Lake; however, it does add some spice to the scenery.

A short stroll led us to a newly formed man-made reservoir. The water was blueish and even though it looked like a quarry, it was a nice addition to the 'powerhouse' repertoire. However, as inviting as it looked, it was a death bed; the base of the pond was filled with fine white sand. Not as potent but it can be called the little brother of quicksand. Right below glided the river (I can't recall the name now, there are so many of them!) straying a little of course and swollen due to the monsoon rain.

Few yards away was the suspension bridge, vital for the survival of the Village across the river; everyday 'schooleys' passed to and fro. Its absurd, here in the city we complain about the 15 minutes long traffic Jams when coming back from school, this part of the world, people walk for hours to even get to school! My uncle says that it took him 1 and 1/2 hours to get to school, and it was not just walking. You see, he lived in a village in the banks of the Fewa lake; the problem was that his school was on the other side. So what he did was put all his books and clothes in a polythene bag and swim for 45 minutes, then walk for another 45 minutes and get to school. Then back again. Same thing, everyday. True story.

We are very privileged.

Getting back to the powerhouse. When on the bridge, I was looking for a swimming spot, so that the day I return from my trek, I can cool off. Lucky I happened to meet a young chap coming back from school, so I inquired him about my awesome plan. " every swimming spot here, someone has died. However, you can take the spot below that cliff. Its surrounded my rocks. You body won't get carried away by the current." Ok maybe I added the last bit, but the first line is the whole truth. Swear.

Swimming plans canceled.

On the way back we stopped to look at the powerhouse, the structure that landmarks this place. The inside was quite impressive, the turbines rotated with such velocity that it could make banana lassi and electricity at the same time.

A little glance here and there, trying the best to pretend to know what happening and how, we set off to climb the mammoth stairs.

It took an eternity.

My knees ached so bad that I made 4 pit stops and flattened out at the top.

Hey, at least I didn't tip over.

Click the photos for a bigger view.

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