Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Sundarijal water falls.

Sundarijal water falls.

Sundarijal is translated as “Nice drinking water” and that’s exactly what I found on this hike. A beautiful, if small waterfall, with crystal clear water. Nevertheless, westerners should not think that they can drink this water, as it is untreated. My point is that all the rivers I have seen in Kathmandu are distinguished by being quite “brown” looking (that’s putting it nicely) and the further you get away from the city, the “source” becomes cleaner.

Bayan, my taxi driver for the day, who actually joined me on the hike.

Bayan, my taxi driver for the day, who actually wanted to join me on the hike. I am always open to learning more about the Nepalese people and this would be an excellent opportunity to chat with Bayan and learn more about him and his people.

I left my hotel early in the morning, after having a big breakfast. My driver, Bayan, had been hired the day before and he was already waiting for me when I went outside the hotel reception area. Sundarijal is approximately 15 kilometers northeast of Kathmandu, a fairly short distance from where my accommodations were. The Shivapuri National Park covers a large part of of the Sundarijal. I am not absolutely certain, but the Bagmati river flows from the Sundarijal water falls, and is joined by the Shyalmati and Nagmati rivers.

Due to this being the dry season, there isn't much water flowing at this point in the river. Also, dam at the top of Mt. Shivapuri isn't releasing water from the reservoir.

Due to this being the dry season, there isn’t much water flowing at this point in the river. Also, the dam at the top of Mt. Shivapuri isn’t releasing water from the reservoir.

Bayan parked near the trail head, at a bus park. He asked if he could accompany me on the hike and I said, of course. It would be nice to have a companion to chat with. Nearby, there is a 640 kW hydropower plant that supplies electricity to the Sundarijal villages.  It is also my understanding that there is a recently completed $460 million water treatment plant located nearby in Melamchi and it provides clean water to the Sundarijal area. After paying the parking fee, we began the hike. Immediately, you notice that there are probably not going to be any switchbacks. You also notice concrete stairs. I hate stairs, especially concrete ones. They are hard on knees and I cursed myself for not bringing Ibuprofen or aspirin, as I knew that my knees would be aching later that day.

The beginning of the hike. For a large part of the trek, you are accompanied by this large water pipe which leads to the the dam and reservoir.  Also, notice the stairs. For most of the hike, you have concrete stairs or a flat path.

The beginning of the hike. For a large part of the trek, you are accompanied by this large water pipe which leads to the the dam and reservoir. Also, notice the stairs. For most of the hike, you have concrete stairs or a flat path.

Water buffalo who seemed very interested that I was taking his photograph.

Water buffalo who seemed very interested that I was taking his photograph.

Along the hiking route, you pass a village where the homes, small farms and businesses are constructed entirely on a severe grade up the mountain. Along with the villagers we passed, we also walked by plenty of farm animals, including water buffalo, goats, chickens, cows, ducks, etc. I found all of it fascinating, especially since you could practically touch them. Almost like walking though a petting zoo.

A goat.

A goat that wandered off his farm home onto the trail.

I found out that Bayan was 33 years old, happily married with two children. He is a hard-working Nepalese man, who pays approximately 7000 rupees to send one of his children to a private school. He has only been driving a taxi for a little more than a year. He owns the cab and during the tourist season can make anywhere from 25000 to 30000 rupees a month (which is about $250-300 dollars U.S.). He spoke excellent English, so it was easy for us to converse. Quite affable and good-natured, I immediately liked him and enjoyed his company.  We made preliminary arrangements for him to be my driver on a later trip I was planning in a couple of days, but I found out today that his taxi broke down and he probably would not be able to accompany me on this trip outside Kathmandu.

One of the many farms we passed during this hike.

One of the many farms we passed during this hike.

20130317_115449

I have never seen a burrowing chicken before, but of course that may be because I wasn’t raised on a farm. These chickens dig a hole and according to Bayan, lay in them to cool off from the heat. I am not certain, but I think that is millet being grown in the background. Other crops include, maize, potatoes, and barley.

Small plot of land being used to grow grain (barley?).

Small plot of land being used to grow grain (barley?).

On top of the water supply pipe.

On top of the water supply pipe.

After a kilometer or so, you are left with nature and of course, the path made of concrete stairs.

After a kilometer or so, you are left with nature and of course, the path made of concrete stairs.

I did a bit of research on the internet regarding this site and Sundarijal is part of what is called the Village Development Center (VDC). The VDC was named after a Hindu goddess, Sundaramai. A temple is dedicated to this deity in Sundarijal.. Almost 62% of the villagers are Buddhists and the rest are Hindu. Approximately 90% of the villagers are literate. In 1960, a military detention camp imprisoned the prime minister at the time, B.P. Koirala, and other political leaders for over 8 years without benefit of trial. The detention camp still exists in this national park and we passed a garrison on the way to the reservoir and dam.

I think my knees were beginning to hurt from climbing the concrete stairs.

I think my knees were beginning to hurt from climbing the concrete stairs.

Concrete dam and mechanical spillway.

Concrete dam and mechanical spillway.

The Sundarijal dam was initially constructed in 1895 and is a British design. However, I have read a conflicting report which states that it was constructed in 1934, but I believe this was a renovation and not a new dam. A “water catchment” pond or area is behind the dam, where water is stored before being released or used for hydro-power. The Bagmati river originates at an altitude of approximately 2732 meters before flowing into the catchment pond. The dam has an average water release discharge of 165 liters per second.

Without the dam releasing water due to this being the dry season, it's no wonder that the water falls is not as  spectacular as usual.. Nevertheless, this area is hardly diminished by that fact. I found other areas, e.g., water pools that were lovely.

Without the dam releasing water due to this being the dry season, it’s no wonder that the water falls is not as spectacular as usual.. Nevertheless, this area is hardly diminished by that fact. I found other areas, e.g., water pools that were lovely.

Having worked for the Bureau of Reclamation and been the occupational safety and health manager at Shasta Dam in California (in the early to mid 1990s), I was fascinated by this dam, especially the spillway gate.

Having worked for the Bureau of Reclamation and been the occupational safety and health manager at Shasta Dam in California (in the early to mid 1990s), I was fascinated by this dam, especially the spillway gate.

Water catchment pond behind the dam.

Water catchment pond behind the dam.

Gorgeous pools we discovered on another part of the trail.

Gorgeous pools we discovered on another part of the trail.

Another pool.

This pool from another angle. There were about a half dozen similar pools we saw in this area.

Bayan. I really enjoyed getting to know this young Nepalese man during our hike together.

Bayan. I really enjoyed getting to know this young Nepalese man during our hike together.

20130317_111247

Another pool where we stopped to relax. This area is quite serene and peaceful.

It may not look like it, but I am focusing on not falling off this rock.

It may not look like it, but I am focusing on not falling off this rock.

A picnic area was located above these stairs.

A picnic area was located above these stairs.

If you look carefully (all the photos can be zoomed in on if you click on them), you'll be able to see a couple of artists down stream.

If you look carefully (all the photos can be zoomed in on if you click on them), you’ll be able to see a couple of artists down stream.

Nice.

Nice.

These artists, along with a couple of others we saw further down river were enjoying a beautiful day by painting the bucolic river and surrounding park.

These artists, along with a couple of others we saw further down the river, were enjoying a beautiful day by painting the bucolic river and park.

This really pisses me off. However, I was even more upset when I found out that TOURISTS ARE PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE FOR POLLUTION AT NEPAL PARKS. GRRRRRRRR . . .

This really pisses me off. However, I was even more upset when I found out that TOURISTS ARE PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE FOR POLLUTION AT NEPAL PARKS. GRRRRRRRR . . .

This is where I get on my soap box and complain about the pollution in the air and the garbage strewn around this lovely country. I apologize for being such a bummer, but I saw too many instances of garbage not being thrown in garbage cans located at convenient points along the trail. Instead, trash was tossed on the ground or worse, thrown into the river. In Kathmandu, It really is depressing to see so much garbage on the ground, mainly due to the fact that they don’t have organized trash pickups like we do in the United States. It’s also not unusual to see people wearing respirators (myself included) while going about their daily lives. I have purchased two paper masks and a cloth one since I arrived here.

I read a column in a Nepal newspaper yesterday that voiced this exact concern/issue and offered reasonable and logical solutions to the problem. He emphasized that the Nepalese government must take the lead in any significant change. However, he also noted that change begins with each person – both Nepalese and foreigners – having a stake in this issue. Most important, change will only happen when the Nepalese people demand that their government do something about this problem. Nepal is a beautiful country threatened by pollution and I hope something is done about this insidious problem before it’s too late.

Advertisements