Meteor Shower On Goechala Trek: A Story That Will Give You Goosebumps

This story was first published in Discover India. Our founder, Arjun Majumdar, wrote this story way back in 2013 after some surreal moments on the Goechala trek. Scroll down to read the whole story.

Trekkers standing by the Samiti lake. Picture by Anirban Sengupta

At 14,000 feet, the Samiti Lake camp on Goechala trek was a dilapidated trekkers hut. The wooden roof had rotted and caved in. Half the hut was exposed to the sky and a draft whistled in steadily from the opening. We settled down in a corner that was dark and away from the exposed sky, waiting for the night to pass quickly. It was bitterly cold. The next day we were attempting the Goechala.

I slept intermittently. Through the night a coil of cold air swirled around me. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I sat up and was surprised to see the hut awash with a gentle white luminescence that beamed down from the roof.  As my eyes adjusted to the light, I noticed the foot of my sleeping bag covered in a soft mound of snow. I looked up and noticed snowdrifts falling gently from the large gap in the roof. 

Somehow, at that moment this setting didn’t seem out of place. 

I tapped the light on my digital watch and noticed it was 2.30 in the night. We were slotted to leave at 3.30. I had an hour to myself. I quietly got out of the sleeping bag, put on my parka and gently let myself out of the creaking door of the hut. A few heads of my teammates on the Goechala trek turned but they quickly huddled themselves back deeper into their sleeping bags. 

I stepped out into a whitewashed landscape. A few inches of snow had fallen just enough to cover everything with a coat of white. On the western horizon, where the valley ended in the middle of two hills the full moon was suspended just above the horizon in a large cheese ball.

The moon cast long dark shadows on the snow. In the bright neon light of the full moon, I could single out the tiniest of pebbles. The air was still as still can be, so quiet that even my own movements seemed cacophonous. 

I dug my hands deep into the pockets of my parka and made my way towards the Samiti lake, the moon behind me and my shadows leading the way. The cold had frozen the snow. My foot made a soft crunching noise as if I was treading on a thousand tiny splinters of icicles.

Overwhelmed at what I was seeing, tears welled up in my eyes. That night I cried for everything I loved and despaired.

In the vast lunar landscape, I was alone, all alone.

As I got to the lake, Mt Pandim rose from the foot of the lake, reaching up to the sky and almost touching it, its snow-covered silhouette glistening in the night, standing out against the inky darkness of nothing behind it.

On the dark absolute still waters of Samiti, a reflection of the entire mountain stared at me. I could see every snow patch, every crag and every gully of the great mountain. 

Overwhelmed at what I was seeing, for the first time in my life on a trek, tears welled up in my eyes. That night I cried for everything I loved and despaired. I wondered why I was alone. 

I slowly trudged my way back to the hut, the moon in my eyes. It was almost getting to be 3.30. It was time to make a move. The vision of Mt Pandim on the waters of Samiti lake lingered in my mind.

The team gathered itself quickly. We left our backpacks behind at the hut and started on our attempt at the Goecha pass at 16,000 feet. We didn’t bring out our torches. That night the moon was our beacon.

At 4.45 when we had covered a lot of ground and reached a high point, we stopped for a while to rest. We stood looking at the Kanchenjunga range fanned out in front of us, a stone’s throw away.

To the east, a faint glimmer of light was sneaking in behind the ridges of the mountain folds. To my west, the night was still dark. The moon by now had climbed higher in the sky but was still bright enough to show us our way. Constellations sparkled in the sky. 

I turned my gaze to watch the dawn inch its way towards the summits of Kanchenjunga. 

From behind me, suddenly, a shooting star streaked its way through the night sky. A halo surrounded the meteor and it seemed to move in slow motion.  My eyes followed the meteor until it disappeared behind the still inky darkness of Kanchenjunga.

Two minutes later another meteor moved across the sky towards the Kanchenjunga. I stood transfixed at the sight of this omen. For the second time, that night tears welled up in my eyes.

I often tell this story when we sit around a campfire on a trek. Many feel I have been extraordinarily lucky to see such sights on a trek — a moonlit mountain reflecting on the still waters of a lake and meteors that vanished behind Kanchenjunga. 

What I did not tell people is that tucked away in the corners of my purse was a cutting of a newspaper article. The article dated two months earlier was a science report on how we were heading into an unusual month of meteor showers.

For the rest, all we needed was an almanac to predict the full moon night.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 thoughts on “Meteor Shower On Goechala Trek: A Story That Will Give You Goosebumps

  1. I am sitting in my office right now and all I can think of is how mesmerized would have been the sight of the sky, the mountain, the moon and you. Thoroughly engrossed in the reading your experience and I don’t know when / how, but I like to travel with you sometime. Too much in mind and too less of space to to write what i feel right now. I guess these kind of experiences when one shares, it takes the reader back to the thought that life is meant to be lived and lived way better than mere home – work – home schedule. Cheers!! Immense respect for you.

  2. Really don’t know what to say. To take a treck like this , needs passion n spirit. U hv that. Keep it up n write for us who can not make it till date, but always hope to. There is more in life than home -jobs – home….We really are meant for eat – live – die. ..

    1. You do get to camp at Kokchurang. This is what the itinerary looks like –
      Day 1: Reach Yuksom; 6-8 hours drive from NJP. Transport from NJP will be arranged at 9.30 am. Cost of cab – Rs.5,500 per vehicle.

      Day 2: Yuksom (5,643 ft) to Bhakim/Sachen (8,654 ft); 5 hours

      Day 3: Bhakim (8,654 ft) to Tshoka (9,701 ft); 4 hours

      Day 4: Tshoka (9,701 ft) to Dzongri (13,024 ft) via Phedang (12,083 ft); 6 hours

      Day 5: Acclimatisation Day. Dzongri (13,024 ft) to Dzongri top (13,778 ft) and back to Dzongri; 3 hours

      Day 6: Dzongri (13,024 ft) to Thansing (12,946) ft via Kockchurang (12,152 ft); 6 hours

      Day 7: Thansing (12,946 ft) to Lamuney (13,743 ft); 2 hours

      Day 8: Lamuney (13,743 ft) to View Point One (15,100 ft) via Samiti Lake, back to Kockchurang / Thansing (12,152 ft / 12,946 ft); 12 hours

      Day 9: Kockchurang / Thansing (12,152 ft / 12,946 ft) to Tshoka (9,701 ft); 6-7 hours

      Day 10: Tshoka (9,701 ft) to Yuksom (5,643 ft); 6 hours

      Day 11: Drive from Yuksom (5,643 ft) to NJP. You will reach NJP by 5 pm.

    1. Definitely October! That’s when you have the clearest skies and the best views of the big mountains around!