Our founder, Arjun Majumdar, wrote this piece way back in 2013 after having a surreal moment on the Goechala trek. This story was first published in Discover India. Scroll down to read the whole piece.
At 14,000 feet, the Samiti Lake camp 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.
I slept intermittently. I always felt a coil of cold air 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. Nonchalantly, I looked up and noticed snow drifts falling 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 am. I had an hour to myself. I quietly got out of the sleeping bag, put on my parka and let myself out of the creaking door of the hut. A few heads of my teammates turned but they quickly snuggled deeper into their sleeping bags.
I stepped out into a white washed landscape. A few inches of snow had fallen but 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 neon light of the full moon, I could make 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 shadow leading the way. The cold had frozen the snow. My foot made a soft crunching noise as if I was treading on a thousand splinters of icicles. 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. I looked around and tall snow covered mountains surrounded me in an amphitheater, the snow shimmering.
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 back to the hut, the moon in my eyes. It was almost getting to be 3.30 and time to make a move. But I could not remove the vision of Mt Pandim on the waters of Samiti lake.
The team gathered 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 young. The moon had climbed high in the sky and shone as brightly as ever. Stars sparkled in the sky and the constellations were clear.
I turned my gaze to watch the dawn make its way to the summits of Kanchenjunga, when a shooting star with a short tail streaked its way through the night sky. A halo surrounded the meteor and it seemed to move in a slow motion. My eyes followed the meteor until it disappeared behind the Kanchenjunga. For the second time in the night I cried.
I often tell this story when we sit around a campfire on a trek. Many feel I have been extraordinarily lucky to see such spectacles two times in a row on the same night. What I don’t tell people is that two months earlier there was a newspaper report that mentioned that we were heading into a month of meteor showers. All we needed was a cheap almanac to predict the full moon night.
What you should do now
1. If you’re inspired to check out the Goechala trek: You’ll find all the details about the trek on this page
2. If you’re looking for a full-time job with us: Head over to our careers page. We have lots of positions open. We also have lots of applications coming in. So the sooner you apply, the better.
4. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.
5. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our guide here.