This story was first published in Discover India. Our founder, Arjun Majumdar, wrote this story back in 2013 after a few surreal moments on the Goechala trek. Scroll down to read the whole story.
Hikers stand at Lake Samiti. Image by Anirban Sengupta
AAt 14,000 feet, the Samiti Lake Camp on the Goechala Trek was a dilapidated trekker hut. The wooden roof was rotten and collapsed. Half of the hut was exposed to the sky, and a draft whistled from the opening. We sat down in a dark corner of the exposed sky and waited for the night to pass quickly. It was bitterly cold. The next day we tried the goechala.
I slept at times. A cold streamer swirled around me through the night. When I couldn't stand it any longer, I sat up and was surprised to see the hut flooded with a soft white luminescence that shone down from the roof. When my eyes got used to the light, I noticed the foot of my sleeping bag, which was covered with a soft pile of snow. I looked up to see the drifts of snow falling gently from the large gap in the roof.
Somehow this attitude didn't seem out of place at the moment.
I tapped the light on my digital watch and noticed that it was 2:30 a.m. We had to leave at 3:30 a.m. 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 hike turned, but they quickly pushed themselves deeper into their sleeping bags.
I stepped into a whitewashed landscape. A few inches of snow had fallen just enough to cover everything with a white layer. On the western horizon, where the valley ended in the middle of two hills, the full moon hung in a large cheese ball just above the horizon.
The moon cast long dark shadows on the snow. I could see the smallest pebbles in the bright neon light of the full moon. The air was still so calm that even my own movements seemed cacophonic.
I dug my hands deep into the pockets of my parka and made my way to Lake Samiti, the moon behind me and my shadow as a trailblazer. The cold had frozen the snow. My foot made a soft crunch as if I were stepping on a thousand tiny icicle fragments.
Overwhelmed by what I saw, tears came to my eyes. That night I cried for everything I loved and desperate.
In the vast lunar landscape I was alone, all alone.
When I arrived at the lake, Mount Pandim rose from the foot of the lake, reached to the sky and almost touched it. His snow-covered silhouette shimmered in the night and stood against the dark darkness of nothing behind it.
A reflection of the entire mountain stared at me on the dark, absolutely calm waters of Samiti. I could see every snow surface, every rock and every gorge on the big mountain.
Overwhelmed by what I saw on a hike for the first time in my life, tears came to my eyes. That night I cried for everything I loved and desperate. I wondered why I was alone.
I slowly trudged back to the hut, the moon in my eyes. It was almost 3:30 a.m. It was time to move. The vision of Mount Pandim on the water of Lake Samiti stayed in my head.
The team quickly gathered. We left our backpacks in the hut and made our way to the Goecha Pass at 16,000 feet. We didn't bring out our torches. That night the moon was our beacon.
At 4.45am, when we had a lot of ground covered and climaxed, we stopped for a while to rest. We stood there and looked at the Kanchenjunga row, which was fanned out in front of us and was only a stone's throw away.
In the east, a faint glimmer of light crept behind the crests of the mountain folds. In my west the night was still dark. The moon had risen higher in the sky, but still bright enough to show us our way. Constellations sparkled in the sky.
I turned my eyes to see the dawn approaching the Kanchenjunga peaks.
Suddenly a shooting star raced through the night sky behind me. A halo surrounded the meteor and seemed to be moving in slow motion. My eyes followed the meteor until it disappeared behind the still dark darkness of Kanchenjunga.
Two minutes later, another meteor moved across the sky towards Kanchenjunga. At the sight of this omen I stood there fascinated. For the second time, tears came to my eyes that night.
I often tell this story when we sit around the campfire on a hike. Many believe that I was extremely lucky to see such sights on a hike – a moonlit mountain reflected on the still water of a lake and meteors that disappeared behind Kanchenjunga.
What I didn't tell people is that a corner of a newspaper article was hidden in the corners of my purse. The article, dated two months earlier, was a scientific report of how we got into an unusual month with meteor shower.
We only needed an almanac to predict the full moon night.