Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Stargazing at Pangong Lake on a Chilly Summer Night

They say Pangong Lake offers one of the most clear night skies for star gazing. The day we reached Pangong, it was superbly windy and even in mid-June, it was freezing to be out in the open during day time. But there was the prospect of innumerable shooting stars being visible; so that night after dinner at our homestay, I headed out into the courtyard and took a seat with my neck craned upwards.


It was a cloudy night but as a few minutes passed, the sky cleared. There were stars, and a lot of them. There was a lot of light coming from the campsites still. I wished the light pollution could be done away with. After about half an hour, the cold was getting unbearable. I won't be surprised if I am told the temperature was sub-zero that night. The wind was making matters worse. 

As about 50 minutes passed, I started walking around, head craned towards the sky all the time, so as to generate a little heat and not freeze. 'I might never get this chance again. So let's try for just 10 more minutes. Fingers crossed,' I thought and kept moving around in circles looking on all sides of the sky. The lights from the campsites were slowly going off. The intensity of the stars was increasing, more and more stars getting visible with each passing minute.

And then I saw it. A little streak in the sky. It moved and vanished as soon as it had become visible. Probably just for a moment. There, I had just seen a shooting star, after many many years.

In that instant, the cold of the night was forgotten. The howling of the winds felt like good company. The silence of the night felt soothing. I was lost in that beautiful moment.

I squealed like a child and moments later, headed inside into the comforts of the homestay. A long cherished wish had just been fulfilled, there was no need of wishing for another one.

This probably is the beauty and charm of travelling. Small moments that become memories for a lifetime. Can anything replace the satisfaction of moments like these?

The next night we were in Nubra Valley, at Hunder. The landscape here is surprisingly diverse. Tall green trees, heavy sand dunes, high mountain peaks with snow- all at the same time. The temperature here was normal- quite hot in fact. After the most sumptuous meal, we were standing on the terrace, looking out at the vast clear sky. The number of stars tonight was way more than what we saw at Pangong the previous night.

Very soon all lights had been switched off and the entire valley had plunged into darkness. The sky looked alarmingly beautiful. We kept watching it for several minutes in the hope of spotting more shooting stars. We saw 3 flying objects in the sky within minutes. They couldn’t have been airplanes since they were flying too close to each other and crossing each other’s paths. I suspected they were satellites.

We didn’t see any shooting star that night but the sheer number of stars that the moon-less sky showed us that night will remain etched in our memories forever.

What are your best sky watching memories? Do share in the comments.

PS: I am leading a group trip to Leh from August 12th to 21st, 2017 and would like you to experience the beautiful night sky of Pangong and Nubra too, among other fun activities. If interested, check the details here.

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