I took an impromptu trip with my two childhood best friends, two years back. We witnessed a rare meteor shower, among other things…
It was a journey full of thrill, fun and amazement. One of my friends is a Wildlife Filmmaker & Photographer and wanted to shoot the meteor shower of the Eta Aquarids created by debris of Hailey’s a phenomenon that happens once in 76 years. As she told us about this, the two of us at once decided to join her and this impromptu plan turned into one of the best trips of our lives.
We started for Dhanaulti the next morning and reached in almost 7 hours. The first place we visited was Dhanaulti Eco Park, amidst thick Rhododendron, Cedar and Pine. We trekked towards the park and reached on the top from where we enjoyed a spectacular view sitting on the swings. These little joys make a trip worth cherishing and so we did whatever we could to make the trip memorable. We also stopped by to have some hot spicy Maggi and realised that “pahado ki Maggi” is indeed the most delectable thing one can have.
Now was the time for all the challenges, thrill and chills as our hunt for a secluded and peaceful place to set our camp began. We were not looking for a proper camping area; instead an untouched place at a certain level from where we could have a clear view of the starry sky. In order to shoot the meteor shower, we needed a dim spot where light wouldn’t reflect.
A little ahead of Dhanaulti in Kanatal, with the help of some locals, we found the perfect place in the wilderness to set our camp. The place was far from the village with no or little sign of human intervention. The locals also warned us about the place being a little risky being a remote forest area but we were all ready for an adventurous night. Little did we know that the night would be more thrilling than expected. As soon our tent was set, mother nature surprised us with heavy rains, thunderstorm and lightning. For almost four hours we had to lock ourselves inside with zero hopes that our tent would be able to survive the weather but when it did, we were thankful. The night grew so cold that we almost experienced what it would be like to freeze.
By this time, the possibility of shooting the meteor shower was washed away by a thick cover of clouds. So we decided to sleep in turns with alarms set for every half hour to check on the weather. We were well equipped with torch & lighters and pocket-size safety equipment like pepper spray, swiss knife and paper cutters to protect ourselves from wild animals and also unwanted humans. The night was quite scary; we could hear and feel every little sound of nature, even that of silence, in the forest area.
It was only after midnight that the thunderstorm and rain stopped. The stars became a bit visible and the rain-washed sky looked extremely beautiful that the three of us couldn’t help but admire it all with just our heads popped out from the tent; it was too cold to step out and we weren’t backed with enough warm clothes . (Tip for last minute travel plan to the hills: do not leave without a big thick jacket).It was around 3 am when we jumped with joy and could not believe our eyes; we were looking at the meteor shower!.. We gathered some courage and finally moved out of the tent. While my friend was busy capturing the spectacular view in her lens, me and my other friend guarded ourselves by keeping an eye on all sides.
Once the shoot was done, we could rest our eyes with a little peace. Mornings in mountains amidst forest are peaceful and so unlike waking up to alarms, we woke up to the chirping of birds. The realization that we survived a terrifying night brought absolute relief and we gave each other a pat on the back. In difficult situations like these, positive attitude and encouragement means a lot and that is what the three of us kept doing to each other the entire night. When the locals heard about us they were amused as not often they see young girls doing something adventurous in the wild. One of them even told us that he will tell his daughters about us and that how brave we were to overcome our fears. Hearing this brought a sense of achievement for all of us in the true sense.
On our way back, we also visited the Tehri Dam and were mesmerised by the beauty of the region. We kept talking about how tranquil the morning was, in contrast with the night we left behind. Perhaps, that is how you feel after coming on the other side of a spine-chilling adventure.