“I don’t want someone to promise the moon and the stars.
I want someone to lay in the grass with me and watch them.”
As a hopeless romantic, I’ve always had this fantasy of running away with my guy to a far off place, lay on the grass and cuddle in a warm blanket, watching the stars. Weird as it may sound, but I craved for an experience that was different from the same run-of-the-mill travel itineraries. So when I saw this Facebook event by Western Routes – “Star Gazing and Camping Weekend”, my eyes glittered with joy.
On a cold winter morning, Puneet and I boarded the bus to Satara, along with 30 like-minded adventurers to witness one of the biggest meteor showers of 2015 – the Gemenids Meteor Shower. According to NASA, this meteor shower would be its peak from the 13th of December, sending along up to 100 meteors per hour, most being visible to the naked eye. The night sky would look something similar to the image below!
(Image Credit – Space.com)
We arrived at Krushak Ashram, also known as The Rural Door and were warmly greeted by their team. Krushak Ashram is a beautiful farm, set in the gorgeous countryside, just 15km from Satara. This is a great place to escape the hustle bustle of city life and take a closer look at agricultural farming.
(Welcome at The Rural Door)
We had a short farm tour before lunch and learnt about the principles and practices of agricultural farming in India. Krushak Ashram uses modern technology to implement time tested, proven, age-old Indian agricultural methods and practices and it was quite interesting to know about a day in the life of the Indian farmer!
(Farm Tour and Activities)
Lunch at the farm consisted of a typical Maharashtrian fare – bharli wanga, pithla bhkri, thecha, amti and amarkhand. I love having local food and this meal was so simple, fresh and so full of flavours! We spent the evening ploughing fields, sowing seeds, learning pottery and pitching tents.
(Activities at The Rural Door)
As the evening set in, we huddled on the mats and devoured hot pakoras and chai. Cheerful chatter could be heard all around and we eagerly awaited the star gazing session. We had Jameer Manur from IUCAA to brief us on the basics of astronomy and the different stars and constellations in our galaxy.
Getting started in stargazing can be daunting — after all there’s a whole universe out there! He showed us how to spot the pole star in the night sky, the simplest way to determine directions without using a compass.
(Image Credit – Kruti Praturi)
In my entire life, I had never seen a sky so brightly lit with countless stars. The temperature dropped and the winter chill was crawling its way through my feet, but I lay still staring at the sky above. One after the other, Jameer showed us the different stars and constellations and every now and then he would point out – “Look there, a meteor! Look up!”
(Image Credit – Cheena Malhotra Photography)
Yes, look up! We’re so addicted and drawn to our smart phones and tabs that we only look down at our screens. But try looking up into the sky and you’ll see yourself as a tiny part of a bigger picture. Stargazing is for people with a sense of wonder, for people who love the night, for people who notice patterns and draw images among the stars.
I was amazed to see the Taurean constellation (my star sign) actually looks like a bull with two horns (yes, of course it should!) when you connect the stars in that pattern! Jameer showed us numerous stars, one being the Betelgeuse, a red super giant star, over 600 light years away but shines 100000 times as brightly as our Sun. Astronomers say that the Betelguuse may explode someday and may become a second Sun.
(We saw most of the stars, constellations shown here. Image Credit – Cosmic Pursuits)
It was past midnight and it was getting unpleasantly cold. But the gorgeous blanket of stars was tempting enough to stay awake. The world is so beautiful at this time of the night, so quiet that nothing feels real, not even your problems that grow on you mind during the day. There are thousands, even millions of stars and watching them freckle, you realise that you’re a tiny part of the whole universe. That feeling seemed to make things better. I fell in love with silence.
(Image Credit – Cheena Malhotra Photography)
Most of us lay quiet, battling the cold and counting the meteors. Puneet couldn’t take the cold any longer and we called it a night! The meteor count was about 165 at 4 am.
At about 5.40 am, I peeked through the little opening of the tent and wow – I had never seen a sunrise like that before!
We spent the rest of the morning bird watching, chilling by the pond and soaking into the beauty of the farm.
(I may never see tomorrow, but this moment is my own. It’s mine to use or to cast aside. The choice is mine alone.)
Sitting around the campfire at night, feeling the cool, fresh air, and pausing every now and then to admire a star-studded sky – that’s how I spent my weekend stargazing and camping at The Rural Door!
PS – A big shout out to Jayesh from Western Routes for organising this absolutely fabulous event at such a beautiful venue! Everything was well organised – from transport to food (If you’re with Jayesh, you don’t have to worry about food), camping equipment and clean toilets! I’d definitely recommend signing up for his trips.
The next star gazing event by Western Routes is from 16 – 17th January, 2016. Details here.