Yes, that’s exactly how I felt less than less than 200kms away from home when I spent an entire night star-obsessing without a wink of sleep!
I discovered Camp Suryamal as we all discover everything on the planet now ... on Instagram, and although a click-bait ad, this seemed to promise the sun, moon and stars … delivered all these, it did!
This ridiculously affordable experience 65km from Kasara Station was as if waiting to be discovered by someone like me, who thrives, cultures and in fact superlatively evolves in nature.
And so, without any hesitation, I booked my solo trip and eagerly awaited the fantastical night, almost like the stars performing an opera for just me a few others! I was picked up at Kasara station with a few others, and we headed to camping experience so rarely un-tedious, I couldn’t have imagined it any better myself!
Astonishingly, I arrived at the Camp in less than 4hrs minutes door-to-door, so was quite surprised that this was in the middle of nowhere, because as you can imagine, Mumbai, Greater Mumbai and even Maharashtra is notoriously known for its unreality of space!
I was welcomed by Vikram, our astro-guide for the trip, the owners of the property, who were an extremely kind couple, several other parent-guests and their lovely children who were already enjoying the homemade Samosa (an Indian rather spicy savory made of potato, peas and onions, in Indian spices, deep fried in batter), and the least sweet but dolled in ginger and masala-tea! This was just what we needed to refresh ourselves and head to a short 10 min trek up to the hilltop to enjoy the glamorous yet subtle sunset!
Walking through paddy fields and barren lands with ever-gibberish kids, their worried parents and couples alike, I felt right at home because being perfectly content and alone in a crowd is my thing!
As soon we reached atop, I knew I wanted to become one with nature, so I found a spot, put on mellow music on my earphones, and stared at the mountains and water bodies across, gleaming skies above, raw trees and its various shapes and sizes all around me!
Personally, the Sun has always been the love of my life and like any sunflower, my nature is to turn to it, wherever I am – so for me, this up close and private meeting with it, was no less than holy amalgamation. While to the world it had been 2 hours already, I sat almost gawking the views unmoved and meditative. In fact, I also found a friendly rock to meditate upon while taking in the sun’s chi, which I do every single day as a practice!
Post-sunset and a historical download about Suryamal from Vikram, we headed back with the promise to do a midnight trek back to the place to integrate with the stars! This time, we were welcomed by several veggies and 1 fruit (pineapple)’s BBQ with off course Indian masalas on top, which we relished, now eagerly awaiting the stars to descend the skies … and descend into our personal space they did!
Our astro-genius if I can call him that, Vikram, made all of us sit on jute mats in the middle of the empty grass field, with all the lights of the entire property off, and asked us all to close our eyes for 15 minutes, while he narrated a fascinating story about how the “Flintstones” aka stone-age men, discovered the usefulness of the stars. But, he was actually preparing our corneas to be able to intake the overload of the cursory vision of the skies and to look through his ultra-professional telescopes!
Once, we opened our eyes, he asked us to tilt our heads up and this part, I honestly can’t describe in words … whether the divine met the flawed or the cosmos graced us with its presence or the stars all aligned for us to fall in love with it … derive whatever you will of it, but the 100s of 1000s of stars we could see with our naked eye in a sole glimpse had us gob-smacked, clammed up and outright castaway in wonderment! Vikram’s decade-over experience was at full display as he showed us all the renowned constellations such as the 12-constellation collection (all our sun signs), along with the North Star, Orion Belt, Cassiopea, Pegasus, Canis Major & Minor, Aquila, Centaurus, Corona Borelius and several others. While you can google all these in your time, we were hungrily looking to Vikram and his knowledge and spotting of each, as they tilted positions through the night! There was a Greek story attached to most constellations which we could hardly believe and in fact Vikram didn’t either, but narrated with zealous and humor! But knowing the shepherds, who first discovered the utility of stars to interpret changes in climate, could see certain shapes which helped them and 1000s of years later, us, was fascinating!
Amidst this, we had lovely homemade buffet dinner cooked by the owners’ cooks that was varied, succulent and literally reminded us of maa ka khana aka mom’s home food! Ending with a carrot sweet savory, we headed back to the empty open fields, meters away to continue our quest into the macrocosm!
We started off again by witnessing Jupiter and its 4 satellites, Mars and at least a 100 shooting stars through the telescope which, really helped magnify the dot in the skies that they were, to actual round moving objects! Btw, shooting stars are not stars at all … Yes, I didn’t know it either! But they are space junk that burn upon entering our atmosphere and ablaze itself to ruins.
Although these major and minor constellations could be seen from bare eye, however, the telescope told another story! As around these visible luminary objects, were thousands more that were unavailable to the naked eye! Oh the wonders, roles and beauty of the stars had us all mesmerized all night as we awaited the rise the Scorpio (one of the largest constellations and also my sun sign J), and the Milky way right below it!
I don’t remember feeling tired all night, just desirous to take as many pictures as my phone could and having the Manual option on it, made the pictures as if a real-life portrait, which further fueled the photographer in me!
While the Scorpio graced at 3am-ish slowly creeping up behind the trees, the Milky way, which can only be seen as a hazy white cloud, rose around 4:45am keeping our interest in stargazing now for almost 8 hours straight!
With just 3hrs of sleep from 5am ish to 8am ish in a cozy, clean and soothing camp, we ate breakfast and headed back home, still seeing stars, quite literally in our eyes, ready to recommend this experience to every person we know, to share the grace that declines into the skies and etched into our memories forever!
Check out the Entire Experience at YouTube Shorts: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/F7wx78Trtg8
Also check out a quick glance at Instagram: