The whole purpose of us starting our year of travel in Europe in winter has been because we hoped to catch the Aurora Borealis in Norway.
When I started researching the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights I stumbled across an article in the Daily Mail on line which sealed the deal in our minds. It stated that NASA was predicting that 2012 would be the brightest Northern Lights display for 50 years. How could we resist the temptation to try our luck at catching this ethereal splendour? I for one have been fascinated by images of the Lights since I was a kid and have always viewed it as one of those must do things in my life.
So we made the trek to Tromso – a sea side Arctic town that basks in the majesty of the surrounding snow covered mountains.
The afternoon we arrived the snow was falling heavily and we were both quite tired, so we opted to hit the hay and try our luck the following night. We joined the Arctic Guide Service for a bus ride to chase the Nordlys (as the locals refer to them – thanks Lillian!) and were regaled with tales of the lights the night before; our guide informing us they were the best he had seen in his life. I saw a few of his pictures and yep, they looked pretty damn fine. Apparently the solar activity was also very strong on the our night too so I was getting a wee bit excited.
We came to a clearing in a forest and waited for the show to start. We saw the beginnings of the lights (which I later referred to in disparaging terms as the Northern Smudges) but alas, the clouds came over and there endeth the show. We all piled back onto the bus and did a dash to the Finnish border to an area which is the driest in Norway. However the snow had set in there too and I found myself devouring four chocolate chip cookies in quick succession as compensation! May as well get something out of this bus ride to the arse end of nowhere I thought!
Needless to say gutted would be an understatement. The knowledge of the ‘best in life Light’ we opted out of on our first night loomed in the forefront of my thoughts. Bad decision, very bad decision. A morning of breakfast buffet abuse at the Scandic Hotel raised our spirits somewhat and we resolved that damn the expense, we would go out again that night. Although it is possible to view the Nordlys in Tromso, the light pollution of the city makes it less likely.
So chase number two took us to the island of Sommaroya which is about 60 kms from Tromso. We took stints of going out into the elements from the bus – the 72 km/hr wind and hail elements. But we were rewarded in the breaks in the cloud cover with views of the lights. They started off faintly – like the Smudges of the first trip but got progressively better. At about 11.30 at night Damien came bounding back onto the bus and yelled in a frantic tone that I should come now. I could hear by the sense of urgency in his voice that something really good was happening. I donned my thousand layers of clothing in lightening speed and launched myself through the bus doors and there it was! A massive line of green light stretching across the night sky above!
Damien and I ran like excited children up the hill. All the while my eyes were glued to what was going on in the sky above me which turned out to be unwise when I promptly face planted in the snow. Undeterred by my stack I leapt up, now giggling like a school girl and chased after Damien, nay, jostled to get past him on the track, to which Damien exclaimed, ‘Are you right??’ (good humouredly of course!). Where upon whence I found a less used side track and launched past to ascend to the top of the hill, post haste!
There’s probably no surprises that I really don’t have words to describe what it was like but suffice to say I had a serious case of perma-grin and more than one tear in my eye. It was like all the stars aligned at that moment in the evening. The brutal winds abated, the clouds evaporated and the lights came out to dance in the sky.
Our mission is complete!