Saturday, 15 February 2014

Green skies!

In a way, I don't mind this at all, the crazy weeks when work smothers more or less everything else, punctuated by weekends that are crazier still, but for all the right reasons. And speaking of crazy weekends, the last one surely has to make it to my personal all time great list.

The plan had been on for many months, I just didn't know if I'd be able to make it till a week before, thanks to the aforementioned work insanity. However, it was a fairly large group of us who landed in Tromsø airport a couple of hours before midnight on Friday.

A few of us, carefully scanning the skies as the plane circled in to land, managed to see a little preview of the show we were most anticipating, the Aurora Borealis! The lights shimmered and morphed from one shape to another as we excitedly regretted the fact that there was no way to easily capture this from a flying plane! We worried that we might have missed the bus here and that was as good as it was going to get. After all, we'd all heard stories of people who'd made several trips to the cold dark north, only to come away empty handed.

We needn't have worried :). As soon as we'd thrown off the travel bags, had a quick walk around town and filled up at one of the few local restaurants that stayed open past midnight, we headed for the lake on the hill in the middle of the island of Tromsøya. Ringed by tall trees and frozen solid, with views of the higher mountains all around, it is one of the most easily accessible yet picturesque places to view the atmospheric magic from in Tromsø.

Of course, we only found out the details later. At the time, we just showed up and marvelled at the expanse of snowed over ice while things started happening above us! We'd seen a few strands of ethereal green appear in the sky on the walk up to the lake, but it was the hour spent on the frozen ice that will remain etched in my memory as one of the most spectacular displays of natural beauty I have ever seen!

Auroras were constantly appearing and then disappearing in the sky, fantastic shapes, one form morphing into another, curtains shimmering, waterfalls of light, mesmerising all of us. Of course, after an hour we were all so cold that when the lights in the sky seemed to peter out, we weren't too unhappy to head back to the warmth of indoors.

Our visit had been planned to coincide with the annual Sami week that is held in Tromsø to showcase the traditional lifestyle of the Sami people who are indigenous to the area. So we spent part of the next couple of days exploring that. My favourite was the reindeer ski racing!

We also visited the Arctic Cathedral and the city library. And spent several hours braving the cold to walk along the waterfront and in the town centre. The weather was quite nice for the most part, especially sunny and clear on Saturday which brought us some beautiful views of the fjords and mountains surrounding Tromsø.

The other highlight of the trip was the night dog-sleighing trip! It was a relatively last minute thing as far as plans go, but it turned out to be quite the adventure! We got picked up in town and driven north onto one of the outer islands shrouded in snow and darkness with the occasional light from a house peeking through the trees. We arrived at the dog farm which housed over a hundred dogs, bred for speed over ice and snow!

After a brief introduction to the art of handling a dog-sleigh, we headed off into the night in pairs. Yes, they actually let us run the sleighs by ourselves! And on the terrain we experienced, it was a full time job to keep the dogs from running away with it :). As we sped along the snowy countryside with views of the lights of Tromsø in the distance, I was somewhat thankful that the skies were clouded over. Had there been any visible auroras, we would either have not noticed them, or having noticed them, would have lost control of the sleighs :). 

As it is, the hour and a half or more on the trip disappeared in a flash and we were soon cocooned in a warm tent with hot coffee and chocolate cake being entertained by the youngest puppies on the farm! A lot of people suddenly wanted dogs :).

Well, since then there has been a nice day off celebrating a friend's birthday and three days spent on a boat and/or travelling. But more on that later, hopefully once I get back home very very late tonight.

Feeling: happy
Listening to: Bastille - Of the night

No comments: