Today was a really big one as we had booked to go snowmobiling and Northern lights watching at a place called Lyngsfjord Adventures. This was located only five kilometres from the Finnish border and as such we hoped it may give us a chance to get a clearer view of the lights being inland.
We left our cabin just at 7am after having had only 4 hours sleep. Today was going to be a long one compounded by the lack of sleep but we were excited by the opportunity to snow mobile and possibly see the lights once more. This company operates on a much bigger scale with the 52 seated bus clearly labelled and upon seeing it we were a little apprehensive that it would be more “Disneyland” than the small scale but personalised touch of the previous couple of nights.
As it was there were only about 20 people on the bus and we settled back for the hour and a half drive towards Finland. Being consistently dark it’s not hard to fall asleep so an opportunity for a quick nap in between adventures.
We arrived to find a mountain of snow on the ground. This place seems to be much higher than Tromso and is definitely colder and more isolated. One can imagine the true Norway.
With three adults and two people sharing a snow mobile we weren’t sure how it was going to work – would one of us need to share with a person from another group? As the snow mobiles were being worked out though we asked how they wanted to go about organising us to which the guide said “grab a snow mobile and we’ll see how we go”. With optimism Claire and I jumped on one whilst Philip went to the back and got on his own. It was a bit like when you have a spare seat next to you in the plane and you see people coming towards you but hope that they are not sitting next to you. You can imagine Philip’s thrill then when the guide said “let’s go” and Philip had a snowmobile all to himself.
With a little bit of practise on the flat, we were ready to start heading up the mountain. Claire was driving with me hanging on the back. Hanging on was the word. Every now and again she would turn around or bang my knees when she felt that I wasn’t leaning the right way or that I as the passenger was causing the snowmobile to not do what she wanted… yep a driver always blames their passenger…hmmm. A couple of times, one of the guides came up to us and indicated to Claire that she was a “hoon” and needed to slow down, going at a steady pace rather than pulling back and then thrusting on the throttle when at a place on the trail that she felt confident.
We continued to go up the mountain moving from 200 feet above sea level to 1200 feet and getting decidedly close to the Finnish border. Looking out at the vast expanse it was reminiscent of the top of Swiss Alps but more compact and closely grouped together. Yep this was true North Pole Santa style…except for the 10 snowmobiles disturbing the “serenity” of the expanse.
Upon heading back down the mountain, Claire discovered that she is a “hoon” on the flat and possibly going up but can’t stand going down-I think having the mobile “ski” down and not having so much control over it was the problem …”control freak” Apparently good with balls and sport but not so good with anything that has an engine and a throttle. Therefore I did more of the driving coming down and also at a frozen lake where we got to have 10 minutes zooming around on our own.
This was where Philip truly became a “boy with a toy”. Not having to be told twice he took off as soon as the guide said that we could have a little time to ride around whilst the rest of us just watched …”yep two hoons in the one group… trust those Australians!”
We rode for about two hours before being taken back to the lavu where we spent the next couple of hours before going out on the Northern lights expedition. It’s dark inside the lavu with only the wooden fire in the middle of the tent and small candles on tables illuminating the room. There were around six tables seating six people and bench seating covered with reindeer skin.
The guides including some Sami people served us traditional reindeer soup. It tasted and even looked like beef and veg (and you never know if could have been except that we hadn’t seen a cow in all of Norway!). It tasted quite good and served with the flat bread and hot chocolate was a nice way to finish up the morning.
After lunch we had a round four hours to spare before we would go looking for the Northern lights. This we could spend in the lavu, looking around outside or finding something else to occupy our time. Being that it was completely dark outside, having a wander around wasn’t high on the list so we decided to stay inside next to the warmth of the fire.
Before we knew it we heard a strange but all too familiar noise coming from the bench on the opposite side of the table. Looking over we saw that Philip had stretched out and was now sound asleep and snoring perched on one plank of pine (which is generally used as for sitting rather than sleeping). This became even more humorous when others in the lavu also heard the noise and wondered whether it was coming from inside or outside the tent. Quickly we explained to everyone that we had had limited sleep over the past couple of days and were extremely tired. To this end, our Northern lights guide helped Claire to move a second bench next to the first so that Philip now had a wider platform to sleep on. It did become even funnier later when Philip formally introduced himself to the guide as “Hi I’m Philip the one that was sleeping earlier”
At 6:30pm we met our guide outside and were ready to get on board a van to go and track down the lights. Armed with back packs in two and ready to put them down in the van, we were amazed when she suggested that we go for a bit of a walk. Hmm a walk…where? We didn’t know if this was the precursor to the rest of the expedition or what so off we went grasping uphill with our bags on our back in the dark in snow that, if you stepped off the hardened track went up to your knees.
At various points we were passed snowmobiles and then a group of huskies pulling sleds; this being at just the optimal time for what was probably the best sighting of the night. Unfortunately with lights shining all around us, getting the shot just wasn’t possible.
For the next two hours we continued to tramp through the snow, stopping at various points, setting up the camera, taking shots and seeing where the Aurora was best. Unfortunately even though the night sky was clear, the activity was low and, spoilt by the first couple of nights, all we were really after was the really good sightings which didn’t seem to be forthcoming.
Not to be deterred we decided to add a moving “Ice Bar” to the Northern Lights search. At each stop, we would find a flat piece of snow, lie back on our packs and shove our drink containers in the snow, creating a chilled drink whilst watching the night sky above. With our thermal suits on the cold didn’t get to us so whilst there weren’t any great sightings it was still an adventure in the snow and another pleasant experience.
After a couple of hours we headed back to the lavu for a hot meal. Armed with the knowledge that the reindeer soup at lunchtime hadn’t been too bad we were hopeful of another ok introduction to Norwegian food. Unfortunately this turned out to be fish soup which looked exactly like the reindeer soup minus the reindeer. We decided to pass but were given three bowls with a vegetarian option (the same soup minus the fish). This wasn’t really a better option for Philip who cant stand vegetables and also isn’t a fan of soup! Luckily, Claire not wanting to disappoint our hosts who had made a special effort, ate it on his behalf.
We boarded the bus at around 10:30 for the trip back to Tromso. It had been a big day but we had gotten to experience another part of Norway and what’s more… loved it!