Woke up and decided to go for a walk around town before making our way to the airport. The city is incredibly clean given that last night was New Years Eve. It also has really beautiful gardens and an extraordinary range of well crafted sculptures. There is one main shopping strip that is for pedestrians only. At one end is the main railways station and at the other end is the Royal Palace. This is another sizeable structure in the same vain as the Schonbrunn in Vienna. It’s on a park like estate that’s open to the public.
It’s quiet this morning with people recovering from the night before. One thing we knew for sure…
Yep this is one expensive place; a Maccas burger $20, packet of potato chips $7, Mars Bar $5, 500 ml bottle of Diet coke $5 and the list goes on. This on top of our $40 taxi ride last night, which in the light of day turned out to be about 650 metres in distance and we are now filling up our drink bottles at the water fountains. You can see why the Scandinavians are so fit and healthy; they can’t afford to eat and need to walk everywhere as transport is so expensive.
There are loop holes though that one can find. One such gem was discovered at the Transit Information Centre at Oslo Central train station. Take the “Fly to get” airport train and it costs 175 Krone (about $35 Aus each). Use the local trains which take the same amount of time and it costs 90 Krone or $18. All you need to know is which train to catch to get you to the airport… and the lovely ladies on the desk not only told us when and what train but also what the next one would be if we missed the first one. Therefore we saved ourselves $51 Aus in one trip (guess that makes up for the taxi ride last night!)
Another problem that I am discovering is that I apparently look Nordic. Therefore there is an assumption made that I am fluent in Norwegian. Whilst I’m ok at some languages, Norwegian is not part of my repertoire and therefore I need to stop them quickly and ask for the English version to which they look at me like I’m making life difficult.
At 1:55pm we flew out of Oslo for the almost two hour flight to Tromso. As we got closer it got decidedly darker, a measure of how far into the Arctic circle we were going. Landing at the airport, it was snowing and obviously had been for some time as the snow was thick on the ground. We hired a rental car and the necessary GPS and full insurance cover and headed off for the drive to our accomodation; Lauklines Kysterferie. Some 30 kilometres out of town.
What happened next?
Ok so tonight we have seen something that no words can describe. It is one of the most incredible natural phenomenons that anybody will ever see. The northern lights!!
We had come to Tromso hoping for a glimpse. Many people come and see nothing having spent days and some times even weeks just waiting. We drove the thirty kilometers out of town to our cabin on the fjord. Being this far out there are few lights and the sky is further away from the ocean so supposedly less chance of cloud cover ruining the night. The sky was crisp and the stars were shining… all conditions to a good viewing night. Our host met us at what seemed like 10pm but was really 5:30pm. It’s hard to believe how dark it is here and also how cold it is. Snow had fallen everywhere making even walking treacherous (and resulted in a few spills) but our cabin is everything you could ask for. A true fishing cabin on the fjord; painted red on the outside; a double storey chalet with pine interior and its own deck that goes over the water. Another amazing find in terms of accommodation that is unique.
Almost as soon as we arrived, the owner said that the lights were forming in the sky and that they would get more intense as the evening went on. He also said they are there every night it just depends on the cloud cover. Looking up all we saw was a whitish moving long cloud. It looked different to the sky around it but definitely not like the northern lights images that you see in books or on the tv. With each opening of the cabin door (just to check outside) the light haze got more intense and then became something we had never seen before. Something almost spiritual as if God himself has sent out the elves and pixies to dance across the sky. I know this sounds bizarre but looking up at it, it just seemed to have a mind of its own and moved around the sky with limitless ease as if in a playful mood. Brilliant lines of light would fade and then increase in intensity creating magnificent swirls and at times, opportunities for light beams to cross. Colours clashed and if contesting with one another for recognition. This is what we had come all this way to see but we really couldn’t believe that we could be this lucky on our first night (the people in the cabin next to us had been here for three nights and said this was by far the best they had seen).
Armed with a new lens and photo remote switch, Philip dabbled with the settings on the camera to try to capture what we were seeing. This was not easy as all around us there is darkness just illuminated by the sky a million light years away. With each shot that the three of us managed to capture there were euphoric yelps accentuated by those in the cabin next to us who also managed to “get the shot”. This went on for over five hours and whilst we were freezing, we were caught in the moment… none of us wanted to go inside for fear that we would miss that vital moment and not see it again. The light show continued well into the night; each time we thought it was finished and went inside, we would hear the successful cries of next door as they captured the next wave of light dancing through the sky on their cameras causing us to then race outside, set up the camera and start “clicking”.
I really don’t know how to let others who have not seen this understand the true magnitude of what we have seen. It was like a massive genie had been let out of a bottle, consistently deciding on when he would or wouldn’t appear. We may have travelled thousands of miles to get here and spent a considerable amount of money but what we have seen tonight cannot be measured in dollars or time. It is an experience we will never ever forget!!