Sunday, 12. January 2014: The morning started out great. Or not. It was horrible, knowing that we could have seen the northern lights the night before if we only would have moved our asses out of bed and actually gone outside. Apparently they were so strong that you could even see them in and around Oslo, which also makes me wonder why we even went to Tromsø in the first place then. But since we didn’t leave the hotel room the night before, not even one little bit, it was clearly our own very disappointing loss.
A and I decided the best medicine against no whale-tours and not have seen the lights was to go out and check out the museums that are in the area. Which is why we ended up at the Polar museum and if you have a strong stomach, this is the place to be. And I mean a seriously strong stomach. It had a lot of great history and definitely something that everyone should have seen when, and only when, in the area. They teach you about seals and polar bears and all different ways of how and why to kill them. Just a quick side note, we humans truly are disgusting. I just wanted to put that out there for you to ponder on. If you wonder, google it. Not the being disgusting part, but the polar bears and seal-killing parts.
That afternoon we met with friends that actually willingly moved to Tromsø. I have no idea why and I think, in retrospect, neither do they. I guess you kind of have a romantic idea of Tromsø, when first visiting, but when you live there? I don’t know how they do it, I simply have no idea, they must have so much willpower in them that I can only muster up for a few days in Tromsø. I mean, I am ready to go back to Oslo and have some normal daytime already and having this darkness all the time? No, thank you. I am not hating on Tromsø. In fact it is a gorgeous place and definitely worth visiting, but don’t romanticize it. It is snow and ice and cold and dark, for most of the year, and if you like that, good for you, if not, don’t even attempt to pretend to like it. It is not necessary, it is totally okay not to like that, at least that is what A and I have been telling each other.
But coffee and dinner with friends at the artic circle was great, I mean who do you know (besides us now) that have actually been that far up north? I have not met anyone in Oslo yet, that has actually been in Tromsø before and mind you they are mostly Norwegians. We talked about everything, mostly about the life in the cold and after two years of this, I think our friends are so ready to move on and who could blame them? Certainly not me.
By the time we left the restaurant it started snowing and my heart dropped. Snow meant that there were clouds and that meant the sky won’t be clear for the northern lights and it meant having flown all that way for northern lights and whales and not being able to see either of them. A and I were thinking the same thing but we kept a brave face on, that kind of face of a tourist that really really really wants to see the northern lights, no matter the cost, but already doubting if they are actually going to be able to see them.
But I am a good sport, I tried to keep my spirits up and I really tried hard to convince A to not give up already. But it all came thumbeling down shortly after. Our tour-guide (btw, highly recommendable to actually book a northern lights tour!) called us a few minutes beforehand to let us know that in the freezing cold her bus broke down, another upside to living so far up north, as she so nicely put it. But we were not the only nut-jobs trying to see the northern lights when it is snowing. There were five others with us and they were somewhat eager I guess. The lady from Australia was clearly the most committed Northern light chaser I have ever met. She has been in Tromsø for several days already and she said, she went out every night and got lucky 3 out of 4 nights, which is more than most people can say.
There was a couple from India and my god, did I feel bad for them. I mean living in Europe you at least own some kind of winter clothes, living in Norway you cocoon in your winter clothes until late May, but coming from India? The most wintery they get are summer temperatures for us. And by there painful moaning here and there, I knew that frostbite was about the set in. But brave as they were, they did not complain, they did not whimper, they only cried out a little bit in pain. A guy from Seattle was also with us, a hiker by American standards I guess, because although he apparently hiked through some pretty rough terrain he definitely did not have any right clothing for the night we were about to endure.
We drove for about 2 hours with a very very very cheerful tourguide, she was the best. And if it wouldn’t have been for her, I guess we all would have left the bus instantly, but when you are greeted by such a cheerful person, you just get drawn to her like moths to light. She knew that the odds were against us and she knew that for most of us, this was our last chance to see the northern lights before we return to our regular homes and lives. This did however not really make it easier for her.
Our guide Trine stopped in the middle of no where and pointed to a small opening in the sky (that was after driving two hours in the snow mind you) and tried to convince us that this was where we were going to see the lights. We believed her, or should I say, wanted to believe her, at the beginning, we really did but after 45 minutes standing in the cold we all gave up on the idea. It was simply too cloudy and I am no expert but I knew at least that the lights are only visible in a clear sky and our sky was just not what I would consider being clear.
Trine saw into our disappointed faces and figured it would be better to drive back along the fjords again, maybe, just maybe we would get lucky. We drove for another 15 minutes until our guide stopped along the road and stepped out for a few minutes. After five minutes I urged A to leave the car but I think at that point A already had given up already. He starred sadly into the distance and I held his arm, figuring this might be the only way to comfort him. I insisted on staying positive, but I knew that it took it’s toll on A. I whispered again, that we should leave the car, but he did not move, not even a little bit.
I attempted another cheering-up when Trine opened the door and yelled “GET OUT OF THE CAR… THE LIGHTS… THE LIGHTS ARE HERE. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET OUT.” The Indian lady fell out of the door and I might or might have not stepped onto her. I did however double check with her, and she did not get hurt, by our attempt of getting out of the car (and if A would have listened to me, we wouldn’t have been in that pickle in the first place).
And there they were. I mean, I wish I could have words for it or just one word, but I simply don’t. I can try to explain what we saw, but to be honest, it will never do it any justice. You have a flair of light popping up in all kinds of green colors, that is usually what you get, but if you get lucky, like we do, then you see the wavey curvy lines and it is simply stunningly amazing, how they all of a sudden pop up. They slowly pop up and get stronger and stronger and then they disappear.
I don’t know how many people actually were able to see the lights that night, not many I figure because Tromsø was covered in puffy snowy clouds. But we got to see them and while I was yelling like a small kid in a candy store, A was just awestruck and could barely move. He was speechless and we stood next to each other while I pointed at every little flair that I could catch.
It lasted about 10 minutes, those 10 minutes were the reason why we were there. And suddenly everything, frostbite and no-whale-disappointment, being freezing cold, not feeling my extremities, not having seen sunlight forever, it all was forgiven and forgotten.
This picture was actually taking by Trine, our tourguide from the Tromsø friluftsenter the night before ours. Since it was so cloudy we were very lucky having seen the lights in the first place, attempting to take pictures on that night was just not worth it. So no, we did not take any pictures that night and after all, the pictures would have not done it any justice anyways!