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In Search of the Northern Lights

Searching the Lofotens

During our 7 days in the Lofoten Islands we hoped to see the Northern lights. The season was good, the numbers were often in our favor, however the clouds were against us. We spent many nights popping our head out of the tent looking to see if the Aurora Borealis had made their appearance.

Every fellow camper we met told us fantastical tales of how they had seen the lights the day before we got there or sent us messages about how they appeared in sheer brilliance the day after we left. Murphy’s Law was at it’s best.

During our one true clear night we were camping just north of Å, in the tiny town of Moskenes, the weather was promising clear skies and beautiful moon. On occasion the moon could be so bright that it disrupted the color of the lights, but we hoped this would not be the case. We set up camp and I started dinner. Yves had decided we would make a campfire at any cost and had found a tiny little firepit to build it in. Returning to big up some utensils I noticed 2 Germans had been drawn to the flame. As I headed back to the kitchen I noticed 2 more heading that way. By the time I returned with 2 steaming plates of pasta cabonara (containing the rare treat of real bacon) I was met by a group of now 6 Germans all string at us while we ate. A little disconcerting to begin with. But pretty soon everyone had their own meal and we were sharing cookies and chips and tales. The moon was spectacular and we entertained ourselves with a few snapshots…

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By 1am most of us were tuckered out, a few promised to raise the alarm if the lights made an appearance. However, in the morning we got the news that by 3am there was still nothing and everyone had headed to bed. Perhaps when we returned to Voss we would have better luck.

The Germans claimed the fire pit as they were staying longer and we joked about how likely it was that lights would appear in ernest that night since we were leaving.

Return to Voss

Two more nights in the Lofoten’s proved fruitless in our hope for the elusive Aurora Borealis. So we headed to Voss with news that the numbers were at their highest and the lights should be visible as far South as Belgium and beyond. We all piled into cars, drove up very dark windy streets to a hill overlooking the town and waited. We had a professional photographer with us who knew just what to look for. He also helped me with my settings. And then we saw them, at least we thought we did, there was a peculiar green haze over the city, almost as if they were there, just out of reach, trying to break through, teasing us with every minute that ticked by.

Using the settings I was shown I was able to capture the lights dancing above the city, but just barely.

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We then had fun posing in front of these imaginary lights that only our camera could pick up

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And even ended up in the news
http://www.bt.no/nyheter/lokalt/Solstormer-ga-himmelmagi-3196991.html

I guess after 2 weeks of searching we kind of saw the lights, or at least we have photos to prove it!

A few days after returning home I received this photo from one of the German couples, it was taken the night we left, go figure!

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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Travel

 

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When in Rome…or rather…Norway…

Campout

We drove into Svolvær and found the tourist info center, who had a campsite list. We also asked about the chances of seeing the Northern Lights, but the chances were pretty poor. Then Juraj parted ways, exchanging numbers in case he needed a ride in the morning.

We stopped at the store to grab the next couple of days food supplies then headed out looking for a campsite. The first one we found was situated on a rather stagnant bay, and, well it seemed nice, did not jump out at us as the must stay location. We got lost a bit in Kabelvåg, a medieval town that has preserved much of it’s architecture. We also managed to stumble across Storvågan, a little artsy community. If you saw how small these were you would be impressed we got “lost” but we were certain a campsite was situated here. In truth it was about another 2 minutes down the E10 “highway”. When we finally found it we were in awe of the landscape. I am pretty certain some sci-fi movie with dramatic landscape must have been shot here. Or maybe it was a movie set, it just seemed too incredible.
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Our campsite was located just down from the showers and kitchen and on a wall overlooking a beach and bay with the craggy mountains in the distance. A photographers’ dream.
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We grabbed a quick dinner then headed back in town to explore the Ice Museum. On the way we spotted the bright yellow jacket that was Juraj. We gave him a quick ride to the road of our campsite and he wandered off to find a suitable site for himself. We agreed to meet in the morning to continue further south.

When in….

Parking the car we walked through the now deserted downtown of Svolvær. Here we found an interesting fellow selling dried meats from a variety of creatures.
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He let us taste moose and elk , bear was sold out due to a busload of Russian tourists and the muskox wasn’t ready yet. He did, however, let us try whale… yup you heard me, he had dried minke whale. It looked like a roll of salami but tasted like jerky.

Now, please before getting all incensed and angry, understand that I have a degree in Environmental Education and I do not jump into tasting whale lightly. However, I also understand that different countries have different cultural backgrounds and hunting whale has been a part of Norwegian culture for a very long time. I don’t agree with it, but if they keep to the quota and educate then I respect their culture.

Brrrrrrrrrr

After the rather surreal experience of tasting whale and still rather amazed that we had happened upon it we walked down a rather sketchy street towards the port and a dingy building with a big sign saying Magic Ice.
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Apparently this was the original Ice Museum, now over 10 years old, some of the ice sculptures were amazingly the same age. The building was formerly where the ice blocks were kept for the fishing ships, but when a new building was built they decided to turn this one into an Ice Museum. Many have followed around the world.

fisherman, one of the originals

fisherman, one of the originals

It was truly breathtaking…as in literally it was so DAMN cold it took your breath away. We wandered around the various statues showing life and nature and imagination, oohing and aahing until even our eyelashes had icicles.

Crabs

Crabs

Yves on his throne

Yves on his throne

Octopussy

Octopussy

One of my favorites, the fish bowl

One of my favorites, the fish bowl

Then it was time for the included drink in a glass made of ice (guess they don’t have a problem of people stealing the glasses). Despite the alcohol we still had to chip through a thin layer of ice to get to our vodka infused blue liquid, while we drank we chatted to two Germans (we would discover a lot of Germans on this trip) about their travels. I love chatting to travelers.

Cheers

Cheers

Finally, everything became just too cold, toes and fingers had lost feeling and … other things… apparently… were reacting to the cold too as Yves suggested we find warmer climes. Stepping back into the lobby (that before had seemed chilled) felt like a tropical forest. Heading back to the car we didn’t even need jackets.

Both utterly exhausted we climbed into our sleeping bags, me in thermals, jacket, hat, gloves and socks, and Yves in his boxers (it was a warm night apparently).

Morning we woke to a gorgeous morning!
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Posted by on September 28, 2014 in Travel

 

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Senja Island

Renting a Hybrid

Baring with me, as exhaustion makes this day a bit fuzzy, but I do remember the hilarious moments, such as when we went to pick up the rental car. At the hertz office we were informed that Yves had reserved via the super duper US cheap cheap rate… Great we thought… but that meant no insurance of any kind. Apparently most US credit cards come with that built in. I was paying, but had never rented a car before and was unsure if my card covered that and it seemed a little risky to rent without insurance.

To get insurance meant more than doubling the cost of the car, making a $300 rental into around $750 rental… However, the very nice man behind the counter decided to see what magic her could work. He managed to get us a complete deal, with insurance and a couple of extra days, for around $500. We decided this was just a better idea.

Keys in hand we headed out, climbed into our nifty little Toyota Yaris and were perplexed…. there was no key hole for the key, only a button. Yves pressed the button and some lights on the dash cam on but no engine sound. We both looked at each other utterly confused. Yves tapped the accelerator and the car jerked forward, “holy shit it’s on!” pretty much covered it! Apparently we had the honor of a hybrid, and unlike most hybrids in the US it didn’t have the added safety feature of a low whine to let you know you were good to go. Once we got the general idea we headed out into the confusing streets of Tromsø.
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We named her Bensin, after the sticker on the dashboard…. ok I named her, in truth that was telling us the kind of gas to put in, but the name fit.
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Senja Island – South Side

Attempting to guide Yves out of the city was kind of like the blind being led by a deaf and blind person, due to my exhaustion levels now reaching 30something hours without decent sleep. I was pretty certain I was slurring words. But we figured it out and made our to our first stop Senja Island, around 2 hours South of Tromsø, and highly recommended by the guy at Tourist Information.

Crossing over to the island we thought we were following the North road, in fact we somehow missed it and followed a Southern loop. Senja was beautiful but far from anything earth shatteringly beautiful that could snap me out of my haze of half napping.

We finally came across a campsite around 2pm, with no one anywhere to be found. Calling the number we were told just to camp anywhere and pay in the morning…ok????? Yves said “welcome to Norway”, he would come to repeat it many times.

We decided, instead to keep driving and see if we could find the North road, or at Yves decided, I nodded.

Senja Island – North Side

Still unsure if more driving was a good idea, and inwardly wishing for my comfy pad and sleeping bag, we turned onto the North road. Within minutes all you could hear were “Oooohhhhs and Aaaaahhhhhhs”. The North road appeared to be the road less travelled and was breathtakingly beautiful and wild. Stunning craggy cliffs and atmospheric clouds all surrounded by wild waves made it look like it was straight out of a Lord Of the Rings movie.

We only wished we had found this road first as dusk was fast approaching and with it impending rain….
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Yves found a random kettle on the pier... anyone for a cuppa tea??

Yves found a random kettle on the pier… anyone for a cuppa tea??

Campsite 1

We did come across one other campsite set at the shore of a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. A perfect place to contemplate and relax. Unfortunately it would add an extra hour or more to our trip in the morning so we opted for the first campsite.

We set up camp and then, while Yves made dinner, I went and had one of the most amazing showers in my life… after paying 10kroner ($1.50) for 10minutes of hot water…

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In the morning we had to call again as there was no one to pay. Again Yves chuckled and said “Welcome to Norway”. However, the friendlish chap that arrived mumbled something about not seeing us on his drive through at 9pm and therefore the cost of 175KR ($27) was too much. He only charged us 100KR, so perhaps there was something to say about the Norwegian way.

We headed on our way further south, heading for Svolvær, the capital of the Lofotens.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Travel

 

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