I mention a lot about time passing and us ADHD’ers do struggle with time passing, but it is quite a while now since I was up in the Arctic Circle for the first time…
I’ve been to the Arctic Circle twice and they were just fantastic experiences both times. First time was Tromsø in 2011 for my 30th and it was the first time I’d been in -25˚C temperatures, because I think -27 or -28 up there and we went to see the Northern Lights and it was always something that’s been on my list. The Northern Lights is this mystical thing that a lot of people manage to go up the North East coast and see a little green squiggle on the horizon and get excited. Which is justifiable, it’s a fantastic thing to see. But I don’t think I quite expected what I actually saw when we sent up to Tromsø.
Tromsø’s a tiny little village, at the time you could get there with Hurtigruten Cruises and we flew from Stansted I think. But it wasn’t a well-known place. I think it was just around the time that Joanna Lumley did a TV programme about it, so there was a bit of a hype about it.
First night we got there, the guys were like, ‘Go in and get yourselves settled.’ It was a little bit late, it was actually dark but I don’t know what time it was. It’s dark quite a lot of the time, so I can’t remember exactly what time we got there. We stuck our heads out and it was cloudy and there was nothing really, so it was a bit of a kind of a, ‘Oh right, okay. Oh, that cloud’s gone a bit green, is that it? Is that all we’re going to see?’
Fun day out the next day, just around town and the museum and all that and seeing random things from that neck of the woods. And then the next night, the guy says, “So, are you going up to the lake?” ‘Why, what do you mean?’ It turns out that there’s a frozen lake on top of the hill and that’s where everybody goes to see the Northern Lights. And there’s actually a cross-country ski track and all of this but the guy in the hostel got us a taxi up to the top of there. We kind of stepped out of the way of the cross-country skiers and sat down for a bit in a padded seat and just kind of waited.
We had no idea what was going to happen. I mean literally 20 minutes in, we were like, ‘Well, nothing’s really happening here.’ And then your eyes adjust a bit and the horizon line just started to go a little bit green, it was like, ‘Well, is this it? Is this starting? I don’t know.’ And then all of a sudden, on this horizon line across the mountains started to go a little bit green, I was like, ‘Oh okay, okay,’ and then this I still feel as though I could hear it, even though obviously there wasn’t any sound. This whoosh of light, this green light, came over the top of us and it was literally above our heads, dancing around. And it was there for 25 minutes or so and it was just like, ‘That’s it, that’s done, holiday done,’ you know? ‘I don’t need to go on the big expensive trip the next day,’ obviously I wanted to, but there was the thing of, ‘We’ve seen it.’ And that 25 minutes was absolutely breathtaking and yeah, that had me buzzing till the next day.
The next day we ended up on a really big organised trip, out into the wilds in a bus and it was quite weird. I think from memory, the bus driver didn’t have any lights or he didn’t have his lights on, because it was that light with that much snow on the ground, because it was -20 or so that he didn’t need the lights on, it was literally bright enough in front of him to be driving along. Anyway, we got there, we pulled up and the guy was like, ‘Yeah, it’s been going for about an hour and it’ll probably be going for the next seven hours.’ And it did, we got out the bus, the eyes adjusted a bit and I’ve never seen anything like it, it was absolutely breathtaking. We stood there, in a field with the mountains and stuff in the distance and it started to go purple, you could see all the purple lines. This was with the naked eye, I mean the camera obviously did it a bit more justice, but this was a naked eye and then all of a sudden, it’s getting brighter and brighter and brighter and it got to the point, a couple of hours in, where there was literally a white streak going across the top of our heads, so it was that intense, it had gone from green to white and it was just absolutely breathtaking.
And I remember we went in for food, into the little huts that they had for us there and I left my camera outside, tripod, full gear, came back out and there was sort of a centimetre of ice on the front of my lens, which was somewhat difficult to get rid of, to get some more pictures, but it was just absolutely fantastic and you can see by the town itself, it’s just an amazing place and certainly one on the list, along with – I know I bang on about Peru and Morocco and various other places I’ve been – but Tromsø was one of those ones that it was… at the time, it was obscure, it’s a little bit more mainstream these days, but to be able to see the Northern Lights going over your head like that is just something else, it’s absolutely brilliant and certainly something that I think everybody should be able to witness and see.