*ETA – This is my second post of the day. Please scroll down for crafty goodness (and if you are not interested in the ramblings of my weekend away!)*
It’s what we were up to over the weekend.
Yup, when someone offers you the chance to go on a visit to the Arctic Circle to see the Aurora Borealis, I figure it’s not really something you should pass up on. Take my advice folks, if you get the chance (and you can afford it, coz I’m telling you – it was *not* a cheap trip!)…. well, you should grab that opportunity in both hands.
And don’t let go.
So it came about through my hubby’s work, and we got the chance to pay for my share of the trip so I could go too, to head off to Norway. (This is us just arrived at the airport, kitted out and enjoying the welcoming festivities.)
In the remote northern town of Bardufoss, way up in the middle-of-nowhere, practically at the top of Norway.
If-we-go-any-further-North-then-we’ll-fall-in-the-sea kind of north.
(Malselva River, Bardufoss)
I shan’t bore you/ make you even more jealous by going on about the details too much, but needless to say, it was very beautiful.
And very snowy. Lordy, I have never seen so much snow. In all of my life with all of the snow put together. It was pretty much as deep as I am tall (ok, so I’m no supermodel, but still…) and of course *way* deeper at the sides of all the roads and pavements, where it had piled up from all the ploughing and shovelling, and beside all the buildings where it had come off the rooves.
Snow since October last year. And still falling. Until May, they predict.
(me at our coach stop off point, at the fjord mouth)
So we enjoyed warm Norwegian hospitality, a guided coach tour up river to the estuary/ fjord mouth, our first (and maybe last?) taste of reindeer – surprisingly good and tender!
Here is the view from our apartment – at Snowman Resort, Bardufoss. What an amazing sunset:
That evening we had a fascinating introduction to the Sami culture. The semi-nomadic Sami people are indigenous to the region, many still living and working to tend reindeer herds across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Their traditional costume, or gakti, is fabulously detailed and you could describe it as a work of art itself – the hand embroidery is meticulous, the reindeer-skin ‘trousers’ and boots so well-crafted. And I loved hearing about the traditions and representations of the elements of their dress.
Like the ‘frilled skirt’ layer with metallic stitching and often with sequin-like accents – it is tradition for the Sami to wear this as it represents the shimmer and movement of the Aurora.
This Sami gentleman was telling us (via the interpreter) that it is possible to determine which family he is from by elements of the embroidery on his tunic, and that he had worn his “party belt” – for special occasions – especially to show us. I like that he has an evening wear accessory option. Oh yea.
And the from the different shape of fancy studded buttons on the belt… you can tell if a man is married or not. Keep your eyes on the belts, ladies 😉
(Sami tribesman, in full traditional dress, speaking to us in the traditional laavo ‘tent’)
And the highlight of the trip… the Aurora display.
We had an amazing show. The sky is so clear and of course there is no light pollution for miles. The village is so dark at night, except for a few candles and lanterns around the Sami camp, so this didn’t interfere with our viewing in the least. The first display was described as quite weak by the experts in the group – at around 8.30pm, and was over in about 10mins. A flickering area in the sky, in shades of bright acidic green, apple and darker grassy shades. Quite ethereal.
Sadly we were not equipped enough to take decent photos because of the long-exposure times necessary – and of course the resulting need for a tripod.
And then a few hours… doing plenty of stargazing, and “chilling out” (if that doesn’t sound too weird! We were in the Arctic, surrounded by snow and reindeer!) and I mean chilling in both senses. We had a lovely relaxed evening, but later the wind really picked up and we were glad of all our many thermal layers, ski-suits and sturdy snowboots!
It was around 11.30pm and we began to plod back up the hillside to the apartments to head for bed, but happy enough that we had seen at least some display. When I turned around to speak with hubby, who was walking behind with a friend.
And I am not joking, the sky was *alive* with it!!!!!
Huge bright swooping arcs and swirls of colour. I have never experienced anything
I was screaming back to the rest of the gang for them to turn around to see it, and we hurried back down the hill – careful not to fall on the ice! – to join the rest of the party who had stuck around. (Pity the poor souls who had already called it a night and were in their beds!!)
We were so tired from the 5am start (catching the plane) and of course a hectic itinerary all day, but we stayed up for another hour and half until it died down, and then we went to collapse!
Can you tell how tired we are?…. I look totally ‘out of it’!!! And the reindeer behind us is not a bit concerned 😉
His name is Elvis btw!
This next one is a pic we took when we staggered up the hill again before we went to bed – taken from a friend’s apartment balcony (so we could balance the camera, ‘tripod-style’). But of course by this time the display was so much weaker than it had been all night. (And the pic is blurry of course.)
Still, it was the best we could achieve and you can definitely see the shimmering light in the centre of the frame, which had a green tinge.
It was so amazing, I cannot describe it. It is so other-worldly and magical, the way it moves so fast across the sky, but then sometimes just ‘hovers’ as if in a ghostly cloud, but without any texture or that obvious fluffiness that clouds have.
Sometimes in great wide bands of colour, and other times in ‘fingers’ springing up from the horizon, like crazy lasers.
So that was our Saturday evening.
An early start on Sunday, for breakfast and off for more activities: rides in reindeer-pulled sleighs, snowshoeing, snowman building, and another highlight –
a husky dog sled ride.
Or should I say, G had the sled ride. I was driving the sled.
So I did not get the relaxing end of the deal, let me tell you. It is hard work!!! Steering, braking, balancing…. and controlling five excitable huskies, all yapping and straining to pull faster and faster!
But that is ok – I did not mind. It was amazing fun. I think G maybe felt a bit guilty because we did not realise that it would be me driving when he sat in the sled. We thought I would be in another sled and there would be expert drivers! Oh no.
Just me and 5 seconds instruction. Along the lines of: “That’s the brake. Use it. Hold on. And don’t fall off.”
They are unbelievably powerful dogs. These were Alaskan huskies, so much smaller than we had anticipated – maybe spaniel height, but somehow they seemed less chunky(?). Lean machines, I guess! Wide feet to get a grip in the snow. Big strong rib-cages to hold full lungs, and wowsers – the bluest eyes you ever saw on a critter!
I wish we could have got a better closeup.
Many of them were blue-eyed beauties, one even with one blue, one brown. Cute 😉
This pic (above) shows a couple in our group, travelling a few sleds behind us. You can see the traditional style of the sled with a reindeer skin to sit on the wooden boards, and how the driver has to stand behind.
We were not sure how friendly the dogs would be, but once they’d had a good run and we stopped after 20mins for a break, they were calmer. And even more so at the end of the circuit through the forest, back at camp, maybe 45mins later.
I was exhausted – that sled-driving seriously sapped all the strength from my legs. Too much to be hiking around in snowshoes, so I flopped on the reindeer skins for a while and had a hot drink. Mmm, their hot berry juice is *good*!
So that is a ‘potted tour’ of our weekend. We were back late on Sunday night, so I have been playing catch-up this week 😉
We are so thankful for the experience – such a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It’s so moving to see the wonder of nature in this way.
That’s all for now folks, more crafty fun tomorrow, if I can manage to squeeze some in tonight!
PS. If you made it to the end of this post without dozing off, then my congratulations go out to you. And if you have the stamina for more, then here’s a link I can *really* recommend.
Some spells of our aurora were as spectacular as these – our expert said it was one of the best he had ever seen – but I will certainly offer whole-hearted credit to this guy, as he has managed to capture this miraculous show over several days 😉