Nothing I have ever seen is anywhere near as fascinating an unique as the Northern Lights! It makes you wonder, it makes you wanna change your life in order to see them again… again and again!
Always unique and different, always fascinating and always… difficult to “catch” – the famous Aurora Borealis!
And came the moment to see the Northern lights. Gone is the never-ending Autumn rain and it’s become significantly colder, it’s now impossible to sleep in the car without access to an electricity outlet but we’re well rewarded with what can be seen in the skies!
My first sighting of this phenomenon happened as far as August in Lofoten but it’s not until now that I’ve seen the real play of light in the frozen night sky of Norway.
I was standing in freezing cold in pitch black scared to death of bears wondering around the area hunting Moose but completely fascinated by what was happening above me.
The stripes of green lights were moving very rapidly across the sky above me, sometimes faint long stripes, sometimes very bright spots, seemingly as bright as the moon. Moving fast around a NW and NE points in the sky as well as “circling” the earth all the way across from NW to SE in a long “feathery” stripe.
There are two dimensions to the light – one is the slow-moving of the “lit” area of the sky as it “crawls” east to west slowly “saturating” the invisible magnetic lines of the planet, the other – it the fast moving “wind” spreading the light along the magnetic lines. Put together these movements create succession of unique patters of Aurora lights never to be repeated!
You never know when the light will “happen”, it could be 8pm, it could be 2am, the light comes and goes as it wishes, you may spend an hour in the cold catching faint background “radiation” barely sen in the sky to then go home and see an explosion of colours in the window, you run out and the show is almost finished for the next hour… or the next 10 minutes! This is amazing – good luck trying to play with nature here! You can’t prevail, you can only be a lucky one “allowed” to see the game of light.
But the fortune favours the brave and attempting to see the Northern Lights will teach you cease the moment! And most importantly, value it!
I planned to see the lights one night, agreed to drive 50 minutes North of Tromso to see them at 12am as suggested by the forecast and guess what happened? The lights could be seen in the South-West at 9pm that night and not in any other time. We spent an hour getting to watch pitch-black skies. I planned to see the lights all night between Norway and Finland, found a high-altitude spot for clear skies, the sun was shining all day and in the evening I took this photo of me watching the lights. I did not even have a tripod as it was set up at the right position and place for taking time-lapse of the lights all night, I had all my batteries charged and ready to go and guess what happened? That’s right, after I took the first photo early in the evening the icy fog blot out the skies, I spent the rest of the night not seeing any further than my head torch’s light beam!
The Northern Lights keep their secrets well, they won’t open their secrets to occasional tourists, they will favour the locals who endure the tough life in the Arctics in order to be rewarded with these phenomenal displays of charged particles cutting through the planet’s atmosphere!
It’s amazing how I’m finishing this article with a couple of what are pretty lousy photos of this amazing phenomenon but in my mid live the fast moving dancing stripes of green. Our cameras get better and better and you can now see pretty good photos of the lights but the only way to really understand what you’re missing out on you’ve go to go and see it for yourself! You will never forget what you’ll witness!
(Serge Fog 1-10 Oct 2016)
To see what your chances are for seeing the Northern Lights at your latitude you may wanna note down these web sites:
You are looking at a 1973 LADA 21012 – a car not sold to private individuals in the USSR and one of only two left in Norway. Ronny, its proud owner, is all about the Soviet era and can beat any Swede with his passion towards American classic cars, Ronny drives a Soviet dream, a dream not even available in the Soviet union itself.
The LADA is all original, everything from headlights to the tool box in the boot! Everything is just as it was back in 1973 when for reasons unknown to man the vehicle was put on a container ship and sent off to serve the Vikings.
I don’t think this story would ever have seen the light if not for Ronny’s obsession with the car, he’s done a very good job keeping it original.
He was kind enough to take me and my friend Stina for a ride across Tromso, I immediately felt 20 years younger!
I remember the sound of the engine, the smell of petrol all around the car that used to make me feel sick when I was a small kid… the Lada 2105 I bought when I turned 20 and which exhibited pretty much all the character of this 40-year old Lada… that was an amazing day in Tromso, I’d very much like to thank Ronny for making it happen!
(Serge Fog, 9 Sep 2016)
Welcome to Narvik – population 20000, a place that Sweeden needs to be shipping their Kiruna steel from. A place with nothing to do except for killing time and even that would be hard to do.
I arrived to Narvik on a Friday night to learn that no bar is open until late at night and until that time I was trying to find at least something to do or see… ah I wished:) But let’s see Narvik in all its glory!
Life here revolves around the port, and the rail terminal, a third of the population here must be working on either of the two, the few others must be hunters and fishermen. I don’t really know whether it’s the weather that was the reason why I arrived to and left Narvik with this impression but with the beautiful Lofoten just a few hours’ drive away, why would you ever go here… I walked the empty streets (of a Friday night! FRIDAY NIGHT!!!) and fell asleep, the next morning was even more depressing than the night before and this was the end of Narvik for me.
Oh yes, and one day they’ll finish building the bridge, the bridge is destined to become the most significant attraction of the town!
A Day of Swedish Nostalgia
I could not wait to go back to Tromso but while I was near Sweden I’ve decided to go there and spend a day by a like, I’ve grown to realise that I was seriously missing lakes. Norway is a beautiful country with its fjords and mountains but Sweden meats it hands down (and is beaten hands down by Finland!).
Just as I decided to head back to Tromso the skies cleared out, I headed “back” towards Kiruna along the very train line that brings iron pellets from Kiruna to Narvik, every 40 minutes or so a train whizzed passed me.
I don’t know who drew borders between countries but whoever it was he had a concept of what people of each country liked to see out of their windows. In Norway it’s are rock of old mountains, tiny streams and mountain lakes. And all of that will disappear once you cross the invisible frontier of Sweden!
In a matter of a kilometre or two the typical Norwegian landscapes are gone without a trace and are replaced by typical Swedish lakes and forests. Mountains “grow” trees on their slopes as if the God was making sure that it’s Sweden and not Norway! I can not understand how it’s possible, I mean you can be driving for hundreds of kilometers across Norway and the scenery won’t change much at all but drive passed the booth with the Swedish flag on it and you’re in a different landscape what so ever! It’s unbelievable!
That night I had the coldest bath imaginable in freezing-cold water of a Northern Swedish lake followed by what’s now is a traditional fire-brewed tea. The next morning I departed towards one of my favourite Norwegian cities – Tromsø. Along the way I’ll speak to sheep, get the car planted in quick sands of the Norwegian Sea and have it pulled out by a grim Norwegian farmer.
(Serge Fog, 3-4 Sep 2016)
To Andenes and Beyond. I am writing these words from Tromsø, a long time since the moment when I left Lofoten, it snows in the mornings and all the beautiful views have been replaced with endless Autumn rains.
Life does not stop to wait until you’ve done what you planned to accomplish, winter will come whether you’re ready or not bringing with it the Autumn rain which will was away any foundation of what you’re yet to achieve so hurry up if you have plans, may be some of them will be accomplished;)
It was time to move back North towards Tromso and on the way I was planning to see the island of Andoya with it’s town of Andenes where thousands of tourists go on whale watching tours every year.
The Rolf’s Bar
Somewhere near the town of Kvamsøy on a rocky beach of the Norwegian Sea There is a bar. Rolf’s Bar. You on’t find it on trip adviser, it’s a small hand-built hut with… a bar, that’s all there is to it. Norway is such an amazing place, the fact there are so few people for such a vast piece of land means those who seek setting their foot into the wilderness or building a little surfer’s asylum can do it here without a problem! I even started thinking of building my own themed hut here!
Inside is a stove, a real bar full of tools and drinks – all contributed to by visitors and this is another thing that made me feel so much in Europe… Europe that I always dreamt of and the one I have not seen! Europe as a place of charitable and kind people, who leave bottles of drinks here with notes wishing all the best to people who will get a chance to use them! This is my Europe boys and girls, the Europe which is now being destroyed but parts of it can still be found frozen into the shores of Norwegian sea!
I stayed there for a night, enjoyed the sunset and beautiful sea views. Next to Rolf’s bar there is a modern glass cube built for people who would like to spend a night by the sea and enjoy sunset. Heh, there was a young couple staying there trying to get some privacy, I and a couple from Holland who stayed next to me had the front seats:)
Mushroom Season in Norway
On my way from Rolf’s Bar to Andenes I stopped for a little break and a few photos and noticed a mushroom, it was a rather healthy-looking Boletus, a delicious fungi to have with fried potatoes and soured cream. I stopped for an hour and picked a few. These few have been the tiniest mushrooms I will have seen in on the trip!
Who would have thought that for the next week I’d be eating almost entirely foraged food. Mushrooms were everywhere I looked! Large, enormous fungi! At some point I stopped picking them and started simply taking photos, I have never seen that many mushrooms in my life and I mean in my entire life put together!!!
There were Boletus, Porcinis, Penny Buns – you name them! Some almost the size of my head!
If you are ever in these placer in Aug-Sep you must read a book on edible mushrooms before you set off! Knowing what you can and, most importantly can’t pick, will make your trip more enjoyable and cheaper too!
It is here where I finally got a good use of my Finnish find – a cast iron pot! Make a fire, load the pot with ‘shrooms, butter, potatoes and an onion, wait half an hour and enjoy your meal! How do you like my “food on Instagram”?;)
Then came Sortland – a promising-looking town, probably the largest town North of Lofoten but which later turned out to be a depressing place, I spent two days around it and I can’t find a worst place to be on the whole island of Langøya. There isn’t really even a photo to post here!
Of course all this trip has been made for the sake of Andenes – a northern-most town in Lofoten archipelago (technically it’s not Lofoten but it really is part of the group of islands). Andenes is where people arrive in their thousands to go on whale safari and puffin watching.
Needless to say that I did not even bother with either whales of puffins. Andenes is good enough just as it is! It’s a place where an old jail has been converted into a pub, a place with an amazing iron lighthouse, a town where you can simply enjoy staying for a week walking around, doing fishing, talking to countless tourists and somewhat shy locals.
I was at a local cafe where I noticed a lady I’ve seen before, Kim was one of the ladies I mentioned in my Viking take from my second day at Lofoten, what were the chances of meeting her here ah? It turns out Kim was a proud resident of Andenes, I enjoyed the next two days meeting her for walks and stories, she told me that she was a vintage clothes designer, now, may of you hipsters are thinking vests and beard bands, no way! Kim is a whole mile Viking clothes designer! I was seriously impressed by her sketches!
She had a special way of seeing people in traditional clothes, she could then apply her imagination and come up with a new “traditional” design that would fit the person she’s just met!
Many designers should now feel envy of Kim’s talent. I seriously think she is one of the more talented people out there.
Kim was a chest full of treasures. Reserved and, like many Norwegians, incredibly quiet and shy. But dig deeper and you’d be rewarded with a personal world full of ideas and talents to make those ideas happen.
I know, I know, everyone has seen a rainbow, but hey, I’m a city boy, facing something like this is a bit like seeing a unicorn for me! Each and every rainbow is a once in a lifetime vision, it won’t ever happen the same way again so if you had a chance to snatch a photo – why not enjoy int! I certainly did enjoy loads of posing while the rainbow was still being seen:)
The Iron Lighthouse
A big attraction at Andenes is the lighthouse made of steel, it’s a beautiful industrial-looking structure, fully automated and if you get a right position you can get a very nice photo of it in the evening (which I did not:). I kept hoping for good weather to finally get that photo taken but as they say, if you wanna make God laugh – tell him about your plans. The light house kept its beauty to itself, all I got was this time lapse which I had to glue from a few pieces as the wind kept blowing the camera off the tripod.
I was leaving Andenes being pushed away by endless autumn rains, I did not know at the time that it was a begging of a long and very unpleasant period in my journey – the time when I’d be spending most of the days at cafes or in my car reading, the rain would not stop until well into October but at this time I did not know that, I was driving through rainy tundra hoping to soon reach Tromso and and finally see the Northern lights. What I did not know is that I was over a month away from the first sunny day in the North of Norway.
(Serge Fog 27-31 Aug 2016)