A flooded drysuit in Iceland and dog sledding in Norway
Like most avid travellers we have that ultimate ‘bucket list’. A list of once-in-a-lifetime adventures we all strive to tick off as many as our lives and budget will allow. I expect that most are very similar in comparison – see the Taj Mahal, Antarctica, Machu Picchu, the list is endless. Mine included seeing the Northern Lights which is where this story begins.
It has been noted that now is one of the best times to see the Aurora Borealis, so what better time to start our search. We started with Iceland. With not much daylight we explored Reykjavik and its surrounding areas. We had already booked to dive Silfra Rift – an opportunity to dive between the American and Eurasian continents. Unfortunately we had booked on what was to be one of the worst day’s weather wise for some time. I was very apprehensive as we drove through the white landscape to our dive site through the blizzard like conditions - we must be absolutely mad!
But we slowly got into our drysuits, de-freezing ourselves and our equipment as we geared up. We staggered over ice, down the frozen steps and slowly into the freezing water. The water was crystal clear, the underwater landscape and colours quite spectacular. Unfortunately I became very cold very quickly and feared that my drysuit had flooded. The cold eventually became too much to bear, and I could feel myself starting to shake uncontrollably. After somehow walking back to the van, I quickly took my drysuit off to find that the whole suit had indeed flooded. I managed to quickly get out of my soaked clothing and into warm clothes to stop hypothermia setting in. What a disaster! I have vowed to return one day to try again!
We travelled on the tourist buses along with many other visitors in search of the lights. Conditions were good. The weather was ideal and it was predicted that there would get a sighting. We waited and waited, nothing happened. We drove further north, waited and still nothing. For some reason I actually thought we would see them. I’m not sure why I thought this, perhaps just being optimistic!
So whilst Iceland was a lovely country to visit and experience, we did not see the lights on this trip.
Next stop, Tromso – Norway
I had read that this was one of the best places to experience the Northern Lights so again we booked a trip for December. Among other activities such as whale watching, we booked to try our hand at dog sledding. It was a small company that took us into the depths of Northern Norway in search of the lights by dog sled. This seemed perfect! Much more exciting than the tourist buses. Whilst getting into our snow suits, our guide came in and asked if anyone had seen the Northern Lights? To which my partner and I, and the other 6 tourists replied no. He grinned and said follow me. I thought he was joking! Outside we saw a faint green haze. Even though it was faint, I was still an incredible moment. This time around, I was feeling more realistic. Yes of course it would be incredible to see them, however, what are the chances?! I thought this was all we would see. As we drove out into the wilderness we looked out from the van to see lots of strange shapes in the sky. The van windows were tinted so whilst we were sure they weren’t just clouds, we couldn’t be completely sure.
Upon arrival, everyone jumped immediately out the van and looked up. Dancing above us, were the Northern Lights. I couldn’t believe our luck. Our guide managed to control our excitement and get us into the dog sleds as we then headed out with the dogs and the Aurora Borealis above us.
This was by far the most magical, spectacular night of my life so far.
Later that night, we lay in the snow and watched as the Northern Lights put on an incredible performance. They had become much brighter and much more pronounced. As silly as it sounds it was quite an emotional moment. My mother was also an avid traveller and had also always wanted to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately she passed away last year so never got the chance. As I lay there watching in disbelief, I do remember looking into the night's sky and saying ‘thanks mum’.
So yes, now I can finally tick this box on that ultimate bucket list and would recommend everyone goes in search of this amazing natural phenomenon.