Norway – Sweden Trip (Feb 2019)

Narvik -> Abisko (20/02/2019)

The alarms went off during the night, but there was nothing visible over the city. However, upon reflection, there may have been something there, maybe even several nights and we wouldn’t have known how to spot it. The morning alarm went off and I was awake immediately, web-chatting with the train company and checking the road works progress online. The explanations we got were not very clear so we headed to the station in a hope that the replacement bus service would indeed take us onwards.

The bus did turn up and we motored out of the city, up the hill and ground to a halt. We were in a holding queue for 1hr 20min as the approaching convoy cleared and we had our opportunity to go. The bus stopped in a ray of sunshine and the heat melted the ice off the windows, with twisted formations cracking and sliding down the glass. The view was quite special with the moving sun casting different shadows on an untouched area of wilderness.

The wind turbines we passed were frozen or perhaps turned off for the winter and the blockage that had shut the road for so long, was still so tight that the right hand side of the bus scraped through. We made a few minor detours to pick up passengers from other stations but gradually made our way to Abisko. The bus stop was crowded with people desperate to get on and to Kiruna, with only space for a fraction to come aboard. One lucky passenger to get on was the French tour guide who got a taxi back at Narvik to try and get all the way to Kiruna. Not sure why she only got this far, we received a sheepish smile as she took seat, probably upset at the cost of her transport and still nowhere near her destination and clients.

The driver took onboard 4x more passengers to replace the four of us disembarking at Abisko proper and they were in our seats like greyhounds out of a trap. We checked in, wrapped up warm, out on the provided boiler suits and went ice-fishing. SPOILER ALERT: we caught fish. Jacob had a wicked sense of humour and drove us to a spot he was hoping would reap better rewards. But, the snowfall was so heavy he struggled to see the bottom of the lake in his hole or the food that would attract fish to the area.

He drilled 3x holes and we lay or knelt in our area, tiny gnome fishing rods jerking up and down in a peculiar fashion to attract the fish. What should them be a case of watching down the hole for passing fish and varying the rhythmic action of the bait, was a bit more pot luck than skill. But, there was no luck involved when Katherine felt a nibble, patiently waited and struck her catch to haul up a beautiful Arctic Charr. Jacob quickly de-hooked the little fella and Kat returned him before the cold shocked him.

With no luck for our esteemed guide, he suggested we try another site, so we did. The area, much shallower, meant I was able to watch my lure over the lake bed. The approaching monster gauged up the treat, I waited patiently and struck when appropriate. I caught a fish, ice-fishing, start to finish and he too was returned unscathed (but fed) to the water.

We bought supplies at the market to cook a nice pasta, but we’re both craving more vegetables than were on offer. We stumbled around the pokey kitchen and wolfed down our food, anticipation rising to the evening ahead. We layered up even more than before and emerged to the fore yard like two police training dog dummies, swinging our legs like a cowboy and temporarily warmer than the outside temp of -17*C. We passed our driving test, although I deliberately kicked the last traffic cone at the end, much to the hilarity of our guide, Jacob.

Yes, Jacob was our guide again for the evening and he led us up in to the mountains and forests to experience the opportunity to chase the Aurora by snowmobiles. Having missed the night before and our Sami BBQ evening, they let us choose a different activity so we upgraded this evening to do something else neither of us had ever done. And it was spectacular.

The first stop afforded beautiful views of the lake below and we were only looking slightly upwards at the acclaimed observation platform on the mountain next to us. We never got up quite so high but we did progress a bit further in to the hills. The next stop was ‘the viewpoint’.

Aptly named, the viewpoint was atop a small rise with Abisko somewhere behind us, the moon up to our left the mountain range in front of us and a sub-alpine meadow and river before us, all of which covered in a blanket of snow. Following in the footsteps (and advice of Jacob) I took several shots with the camera in a hope that in the future I could splice them together to form a high quality panoramic photo. But, each image appearing on the view screen was in itself a thing of beauty and worth framing.

We progressed deeper in to the forest after some hot lingonberry and chocolate, to be shown a cold spring: a spring of cold water constantly pushed up to the surface from warmer depths to reach the surface and form a mini ecosystem. A grove of Adler trees were alive and growing in the area of the spring and stream as the roots are never frozen over and the bacterial symbiosis able to survive the harsh temperatures.

We were discussing the options of what to do for the evening when Jacob, quite calmly and matter of factly, pointed to the skies and said the Aurora borealis was appearing. Not sure we were looking at the same thing, the wisp of cloud, that would easily be overlooked, took definition and swirled in a fashion that then started to arc across the sky.

The Indian gentleman wanted proof, so Jacob took out his camera, pointed and took one shot, to show the vibrancy of colours that were yet to show themselves to the human eye. The Asian gentleman (not sure where he was really from) didn’t believe this so much that he put the tripod and camera away. I had to properly explain the arc above his head and he raced to put his gear back together.

I messed about with camera settings and didn’t get anything worth while. But, we had seen it. And wow. It was incredible. I drove the snowmobile back, the heat from the handlebars becoming a bit too extreme at times, and Katherine caught further glimpses of the Northern Lights on the way home.

Back at the lodge the vans were also returning from their expedition and the whole lot of us were peppered about the car park, black specks amongst white snow, all setting up cameras for the display above the guesthouse and lodge.

Kat and I warmed up, and marched down – and on to – the lake for a late evening of magical displays. Totally losing track of time and feeling in our extremities, we had long trailing lights from across the lake, with some curtains above us and the mountain. We were even fortunate enough to catch some pink and yellow flickers in one display. The whole evening was breathtaking and we had to really restrain ourselves and go home before we got too cold. We had seen the northern lights and while I may not have done them justice by camera, nothing will ever truly describe the experience.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019

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