Day Three in Alta, Tromsø & an Aurora Camp.

The best thing about Best Western Nordlys Hotell…? The breakfast waffles; each of which was the size of my face. I got three. I devoured them. (They weren’t actually part of the ‘free’ breakfast offering but if you whimper and quiver your bottom lip, the nice waitress might slide you a plate of them anyway – I have a very effective puppy face. Boom). The waffle-wolfing was justified; we both needed our strength for the adventure ahead.  

Another suitcase, another hall, another airport, another flight… and up in the air, we got to revel in the beauty of the land.

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We arrived back in Tromsø, popped into Kaia Bar & Restaurant and shared an omelette (our budget was dwindling by this point) as we perved on the port.

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Ten minutes later…

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For those wondering if I’m telling porkie pies about the sunrise / sunset times… here’s proof:

ImageThen it was time to wander around the centre until the party bus arrived. For those thinking about embarking on a ‘Northern Lights Adventure’, Tromsø Villmarkssenter has a reception desk at the Radisson Blu Hotel and the staff are very friendly and helpful. We booked our ‘Aurora Camp and Dogsledding’ trip back in the UK and I think it’s fair to say that this was the highlight of the holiday… (it cost a pretty penny / mortgage but in return we got an adventure of a lifetime).

We arrived at the aurora camp and were immediately instructed to up the ante with the thermal wear (they provide a snow suit and boots) – you’ll be as snug as a bug in a reindeer skin. Then we left our bags in the big common sami tent and went off to explore the camp.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: if you so choose, you WILL be able to effortlessly smuggle alcohol into the tent. It says not to… but as long as you don’t set fire to the tent, yourself or fellow campers, I’m sure nobody would give a flying husky).

(ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: do not – REPEAT – do not attempt to smuggle a husky out of there. They like to howl: you will not get away with it).

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After playing with the puppies (before you ‘aaw’, they’re big enough to knock you over and out), we headed back to the tent, huddled around the fire and ate out dinner. They served us bidos (reindeer meat with vegetables). However, I just got a hunk of bone and some slop. So I would advise you to pack Pringles or other snacky goodness, because it turns out that reindeer-bone stew is not exactly filling… or nice. On the plus side, there was cake. Lots of cake. As long as you get your blood sugar levels up, you shouldn’t die or anything.

Then it was time to wander into the ice wilderness, lie down on a reindeer skin, and hope the Northern Lights would come out and play.  And play they did!

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Oh and we saw a shooting star (it might have been a meteorite)!! We were very, very lucky. We were told the NL should be treated as a gift from the universe – it’s not guaranteed, and if you don’t hit the jackpot, you can still enjoy the arctic atmosphere. Who am I kidding? If the lights don’t come out, you’re screwed… (it would not be the same, nor would the cost be worth it, but obviously it’s no fault of the staff / company if they’re a no show)… but you take your chances, you place your bets.

We accidentally booked a hot tub experience. Ok, well we did it on purpose. But it soon transpired to be a big mistake, since the hot tub wasn’t… hot. And in -16°, the last thing you want is a bath OUTSIDE. Saying that, I’ve never been in a jacuzzi in the arctic before and I’m not the type to miss out on an opportunity. BUT it cost thirty odd quid and considering that it wasn’t hot and none of the staff knew how to make bubbles or increase the temperature… I wouldn’t recommend it. And then there’s the problem of getting dry and dressed. Vicki ran barefoot across the snow back to the changing area (she’s hardcore). I put my foot down on the snow, immediately regretted it, retracted my foot, hopped around semi-naked, attempted to dry my feet, failed, but thought ‘sod it’ and put the boots on anyway, and subsequently soaked them through. So I did a cheeky one and swapped boots without anyone noticing… BUT you’re not technically allowed to do that. You only get one pair of boots. Technically. So if you’re not as naughty as me, you’ll have to brace it barefoot on the snow. But, be warned, Vicki said it burned.

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We defrosted in the toilets and then headed back to our place by the fire and watched the lights dance across the sky for the best part of a couple of hours. They came out around 11pm and it was way after 1am when we made our way back to our beds.

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I should perhaps mention that you do get instructions regarding how to stay alive throughout the night. Part of that process is keeping the fire alight. The staff go home around 10pm so you’re alone and it’s down to you to not freeze to death. Don’t worry – the sleeping bag will protect you up to minus thirty degrees. But you can’t keep your face in it because your breath will make it wet and… gross. So I’d suggest wrapping a scarf around your face, because it’s as cold inside the tent as outside the tent. My lips swelled to resemble one of those dodgy blow-up dolls and Vicki’s face glowed in the dark (wind burn looks like sun burn). So yes. Brace yourself, Rodney, brace yourself.

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