I had armed myself with two Northern Light apps designed to let you know whether you have any chance of witnessing Lady Borealis. I got addicted to the site in an unhealthy ‘World of Warcraft’ kind of way, constantly logging in for the latest update only a few minutes after the previous look.
It was Thursday night and we half planned to take the cable car high above the city if there had been a good chance of a sighting. The portents were not good however.
The KP (Aurora) index refused to budge above 2, the cloud cover hovered between 33&50% and our chances were rated slim to non-existent.
After a couple of hours of sending Mrs Wilbur crazy (it predicts that in approximately forty minutes we will have KP of 2.3, cloud cover of 17% and a 31% chance etc. etc. etc.), we gave up and watched a rather silly ‘based on a true story’ film starring Jack Black about a polka band leader who unwittingly conned pensioners out of their life savings.
I of course also had one eye on the index, but 35% chance was as good as it got, not a sufficient rating to warrant getting togged up, catching a bus, slipping & sliding a km uphill in the snow and catching an expensive cable car for. Mrs Wilbur sensibly suggested we drain another glass and forget about the Green Goddess until the next night.
It was almost deja vu next day. Stunning view of the moon, yoghurt, coffee, bus, hotel coffee, morning coach, sledding activities. This time however it was reindeer not huskies. Still about £170 a head mind.
We soon arrived at Arctic Reindeer Village to get acquainted to our ungulate crew. They were not quite as speedy as their canine counterparts, but off the scale in the cuteness department. I defy anyone to not fall in love with the majestic beasts. Ashamed to say that I still enjoyed the reindeer stew on offer later that day though!
As we slid along in stunning scenery my well-being levels were just about at maximum, especially as Mrs Wilbur and I sat cuddled under a warm blanket. Take a look at the serene experience by clicking REINDEER.
Our ride lasted thirty minutes or so, before we were handed buckets of pellets to feed the herd. As I scooped at handfuls to feed to the deer, I heard the news that I secretly dreaded.
I got talking to a British couple who had seen glorious green lights in the sky the previous evening at just about the time that Jack Black was being released from jail in that moderately entertaining film we had viewed.
The couple produced magical pictorial evidence from atop the cable car and then slam dunk, more ethereal swirls of green taken out of their bathroom window later that night. Bugger! Oh well, they were sure to appear again that evening I convinced myself.
After that I left the reindeer to self-service and went to sulk for five minutes. Mrs Wilbur snapped me out of it with an unerringly accurate snowball and we headed off for coffee & cookies sat by a roaring log fire.
After guiltily consuming the aforementioned stew, we were herded into a huge yurt lined with reindeer hide to be told something of Sami culture – nomadic, difficult and oh so rewarding.
As had become the norm, we took countless pictures & videos through the coach windows, 90% of which have not been so much as glimpsed in the six months since we have been back.
We got straight back to our apartment after the drop off in town – we need to prepare for the astral phenomenon we would surely witness in a few hours time. KP was predicted at 3.5 at 22.00, cloud cover 0% and a viewing as 75% likely. Good enough to to warrant getting togged up, catching a bus, slipping & sliding a km uphill in the snow and catching an expensive cable car for.
The walk up in the dark through a residential area was hazardous with us both coming a cropper on a particularly treacherous ascent.
We finally arrived at the fjellheisen and paid around £20 each for the round trip of four minutes each way. The cable car runs up to the mountain ledge called Storsteinen (421 m above sea level) in one of two gondolas, known as Seal and Polar Bear.
I am going to cut to the chase. It was blinking freezing up there and despite the Lights making the weakest of showings, it was officially a failure. Two hours of frost bitingly cold disappointment. I cussed Jack Black as we reluctantly gave up, consumed an alarmingly expensive hot chocolate and hitched a ride back down on Polar Bear.
We would be leaving early next evening. Another damp squib to go with Iceland in 2015 and Narvik a couple of days previously. I determined that I would keep an eye on Aurora Watch and fly at a moments notice in future should the gods all align.
A taxi home was the least I could muster to make it up to us both. I had usually cursed at a five minute ride costing £20, but on this occasion I just paid up with a resigned shoulder shrug.
We finished what had still undoubtedly been a wonderful if incomplete trip, with a look around the unique Arctic Cathedral, another ride on the Seal & the Bear for some breathtaking daytime views and a final Michelin star burger (I assumed so at those prices anyway!), before getting the taxi the short ride to the airport.
Arctic Cathedral Out & In
We had experienced a wonderful trip – Oslo – Trondheim – Fauske – Narvik – Tromso. It was official – I was in love with Norway all over again and Mrs Wilbur had fallen for it’s alluring charms too!