I have long harboured a silly superstition that the way you ring in a new year is a determinant for how the rest of that year will pan out. I feel it’s something that’s held true for me for awhile now, despite how ridiculous it is. So how about this year?
In the early hours of 1 Jan 2015, I was in the Kangaroo Valley, scanning the country skies for my first ever glimpse of a shooting star. I felt smaller than small in the scheme of the universe and my worries and troubles all seemed pretty trivial in that moment, cos somewhere out there were stars thousands of years old dying in a hot heated mess and meteors crashing about into the atmosphere and other galaxies doing crazy things far larger than the extent of my problems.
Though I didn’t fulfil my goal of seeing a shooting star that night, I really had a big shift in perspective this year (thanks to a great deal of mentoring!) and a lot of time and effort has been spent in 2015 chasing dreams, ambitions and other spectacular things that I’ve wanted to see or do my whole life, but was deterred from pursuing due to my own self-imposed limitations.
Which takes my story to Finland and to Utsjoki, where this week I fulfilled a huge personal bucket list item to see the Northern Lights, otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis, if you wanna be fancy. It was always a dream I revered as being in the “too hard” pile (especially when you live down in the bottom of the world), but with some good research, planning and determination, that dream became reality!
Of the 3 nights we dedicated to chasing the aurora, 2 of the nights, the auroras actually came to us and put on an amazing show right over our huts on the Tenojoki River. And it was BREATHTAKING! You can see pictures of the northern lights a million times, but it could never beat the experience of witnessing it in person – The lights dance, ripple, change colours and move around (and very fast for that matter). To add to it, you may be lucky and see shooting stars, constellations and satellites concurrently moving through the sky as well. Coupled with the serenity of being out in the Arctic wilderness (imagine a place where reindeers still roam freely), it is truly an incredible and surreal experience that id recommend to anyone in a heartbeat.
At my first sight of the lights, my hands actually got so shakey in excitement that I knocked my camera off the verandah ledge onto the rocks below – miraculously, it survived the fall (kudos to Sony!!) and went on to capture some moments that I’m pretty chuffed about.
For anyone wishing to venture all this way for the sole primary reason of seeing the lights, I really recommend Tony and the guys at Aurora service tours – I have heard a lot of stories of people going on week long light tours and not getting a glimpse of anything. However, Tony, who heads this tour group, is highly experienced with chasing the lights (they were an Aurora Info service prior to launching the tour business) and, really, being able to see these lights comes down to knowledge of the area, understanding of the conditions and sheer luck. There are tours out there where you stay in one place and try to get lucky – this would be akin to sitting in one spot and hoping a certain shaped cloud passes over you. Your chances are boosted exponentially if you’re able to be mobile, and Tony and the guys will literally drive you around for hours in the night to find the best vantage point (and keep you warm with hot blueberry juice, cinnamon scrolls and maybe even some reindeer steak). Also, I thought staying even further north of Ivalo, in a cosy cabin in utsjoki, equipped with your own sauna and fireplace, was much more unique – a lot of the time I’m quite put off tours for the very reason that I don’t feel they provide a unique experience.
Unfortunately, Tony’s tours have already booked out for the entire 2015-16 and 2016-17 season, as did last year’s too – this is a testament to how reputable they are (and they only do intimate groups of around 12pax). I had booked this back in January and secured the 3rd last spot for the season (for the Asgard tour), so it’s definitely worthwhile planning ahead. But for a sight like this, you won’t be sorry!
How’s this for a backyard?
[POST EDIT: I wasn’t skilled enough to capture anything on video while I was there, but the tour group just posted an amazing one of the lights here – had to share it because it just captures the magic of the moment perfectly 🙂 ]