17th Dec 2011 - 19th Dec 2011 - Norway
Tromso - Reindeers, Lights and Mountains
After a very successful night we treated ourselves to a lay in at the hotel. After checking out we went to explore the town properly. In the centre is a lovely wooden church close to a statue of Norway’s most famous son – Roald Amundsen. We walked down to the waterfront and around the wharf. Stopped for lunch in a pub then walked over the bridge to the Polar Cathedral. There was a concert rehearsal going on so we were not allowed in for half an hour. We had a walk round as it was interesting to see the town centre from over the water. Back in the centre of town we went to get our coach for our next excursion. It was a 75 minute drive before arriving at a little hut where we were kitted out in full length all in one extra warm jumpsuits and fur lined boots. We then went to meet our guide and our reindeer as we were about to go reindeer sledding. Our guide was a native Sami. The Sami’s are the local, indigenous people who herd the reindeer and live in the mountains. Our guide told us lots about the Sami culture and about the clothes he wears and how he keeps warm in the winter. He told us that that day he was wearing his summer outfit as it was only minus 15 when normally it’s minus 50! He showed us how to throw a lasso and then we were able to have a practice ourselves aiming at a set of reindeer horns. I narrowly missed but Melissa managed to get the reindeer – in an emergency I shall now be relying on her to capture dinner!!! We then jumped onto our sleds and off walked the reindeer around a field. It was a little disappointing in the end as we got one lap of the field and that was all. We’d been hoping for more like the huskies and an hour or so. We also only had one reindeer per sled so we couldn’t pretend to be Santa. We were then taken to a lavvu and explained the layout and where people slept. It was very cold and we grateful when we were taken to another lavvu where there was a roaring fire and served a couple of bowls of reindeer soup.
We were then taken to our 2 man lavvu, which was very different to our one at the husky centre. We had a proper fire in the middle which we had to keep on topping up throughout the evening. We were sleeping on the floor on top of reindeer skins, which themselves were on top of branches from Christmas Trees. We had a sauna about a 20m walk from us and we were just preparing to go there when we got a knock on the door “Come quick, the lights are really strong at the moment” and they weren’t kidding. We finally got exactly what we’d been waiting for. The Northern Lights in its full glory. Mainly greens, dancing across the sky, looking like stardust falling. So delicate yet clearly visible. It looks so different from the photos. Cameras manage to really accentuate the colour and the size of the lights, but they cannot capture the elegance and delicacy of the lights. Like grains of sand running through your fingers. At one point we were lying on our backs in the snow watching the light show. Truly amazing. After an hour or so they had faded away and so, feeling really rather very proud of ourselves, we headed back to our lavvu, changed into borrowed dressing gowns, topped the look off with the fur lined boots and our down jackets and plodded over to the sauna trying desperately to ensure that in the darkness we didn’t slip on the icy parts! It was a very strange sight!! Although we didn’t spend long in there it was the perfect Scandinavian end to a very spectacular Scandinavian sight.
The fire in our lavvu died down somewhere during the night, but we were still toasty warm. We had breakfast of fresh bread, ham and cheese – one variety of which was brown and very unique to the area. We were taken back to town where, as it was half 10 on a Sunday morning, everything was closed. We took a very slow walk back over the bridge, past the Polar Cathedral, to the Fjellheisen cable car. From the top we had amazing views out over the whole town, down past the airport, all the surrounding mountains and the water. From that height we also had a great view of the sunrise that never fully occurred and the sunset that never quite was. Considering the lack of sun, both were pretty spectacular. We walked around a lot at the top and kept falling into large snow piles which was fun. Eventually, it was time to head back to our hotel for the final time as this was our last night. The following day we packed up and headed for the airport in order to fly home, although it would still be another 24 hours before we finally saw some daylight!!!