Hunting the Aurora in Norway
Back in 2016, one of my best buds Nick and I were on a NOLS course. We were mountaineering in Alaska for 14 days, during the summer. That meant, the sun was out for like 23 hours... We missed the stars and really wanted to see the Aurora (Northern Lights), since neither one of us have really seen it. Sitting in a hostel on our last night, we started kicking around ideas for our next trip, knowing the Aurora was the focus. Time passed by and we didn't have a location set yet. I came across a photo from Norway. Sent it to him and said, "What about going here?" Well yeah! We agreed it would be a sweet trip, since I also found Arctic Camper to rent a van to make it a road trip. This would allow us to easily get around and check out more stuff. Plus sleeping in the back would save a ton of money on hotels and it has a stove setup to cook our meals. We booked the van, booked our flights, and waited for the day to come.
Day 1: The Arrival
We originally met up in Oslo, Norway's airport. From there, we hopped on the same shuttle flight to Tromsø. Our first night we were staying at a Airbnb and picking up the van the next day. We stayed with John and Elin in their awesome place on the water overlooking Tromsø! Elin picked us up from the airport so we didn't have to get an expensive cab or figure out the buses, that was awesome of her! Their place as so sweet and they were amazing hosts to us. Gave us ideas on places to check out, since we still didn't really have a set plan, where to get food, and so much more. Sitting around talking, Elin noticed the Aurora was starting to put on a show. Really?! On our first night! THIS IS AWESOME! We spend the night out on their deck enjoying the show :)
Day 2: Hitting the Road
Next morning, well more like afternoon hahaha. We both slept till about 11-12. We walked over to the local grocery store to pick up our meals for the trip. We brought them back to our Airbnb and started to looking up taxis. I was looking out the window. Noticed a large bridge in the distance. Looked up the walking distance to Arctic Camper, 8-9km, not bad. We decided to leave all of our stuff in the Airbnb and walk to get our van. Walked through the city center and Charlottenlund Recreational Park.
We finally made our way to Arctic Campers. Got the walk around and talked over everything. They had a few maps on the wall and we talked over a potential route for the trip. Marked some stops on my maps.me app and hit the road. Nick has not driven a manual some time, so I drove it out of the garage. Got across the parking lot and gave a quick refresher course to him. He nailed it, well for the most part. Few kills. We headed back to the Airbnb, to grab all of our stuff. Loaded up and hit the road. We were shooting to find a parking spot someplace on Senja Island. The sweet part about Norway is how you can park and sleep pretty much anywhere. There are awesome little pull offs on all the roads. Just find one to your liking, park, and pop in the back.
Day 3: Exploring Senja
The guy at Arctic Campers told us about Senja Island. How it would be a good place to start the trip, being next to Tromsø. We decided it would be sweet to do a lap around the island and see what we could fine. I pre-downloaded all of Norway on my Maps.me app so I can get turn by turn directions offline, plus it provides tons of information. Locates gas stations, cafe, hotels, but my favorite part is it shows hikes people have tracked and marked. So as Nick was driving, I was searching the map for a potential hiking spot or what I though would be a sweet place for a photo. Found this town on one of the northern fingers of the island, map showed a hike with an overlook. Ok let's head to Mefjordvær, hike it, and hit the road to see what else we can find.
At first, we thought about calling it a day, but it was getting to be night time. Time for me to drive! I wanted to get us a far down the Lofoten Islands as I could, to work our way back. We were originally shooting for Svolvær to hit up this hike we saw online. Figured we could camp by it and hit it right away in the morning, well more like noon at our rate lol. On the way, we stopped to make some expresso. The stoves did not want to work... They didn't keep a flame going to save our life... We were pissed. Thankfully, Nick had his other stove. Then we went to light that with a different fuel source, typically runs White Gas, but didn't switch out the nozzle. We attempted to get that to break free and swap it out for the right nozzle, but it was not going to budge.. So we were shit out of luck.. Started thinking. Thought about how we probably needed to warm up the cans to get them to flow better. Tossed them sucks on the dash and cranked the defrost. Once warm, shook the can a bit, installed them, and BAM they worked! Guess we learned the trick to them, but still kind of BS. We would have to continue that process the whole trip..
Day 4: To The Top
Waking up to an amazing view! I am truly blown away on how beautiful the Lofoten Islands really are. I just want to climb, paddle, and mountain bike everything! Went off to get some water as Nick was making breakfast.
I did grab some water from the lake to see what it was. Yup more salt water.. Man we need to find some fresh stuff! After our brunch, we hit the road to see what else we could fine. Our end goal was to get to Reine and hike up Reinebringen. We didn't care what time we started the hike because we were hoping to catch the Aurora over the town. So we made a few stops along the way.
Found our next parking spot for the night, which happened to be right where the hike started. So we packed up our gear and hit the trail. Time to climb to the summit of Reinebringen.
Day 5: From the Locals to the Mountain Tops
Woke up to an amazing view of Reine, as we cooked breakfast. All fueled up, we headed back to a local restaurant to grab some togo snacks, use the bathroom, and map out our next hike. We came across Kvalvika Beach along with a peak called Ryten. So we headed that way.
Arrived to the starting point, both damn excited for this hike! The photos we saw looked pretty sweet and it gave us the opportunity for more glacading hahahaha. With us hitting the trail around 16:30, we figured we would maybe catch the Aurora! The clouds didn't seem to know if they were coming or going, but we were hopeful they would part later on.
Day 6: Leaning About the Locals
With two pretty awesome hikes back to back, we were ready for a rest day. As we were driving we came across a Vikings Museum. Swung in to check it out. Afterwards, we were both really hungry as we hit the road. Came across this sweet little Cafe for a snack. We continued further onward, chasing the sun, until we ended up in Henningsvær for dinner.
After dinner we wanted to put on some more miles. We were shooting for this convergent point of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. We were told if the temp drops below -35C the van would start to have issues. Well after we passed through the tunnel into Sweden the temp drop from -8.5C to -32.5 in 10km.... Needless to say, we had to turn around. That part of of the world is a frozen tundra. Temperatures are drastically different compared to the coast. We changed our plan and headed back towards Norways coasts. Where it is warmer.
Day 7: Finding the Icy Kingdom
One of the stops we wanted to make was to check out an ice hotel. All the countries up here have them and we wanted to see what they were like. Set the GPS to Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel and hit the road. Got to say as well pulled up it was not ice.. I was like WTF why did we drive all the way here. Then we found out it was behind the main area haha. Got a ticket and grabbed my camera.
Day 8: What a Show!
This was a travel day. We were heading up to Nordkapp to see the most northern point in Norway. Didn't make to many stops along the way since some of it we already saw. Plus we were more focused on just getting up there, since it was a pretty long drive. Later that day, we noticed the Aurora was starting to show up. At first not all that much. But then, we got a show I will never forget!
Day 9: This Little Place Called Nordkapp
Nordkapp is actually in Finnmark and Norway, butting up against the Barents Sea. In order to get there you need to be in a convoy, lead by a plow, followed by the buses and longer campers, and the cars at the end. This way the buses don't have to stop, since they can get stuck going up some of the hills. For the next 10-12km you are almost in white out conditions. This is tundra territory and the sky looks like the ground and the ground looks like the sky. The safest and only way to travel is in a convoy, which we happen to show up 15 minutes before the last one went. We didn't have a clue we needed to be in a convoy. Check it all out and the local town of Honningsvåg
Day 10: Come on Stove!
We still had one more night with the van. So we picked Sommarøy to explore, since it was close to Tromsø. We got to the island at night. Searching for a spot to park the van and cook. It was crazy windy, so we needed a good building or mountain to block the wind. We found a building, parked, and the real fun started. We had little to no stove fuel. Just a tad bit in two cans, which we were told you can find it everywhere. Well you can't, we checked dozens of gas stations, grocery stores, sporting good stores, fucking everywhere. We were not happy at all about this, but we needed to make dinner still, with the food we still had. With the wind whipping, made the stove struggle even more. We needed a way to keep the cans warm and still cook the pot of food we made. Aka the Nick/Pete special, something we do on all the trips. Use up everything ya got. All goes into one pot. Lined the bottom with butter, layer of brats, layer of sliced potatoes, onions, and other veggies topping it with this chicken on a kabob hahah. It was something else.
So we had to put the fuel cans on the dash with the heater at full blast. Once warm we grabbed one, shook it a bit, put it in the stove, and lit it. Just like before, but this was worse with how little fuel was in the cans. Had it running until it started to struggle, using our bodies as additional wind blockers too. Once the can flickered, we swapped it out for the other one. We noticed the warmer the cans were the better they worked. So this process went on for the next 20-30 minutes as we froze our asses off. Somehow we got the food to cook, climbed in the cab, and wolfed it down. What a shit show.
Day 11: Tie One On?
Every adventures has an end.. Sadly we have come to that point. But first we needed to get back to Tromsø, grab lunch, drop our stuff at our new Airbnb, and drop the van off. Thankfully, the new Airbnb was with Mari is in a perfect location. Super close to Arctic Camper, Airport, and the City Center. We got to hike through the park again before heading to a local pub to talk about the trip. Plus talk about life in general, our next adventure (I hear there are Southern Lights), grab some food, and well have a few beers.
The Green Fire in the Sky - Time Lapse