The Northern Lights at last!

Tuesday 17 September 2019

(Most of this post written by FIONA Illingworth, whilst enjoying her well deserved holiday with me here in Norway)

Up with the lark this morning in order to catch the ferry to Skrolsvik.  

We were alerted last night by the campsite warden to say that the northern lights were visible. It was a cold night but we went out and were finally treated to a bit of a display. They weren’t very bright to be honest; it was just our luck that the campsite was well illuminated and the lights of the town didn’t help either. But we DID see it and, of course, the camera saw it better than our naked eye. It was something at least and I can always say now that I have seen them.

The Northern Lights at last!

We stayed up at least an hour or so hoping for more. There were faint murmurings but it didn’t amount to a great deal.  Nonetheless, it was exhilarating to watch, wait and hope.

8.30 am

Complete fail this morning!  Turns out the ferry terminal we first located only goes to Sørrollnes and not Skrolsvik.  So then we googled the terminal and we ended up at Stornes where, despite the indications of a ferry line on the map, the ferry does not go to Skrolsvik but only to a small island called Grytøya.  We simply turned round and took the return ferry journey of approx 10 minutes. No charge and we both benefitted from the toilet facilities!  The ticket man told John that there hasn’t been a ferry to Skrolsvik from Stornes for years. Such is life!

I am still convinced that there is a ferry terminal in Harstad that would take us to Skrolsvik but I doubt we will ever find it. Instead we are reverting to plan C, which is to go back to the ferry terminal we first visited at 7.30 am and take the ferry to Sørrollnes. It doesn’t look as though it will save much time on our journey to Senja but it will be an alternative route and open up the possibilities of new photo opportunities!

I see no ships!

So here goes … let’s see how we fare with Plan C. Just about to dock on the island of Hinnøya once again!

9.20 am

On board ferry number two to Sørrollness. We were lucky … we just rolled on as the last vehicle before the ferry shut its door. They really don’t mess about here. Doors open and shut, vehicles drive on and off with impressive speed. I guess catching a ferry is so much a part of daily life for many here. 

At least we’re on a ferry going somewhere!!

It is another promising day. I hope the weather holds as the forecast doesn’t look great for the next few days. 

11.40 am

We have driven up the tiny road from tunnel linking Rolla to Andørja, in search of a spot to have a snack. We had to drive quite a few kilometres but found somewhere just as we were about to give up and turn around. Just beyond the lay-by I spotted a small path leading to an old picnic table looking out onto the bay. It was completely invisible from the road and perfect in every way. It was so still you could have heard a pin drop.

Island life must be hard a lot of the time I’m sure but there is part of me thinking that they have it sorted. They know how to live the good life: no rushing and living on top of each other.  They have space to spread out.  Many have wonderful views from their homes, a couple of outbuildings, probably one of which is a winter sauna.  Many have a small boat (probably a must in most places around the small islands).  Children start school at 6 years old.  They leave their bikes unlocked outside their house.  It seems pretty idyllic to me.

I wonder – have we forgotten to actually enjoy life’s simple pleasures in the UK? John had just started to listen to the UK news last night (when we heard of the damning indictment of the Luxembourg PM on Boris Johnson) when we heard a knock at our window. It was the campsite warden telling us of the Northern Lights. Suddenly the news didn’t seem that interesting (not that it was to me in the first place to be honest). It takes a holiday to remind you to focus on the small but at the same time increasingly important things in life … nature, quiet, time with loved ones, space to simply be. The Danish have a word for this: hygge. I need more of this in my life for sure although I do think, as I get older, I focus on this more. Long may this development continue!

1.35 pm

We stopped along the 84 road to try and capture some of the autumn colours in the trees but it is so much more difficult than it looks. The trees look incredible from a distance but when you get up close you lose the canopy of orange and yellow; the trees take on their individual nature. So it doesn’t make for the great sweeping swathes of colour, which is what I was hoping to capture. Instead, I have gone in very close and shot the red ferns that carpet the floors of the forests. It is beautiful, sure enough, but not really what I was after. I think, now, we have lost the best of the light but who knows what the rest of the days will bring, forecast notwithstanding.

Beautiful autumn forest colours

4.25 pm

We stopped at a traditional bakery and cafe to have a cinnamon bun and coffee and the lady who served us told us that it would snow on Thursday. It has prompted me to reconsider our plans to stop in Senja for two nights. I would be happier if we drove back onto the mainland tomorrow night; I don’t want to risk having to drive over a mountain in bad weather. Maybe I am over reacting; we are in Norway after all. But I don’t want to take the risk in any case.

So now we are at Ersfjord and the light is quite flat at the moment. Out to sea the clouds look interesting so it may well develop into a promising sunset. It is raining very lightly but I am sure it will only last a short while. This is a beautiful country and we come across fantastic scenes around every corner.

8.55 pm

We have had an uneventful evening at Ersfjord.   I attempted to take the sunset but the sun refused to play. However there were some quite dramatic clouds overhead and I hope I’ve captured those.  I reduced the exposure by 2 stops for a more dramatic effector.  I do hope it works!  It looked good on the back of the camera, but then it usually does. 

Whilst I was waiting for the sunset, John got talking to one of a group of four young women who were setting up campy on the beach. They had two tents between them. Turns out they are all air stewards for Norwegian Airlines. They had four days off together so just decided to head up to Senja. They were most impressive … building a log fire and setting up their tents etc. It is raining hard now so I hope they manage to heat up their food before the downpour. 

Hardy women these Norwegian Airline staff

Our plan is to slowly make our way back to the mainland tomorrow. It seems crazy to have driven all this way for one night but I would rather not be negotiating mountains roads in sleet and rain on Thursday.  

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