Northern Lights in Kiruna (or not)

In 2013 a study conducted by TravelSupermarket revealed that majority of Britons who had lists of travel experience they feel they must do before they die wanted to see the northern lights (albeit in Norway, I don’t know why, don’t they know it’s “cheaper” in Sweden?). I am not British and I don’t have a bucket list yet but these did not stop me from embarking on a trip to Kiruna to try and see the northern lights.

The people in my corridor (Swedish for student housing, dorm, residence hall) started talking about taking a trip up north to Kiruna to see the northern lights late last year before the holidays. Everyone wanted to go but no one was really seriously organizing anything until a cool and really smart Dutch woman took matters into her hands, scoured the Internet for information, compared prices for accommodation and found Gunnar.

Gunnar is the guy you call in Kiruna for a cottage by a frozen river with a great view of the northern sky. He seems to own half of Kiruna, everybody knows or has heard of him but nobody has really met him. Well, nobody in our group did.

A sign up sheet was posted on the fridge door in the common kitchen and in the end eight people from our corridor plus a guy from the UK, who may or may not have a bucket list, went to Kiruna. We took the night train on Friday and arrived in town the following day. We picked up warm clothes and equipment for cross-country skiing in the afternoon and snowmobiling the following day.

It was my first time to try to walk on snow on top of a frozen river while mounted on sticks as well as to drive a snowmobile and get stuck 12 times off track. Needless to say they were pretty exhausting activities that made me question my capacity to make good decisions.

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Snow mobiles are heavy. Good work out though pulling them out of thick melting snow.
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It was hard to jump with those heavy boots and clothes but we managed to do it well I think. This was after having successfully gotten the snow mobiles unstuck.

How about the northern lights, did we see them you ask?

Well, we didn’t see them.

We really tried – stayed out late by the river where there was an unobstructed view of the sky for hours, made snow chairs, looked at the sky in the general northerly direction, even danced around a battery powered lamp while chanting “go away clouds” – but the only place we saw them dancing and being colorful was in our dreams. Alas it was not meant to be. I have at least another winter to try and see them though.

So, here’s to the first item on my newly-created bucket list. Northern lights in Norway! Or Abisko since I’m kind of loyal to Sweden (where it is also “cheaper”).

IMG_1885
Not the northern lights.

P.S. if you want tips on how to miss the northern lights you can send an email to me at james.salisi@stud.ki.se

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