View Full Version : Arctic Circle Tour Sequel "Hunting the Northern Lights"

01-24-2011, 12:36 PM
Arctic Circle Tour Sequel
"Hunting The Northern Lights"

While looking around Rovaniemi on our Arctic Circle Tour we met a really nice Lady (Aija Aarrevaara) who was looking after one of the Tourist Information Centres.
During our conversation we started to ask her about watching the Aurora Borealis or in our ‘Lingo’ The Northern Lights.
Well after establishing that it was the wrong time of year to see them (Duh!) so we would settle for the Midnight Sun, Aija then went on to explain to us that the Northern Lights are on a 10 year cycle that each year grows in the intensity of the lights. Winter of 2010/2011 was the end of this 10 year ‘cycle’ so they would be at their best displays when they could be seen on clear nights!

Having then arrived back home from the Arctic Circle Tour we decided to ‘go for it’ and plan a short trip back to Mehamn in Norway but this time to use the ‘Silver Caravan with Wings’ to get there as Jan did not quite fancy being a passenger on a 3500 Mile journey ploughing our way through mountains of Snow & Ice while towing a caravan, and that was just to get there, we then had to get back home!

As a result of that we travelled up to the Parking lot for all the ‘Silver Caravans with Wings’ at a place called Gatwick and having climbed into ‘it’ we sat back while being catapulted from there to Oslo.

At one point during the ‘catapult’ I felt like I was about to swallow my teeth and they are not even false!

2 hours later the Silver Caravan Boss dropped like a brick through the last 10ft onto the runway with an almighty ‘BANG’ as we thought the wheels would be coming through the floor to join us!

We had arrived in Oslo, then upon collecting our luggage we found that the handle socket on the top of the case had been smashed allowing the handle to hang free, and the side wall had been snapped allowing the handle on the side to only be held in place with the fabric!

Made our way to Airport Handling Services to advise them and get a damage report then found we had missed to bus for the City Centre!

Next bus was in another hour, managed to get the next one which dropped us at Sinsenkrysset which was the destination for our overnight stop at the Haraldsheim YHA,

Airport Bus

Airport Road!

Oslo Haraldsheim YHA

YHA Kitchen

Checked into the Oslo YHA and set off for a short walk to the local supermarket for a couple of bits that we had forgotten to pack, after that it was time for Dinner and bed as we had an early start next day to go back to the Airport before getting on a different Silver Caravan with Wings to take us to Kirkenes and then on to Mehamn where we planned to stay at the Camp Site that was our most Northerly stopover on the Arctic Circle tour as it also has a YHA.

Alarm set for 05:00hrs, quick wash, clean teeth, pack bags, pick up packed ‘Breakfast’ as they did not serve any real breakfast till 07:00hrs, give in the room key and set off for the Airport Express Bus Stop, got there and then watched as 3 Buses went passed without stopping!

By this time we had no choice but to get an exceedingly expensive Taxi that was just on ú100 for the trip OUCH!

Checked in for the SAS 2 hour flight to Kirkenes and was pleasantly surprised to be provided with a really very nice Breakfast with a choice of Tea or Coffee.

SAS Flight from Oslo

Upon arrival at Kirkenes we noticed that they covered the mouth of the Aircraft Engine with a BIG WHITE Round Disc and in the centre had a flexible pipe of about 10 inches diameter that hot air was pumped through to stop the engine from freezing up!

Engine ‘Heating Plug’ (Hope you can see it)

In view of the YHA Breakfast not being eaten, it was moved forward to cover us for Lunch due to a 5 hour ‘layover’ in Kirkenes before the 40 minute flight with an airline called Wideroe which was a small turbo prop holding about 25 passengers and used very little runway to get up, and was surprisingly smooth once you got up there!

My lunch consisted of a Liver Paste & Caviar ‘Butty’ (The Caviar is the Orange Lines on the Bread) and it was very nice!

Liver Paste & Caviar ‘Butty’

The picture was taken from inside the Terminal as they would not let me go outside until it was time for boarding!

Wideroe Aircraft

45 Minutes after takeoff we were met at Mehamn Airport by ‘Vidar the Viking’ and taken to Mehamn YHA to check in for our 6 night stay and get ready to go “Hunting the Northern Lights” by this time it was about 17:30hrs and had been dark for around 3.5hours, but as the sky was cloudy there would be no Northern Lights on this night, so it was unpack, cook up some Dinner, after a quick walk into Mehamn Town Centre for some ‘liquid milk’, that powdered stuff does not go well with cereals, and off to bed for another ‘fight’ with the sleeping bag liner and then see what the following day brought!

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 2

Woke at 07:30 and it was not very light outside and snowing!

Our bedroom was nice, very quite & cool, so a good night’s sleep was had by both of us especially as the travelling and early mornings had caught up with us.

After sorting out a cup of coffee for me and a tea for Jan it was time to get breakfast which was the good old ‘Central Heating for Adults’ for me of Porridge, and Cereal for Jan.

The Porridge being cooked in a pan and eaten from same, as no Microwave or decent bowls in the kitchen, followed by a very nice shower then dressed and into town for some groceries.

Mehamn Campsite, YHA & Fishermans Huts


Mehamn Town ‘CooP’ (Supermarket) is about 1.5 miles from the YHA and on our way out as it had stopped snowing we were able to really take notice of a Danish Camper that was on the campsite for 3 months with 2 occupants who both came from Greenland but now live in Denmark and like to come to the North of Norway for their Winters!

What was of interest was the ‘Snow Wall’ that the man had built around 3 sides of the Camper to keep the wind off, as at times the wind could be extremely cold with temperatures of more than -20C!

Danish Camper


Having made it to the ‘CooP’ and successfully got the groceries on our way out we saw a notice in the window for a Pensioners Kaffe & Waffle morning that would start at 11:00, so after finding out exactly where it was off we went to see if we could join in, and upon arrival we were made very welcome by everyone there with conversations being held with several of the Norwegian participants who spoke excellent English!

The coffee and tea was good but the Waffles with Butter then a layer of Home Made Strawberry Jam & finally a layer of Cream were excellent


Kaffe & Waffle Morning Room


On our way back to the YHA we called into 2 of the Fish Factories to try and buy some fresh Cod for Dinner but alas no fish was available. It seems that while the harbour can be quite calm and is protected, the Barents Sea outside was very rough and was preventing the fishing boats from leaving the harbour, so it was Pasta & Sauce for dinner.

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 3

Nice lie in this morning but in fairness I think it was all the clean fresh air from yesterday that gave us a really long sleep!

After Breakfast we walked back into town with a nice clear sky but NO Sun as it does not ‘appear’ here in Mehamn until at least the end of January!

Views on the way into Town






Again as it was after 10:00 when we started our walk into Town we once again called into the Fish Factories but again no fresh fish was for sale, so we continued along into Town.

Mehamn Town Centre

After calling into the ‘Posten’ for a couple of Postcards for a friend who does not have a computer, we decided to go up to the Church which we found locked but when we got there being high up it offered some good views over the Town.

Mehamn Church with a ‘taste’ of the Northern Lights!

Views over Mehamn from the Church

Arctic Safari Campsite, YHA & Fishermans Cabins are central on the far side of the harbour

Mehamn Airport is central and looks like a row of lights!

Making our way back to the main road we go ‘across country’ and down the hill ending up in Snow that comes up over our knees, but thankfully our saloupettes and boots kept us dry!



Back on the main road we walk right through town to the far side where the Hurtigruten Mini Cruise Boat comes in. This calls into 11 Ports on the way up the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes but today there was no boat as it was in for annual maintenance, but if you go and look for the sign below then you will come to the Ticket Office!


While our walk around the far end of the Town produced the following views:

Glad it’s not my car that’s buried!

We saw some interesting ‘Icicles’ on the Bus Wheel?

Satellite Dish. The angle is correct, but I am not sure what reception is like in its ‘Winter Coat’?

We didn’t see the dog that lived here, so we hope it was inside and the kennel was just for Summer use!

Up through the houses

Down the other side of the hill

40 minutes later we are back at the YHA and although it feels like we have been out for hours, it is only lunchtime, so a quick lunch and then some R&R as we are off on the Skidoo’s tonight!

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 3 (Contd)

We had arranged to meet Vidar the Viking at his Skidoo Shed on the outskirts of Town at 18:00hrs (That’s 6:00pm for those not sure of the 24hr Clock) so having got suitably ‘togged up’ we set off and duly arrived to find him sorting out the Skidoo’s we would use.

Originally Jan was to climb on the back with me but to her shock and horror Vidar insisted that she “drive one herself as last week we have 78yrs old English Lady and 85yrs old English Man both drive Skidoo’s after short instruction!”

The look of apprehension on Jan’s face was wonderful and I am sorry I did not have the camera handy, but resigned to the fact that she had to give it a go we went in to get the Clothing, Boots & ‘Skid Lids’ sorted out and eventually emerged looking like a couple of Spacemen who had just returned from the International Space Station!

Guess who, suitably attired?

One of the ‘Beasts’!

Having had a short but instructive lesson on how to ride and handle the Skidoo’s we set off and within 15minutes Jan was off like ‘Speedy Gonzales’ gunning the Skidoo along the straight bits and enjoying every minute of it, in fact I think she was more confident than me, but at one point put a bit too much power on, went a bit wide, came out of the trail and cut up the cross country ski tracks that are prepared by a special machine for the ‘Lang laufers’ Oops!

Vidar & Jan out on the trail, and it was Snowing heavily

Vidar’s Winter Camp, which is a Canvas Tepee with Snow Block Seats covered in Reindeer Skins and a small wood burning stove that we spent all of 10 minutes in as it was to cold for any more!

I have to apologise for the next couple of pictures due to the ‘fuzziness’ caused by a problem with the camera, but I hope you can still see them even though it might make your eyes go a bit funny, so don’t look for too long OK?

Back at the Skidoo Garage after 2 hours of an exhilarating experience!


During the trip we saw the Northern Lights for all of about 10 minutes but they were not bright enough to take pictures, then the clouds came over and the Snow started while we were around 15km from Mehamn, so it was head back following Vidar who thankfully had a GPS system fitted so could find his way.

When we got back Jan was grinning like a Cheshire Cat which she put down to just having had the time of her life! Fabulous!

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 4

Once again out for a short walk after breakfast for some more groceries as once again there is no fresh fish to be had from the fish factories here.

While the harbour looks very calm, the Barents Sea has ‘thrown the rattle out of the pram’ and one factory owner tells us he lost a 3000 hook long line that they put out 2 days ago!

Outside the ‘Posten’ (Post Office)

There is a car completely covered in Snow in the next picture! Can you spot it?

A few more views from our short walk



Then it was back to the YHA for a bit of lunch

We had sent an e-mail to a few friends to let them know that Mehamn has its own ‘Web Cam’ and having sorted out the date for the Skidoo Run we would then make a date to go to Mehamn Town Square for a bit of fun and ‘Wave to the Web Camera while holding up the Welsh Flag!

Welsh Flag in Town Square

It was good fun as some of our friends logged in a bit earlier than the time and saw us throwing Snowballs at each other, but what they didn’t see was us falling over and then struggling frantically to get up again as the snow was that deep!

If you would like to have a look now around Mehamn here is the link:

Some 30 minutes later the next Snowstorm started so it was time to call it a day and head back to the YHA and Bed!

I’ve not had so many early nights in a long time!!!
Tomorrow is very interesting, promise!

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 5

In keeping an eye on the Weather Forecast over here I think the sad part is that they are just as crap at ‘forecasting’ as the clowns in the UK (Who can forget the BBQ Summer?)

Today is supposed to be ‘Clear & Bright’ (Let’s not forget that we are just talking daylight at the moment as the people here do not see Monsieur ‘SUN’ until end of January as he has been below the horizon for 3 months and this is commonly called ‘The Dark Period’)

So the actual weather today is Overcast, Grey going to Black and quite Dark with Street & House Lights just never being turned off!

Walk over to the Fish Factories to be met with the same story ‘No Fresh Fish’ so we continue to the CooP Supermarket for something for Dinner tonight and meet one of the Pensioners we met at the Kaffe & Waffle Morning who says to us “ It takes me a long time to think about it, but I would like to invite you to my house tomorrow evening for coffee. I will contact Vidar to let him know the time”

We were GOBSMACKED as we had only spent about 10 minutes talking to this lady at the hall!

So we then picked up our groceries, called into ‘Posten’ for 2 Cappuchino Coffees with a wee drop of Irish Creme Flavouring as it was the cheapest and nicest coffee we had found in Mehamn and then walked back to the YHA in a complete daze! It’s a wonder we didn’t slide over the edge of the road & fall in the Sea!

This evening having almost given up hope of seeing ‘The Northern Lights’ the clouds broke up and we were treated to an absolutely FANTASTIC display for about 45minutes!

At one point it felt like my fingers were about to crack and fall off as I could not operate the Video Camera with my gloves on!

OMG!!! The Northern Lights. YAHOO!



Yes that bright white spot is the Moon in the picture below!



It is now 21:00hrs (09:00PM) and we have just been told by Hannah from the Camper that the show has started again, so off we go again and we watch spellbound for another 50 minutes as the lights go dancing across the sky!

For those viewers with slow connections, the Video footage below might give you some problems, hopefully not.

I will apologise for the footage as I did not use a tripod and only found the ‘Night Shot’ settings on the Video Camera that day, so I did not have any time for ‘testing’ but I hope you like the film.

Please put your Mouse Pointer in the middle of the picture below, left click, and you should be taken to the website to start the Video Film

http://i946.photobucket.com/albums/ad307/Traveller11/Northern%20Lights%202011/th_AB2.jpg (http://s946.photobucket.com/albums/ad307/Traveller11/Northern%20Lights%202011/?action=view&current=AB2.mp4)

I will try to get some more video footage uploaded as there are some good bits, I think still to see.

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 6

Below is another piece of video not quite as long as the last one and showing the Northern Lights from the other side of the Harbour.

Again as before you will need to put your mouse pointer on the picture below, preferably in the middle & click on it to open the video up in a different window.

http://i946.photobucket.com/albums/ad307/Traveller11/Northern%20Lights%202011/th_AB1.jpg (http://s946.photobucket.com/albums/ad307/Traveller11/Northern%20Lights%202011/?action=view&current=AB1.mp4)

Breakfast was made and eaten by 08:00hrs (That’s 8:00AM) as this was going to be our last day in Mehamn before starting to make our way back to the UK via Alta & Oslo, so I went down to settle the bill for our time here.

On the way to reception I noticed that the Camper had some rather nice small lights now on top of the ‘Snow Wall’ and a closer inspection showed that they consisted of moulded snow with a small alcove carved in them for a ‘Night Light’ candle to be fitted and lit, thankfully the wind did not blow them out and the heat from the candle did not melt the snow!




Having them gone to reception to pay the bill I was offered the use of a small estate car for some sightseeing, so long as I replaced the fuel we used, so as it was our last day and we could take off to go and look at a place we never got to in Summer we jumped at the chance and set off for SKJ┼NES which was around 30 miles away and at the end of the road!

Must admit that it was quite strange driving on Studded Winter Tyres as no matter what I did the car went ‘normal’ with superb grip even though the road was just a very compact layer of snow that was ‘Snowploughed’ regularly but also had a Truck go along it that had a metal blade across the full width of the Truck at the rear, with a set of teeth like those you see on a wood saw but BIGGER and THICKER that it dragged along the road to ‘rough up’ the hard packed snow!

The scenery on the way over to SKJ┼NES was like a Winter Wonderland and once again quite breathtaking, especially when we went along the bottom of the Fjord!

Winter Wonderland Views! The little WHITE SPOT in the middle of a couple of the pictures is the MOON!




In the next picture below you might just be able to make out going across between the base of the two mountains at either side of the water a rather thick grey line?

It looked like a ‘FOG BANK’ and reminded me of the fog bank that you saw quite often lying just away from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California first thing in the morning as the temperature started to climb up for the day!


Still on the road to SKJ┼NES will upload a bit more later!

Arctic Circle Tour Sequel Day 6 (cont’d) to End

Now on the last few kilometres to SKJ┼NES with a couple more ‘views’ just around the next corner when we come across a Reindeer quite high up on the mountainside pawing their way through the snow looking for food.

Around the last bend to SKJ┼NES

The ‘Lone Reindeer’!

Next stop was ‘The End of the Road CooP Supermarket were we had a short but interesting conversation with the assistants, one whose husband managed the Fish Factory and after explaining about our fresh fish saga, she called him only to learn that they also had no fresh fish, but she did have some very nice fishcakes for dinner last night!


We then partook of a cup of coffee with some very nice Norwegian Butter Biscuits for 5NOK, and looking through the window spotted a ‘Manual Skidoo’ that we borrowed for a quick photo opportunity!

Although you do see the odd young person using them it seems that they are the equivalent of a Snow/Ice Zimmer Frame, and we saw one Gentleman back in Mehamn who stopped us to say ‘Hello’ and as he could not tell us in English used his fingers to advise us that he was 89years young and still scooting along on his Mobile Skidoo!

Manual Skidoo’s


By this time, the daylight was once again starting to fade, and it was just coming up to 12:00 so as I did not fancy driving back to Mehamn in the dark we set off for the return journey.

Having them got back to Mehamn we called in to refill the car with the fuel used and found that the ‘tables had been turned’ as Norway is now cheaper than the UK!

Arrived back at the YHA to learn that we had received the invitation to go for coffee with the Norwegian Lady and we are expected at 19:00hrs, having then got the address and directions to get there it was up to our room to start packing as it would be an early start for the trip back to Oslo via Alta tomorrow.

As no fresh fish was to be had in Mehamn we cooked up some Pasta & Ham for dinner and giving ourselves 30minutes to get there, set off for our coffee appointment.

On the way over the Northern Lights started again as it was another clear sky, so one final picture was taken.


We arrived at the house, knocked on the door and Gunn-Marie came and welcomed us into her home which was really nice. We were joined a short time later by her good friend and spent a very pleasant 3 hours talking about our trip this time and how it had come about as this was our second visit to Mehamn.

During our conversation Gunn-Marie not only brought out the coffee & tea but also a variety of Norwegian Cheeses, biscuits and small bread rolls with fruit and a glass of wine, which having put a white wine in a red wine glass apologised profusely and changed the glasses!

Surprisingly we learnt that the 2 ladies go off on their own Skidoo’s during the winter for day trips, however Gunn-Marie has 2 and her good friend has 3 Skidoos, but there are differences between each machine.

Reluctantly we had to say ‘Goodbye’ and make our way back to the YHA and walking around the harbour bay to get there the wind was bitingly cold, so by the time we got back even though it was not that far, both cheeks on our faces felt frozen!

The following morning we were up at 05:30 for a quick shower, then breakfast, finish packing and kit downstairs ready for collection and the short trip to Mehamn Airport for the Wideroe (Small plane) flight to Alta, but we nearly didn’t make it as the strong wind had caused the snow to drift leaving it about 6 inches deep in places, on the road to YHA.

When I looked out of the bedroom window I see a person who it turns out is Vidar, using a snow shovel to clear the road as he could not get through with the Minibus!

When he got clear and through all the luggage, was put in the back and along with Hannah as she was going back to Denmark we also got in the back to provide weight for traction as we found that further along the road if we hadn’t made it through it was going to be ‘Get out and push’!

Made it to the airport just in time for check in, then onto the plane and off to Alta were we had a 3 hour ‘layover’ before the connecting flight with SAS arrived.

It was still dark when we arrived so we were able to see part of the ‘Sunrise’ while in Alta Airport and the really colourful part while on the SAS flight to Oslo!

Alta Airport is very small as it is only a regional airport, but spotlessly clean and some interesting points inside:

Inside the Airport

Model plane hanging from roof!

Picture of local Sami people

Winter ‘Sport’ of Reindeer Racing! Not as brutal as Rugby or Football!

Alta Sunrise as we taxied along the runway.

Sunrise at 20,000ft!

‘Winter Wonderland’ and frozen lakes

Arrived back in Gardermoen Airport, Oslo, collected luggage, then found we had another hour to kill waiting for the Expressbus to get back to the OSLO YHA.

Snowy road on the return bus trip to Haraldsheim YHA, Oslo.

Off the bus and a trudge up the hill for the YHA, check in then down to the local REWA Supermarket to get a Pizza for dinner which we took back and cooked in the YHA Kitchen.

Quick shower and finally our last night in a ‘Sleeping Bag Liner’ that when you try and roll over feels like to have been ‘clamped’ in a straight jacket!

This time we were able to try the ‘Inclusive Breakfast’ provided by the YHA and it was excellent.
Laid out like a Smorgasbord there was everything you could want including pickled Herring in a Curry or Tomato Sauce, lightly smoked Salmon, and Orange coloured Caviar in a tube.

The Salmon on an open slice of bread was delicious even first thing in the morning, then it was time to get the bags, check out, head back to the Bus Stop, and we got the right place this time!

Back up to the airport & check in for the flight back to Gatwick.
While waiting for the flight gate to be shown on the Departures board I thought I saw a familiar face, so never one to miss an opportunity I went up and said ‘Hello’ and as soon as he replied I knew it was him!

It was Professor Brian Cox WOW!
(He was the main Presented in a BBC Stargazing series that has not long finished being shown)

Asked him what he had been up to and he has been making another series for broadcast later, and then told him of our trip in Hunting The Northern Lights and he was genuinely interested in how we had got on, but I could not get my camera to show him the pictures, but Jan sneaked one of him and me!

A really nice guy & what a great end to our trip!

On board coming into Gatwick then and hang on while the Pilot once again slammed the plane onto the runway at Gatwick with a heck of a ‘BANG’! (Don’t think I would recommend Norwegian.com for their flying skills!)
Courtesy bus to car park, collect the 'Flamenco Red' and enjoy the drive back home!

It was a GREAT trip and we luckily and thankfully achieved our 3 objectives which were:
• See the Northern Lights
• Spot a Reindeer
• Go zooming along on a Skidoo!

Once again we met some really nice people and made a number of new friends.

Thanks for joining us on this trip and we hope you enjoyed it?

Hey ho now what’s next?

Ocean Racer
01-24-2011, 03:41 PM

For the record, its going to be 40c here today.
Looks far too cold for me there..

01-27-2011, 09:15 AM

For the record, its going to be 40c here today.
Looks far too cold for me there..

Glad you enjoyed it.

To be honest it only felt cold when the wind started blowing.
Unlike the UK it is a dry cold so at -12C it doesn't feel that bad, maybe if you get over here you might just give it a go?

But I think if I went into 40C I'd start to melt! :D

01-27-2011, 11:46 PM
What a fantastic trip! [thumbup] Jan is quite the trooper! Truthfully, I wouldn't like the extreme weather...even if it's a "dry" cold. The weather in San Francisco today was a sunny and mild 65F! Thanks for taking us along so we could vicariously enjoy the aurora borealis while keeping warm and dry.

01-28-2011, 03:52 AM
What a fantastic trip! [thumbup] Jan is quite the trooper! Truthfully, I wouldn't like the extreme weather...even if it's a "dry" cold. The weather in San Francisco today was a sunny and mild 65F! Thanks for taking us along so we could vicariously enjoy the aurora borealis while keeping warm and dry.

Glad you enjoyed the trip, maybe with a nice imitation fur coat and some nice Thermal 'Undies' you could 'Go for it' :D

We didn't have the fur coats, but we certainly had the Thermals and 2 pairs of socks on to keep the toes warm, and it worked! :D:D

03-06-2011, 06:51 AM
Very nice trip for a Volvo AWD !Like the Noth Cape in Norway for european !

03-07-2011, 11:08 AM
Very nice trip for a Volvo AWD !Like the Noth Cape in Norway for european !

'Nord Cap' as it is called by the Norwegian Government is extremely expensive and has been set up to catch the Tourists out, and they keep falling for it!

It is also on an ISLAND off the Coast, so NOT Mainland Europe!!!

If you plan to go then go to Gamvik & Slettnes Lighthouse (Google it) this place is a much more rewarding experience and you reach the furthest point on Mainland Europe that you can drive with your XC70 AWD! [thumbup]

03-07-2011, 02:39 PM
Thanks but i have visit Nordkapp in the '88 and in the '93 by car from Italy.
If i can i want visit Goteborg in August for the Volvo VROM http://www.vrom.org/

03-09-2011, 12:40 PM
Thanks but i have visit Nordkapp in the '88 and in the '93 by car from Italy.
If i can i want visit Goteborg in August for the Volvo VROM http://www.vrom.org/

It's a shame you did not get to Gamvik instead of Nordkapp. I think you would have found it much more interesting and hospitable.

But well done for going so far especially from Italy [thumbup]

Good luck in getting to Goteborg!