Snow creaks under my boots as I walk towards the sound of roaring engines. Snowmobiles are ready to take us to the middle of nowhere. We spend the night in a wooden chalet without any form of luxury and we have a very good reason for that: the northern lights!
The evening falls early in the high north; after all, it is only late in the afternoon and the sun has long disappeared behind the horizon. We crawl onto the snowmobiles. Steering appears to be quite difficult with four pairs of gloves on, but taking them off is not an option at a temperature of -30 ° C. In the now total darkness we drive through the big nothing of Swedish Lapland.
During the winter months, the sun only peeps over the horizon for a few hours a day.
After less than an hour of avoiding bumps, pits and low-hanging branches, we arrive slightly cold at the wilderness hut. It is situated on a lake that is covered with a thick layer of ice at this time of the year. Due to the large open space and the absence of light pollution, it is an excellent place to admire the aurora borealis, or the northern lights.
There is no running water and electricity in the chalet. Moreover, the cabin has been empty for several days, making it as cold inside as outside. This also applies to the toilet, which is located outside in a wooden cubicle. The thermometer now indicates a painful -34 ° C. Fortunately, there are fireplaces in most rooms and they are lighted quickly. While we sit as close to the crackling fire as possible, our guide makes a hole in the lake to collect water for the evening meal. He puts the olive oil - which is completely frozen - next to us in front of the fireplace.
A few days before the scooter trip to the wilderness hut it was "only" -10 ° C.
Slowly the heat spreads through the living room. Gloves and down jackets can finally come off while we enjoy a hot cup of chocolate milk. Supper follows soon after: spaghetti with a simple tomato sauce that tastes great after the cold ride. Our cozy get-together is abruptly interrupted by the key word of the evening: aurora!
Our guide has spotted a green cast through the broken windows. The hut turns into chaos. After all, going outside quickly is not an option in Lapland. Tripods and boots fly around while everyone gathers their own material. It takes a while to put on two coats, extra pants, extra socks, snow boots, three pairs of gloves and a hat. Completely packed, I go outside. The fear of missing the spectacle takes away all caution and I quickly glide through the snow to the lower frozen lake.
What we had all hoped for now takes place before our eyes. Expectations are surpassed when green, red and purple lights dance slowly and elegantly through the dark sky. Millions of stars shine in the background, an almost surreal experience. Oh's and ah's escape our mouths uncontrollably while the northern lights dance above our heads and behind the hut.
After one hour and a half the lights slowly dim. My tripod collapsed due to the cold and I decide to go back inside. Only now I notice how cold my feet and hands are due to standing still for such a long time. While I am sitting in front of the fireplace, the tingling pain in my fingers is getting worse. This really cannot be compared to our Belgian winters.
To regain my body temperature, I join the others in the sauna, the only luxury thing about our stay. All thoughts slide away from my mind, while I am reliving the incredible spectacle. Through the damped window I look out over the lake and see the northern lights flare up again. Tonight, one of my greatest dreams come true.
After a pleasant evening by the fireplace, everyone goes to their room. Some have a bed, others sleep on a mattress on the floor. Knowing that the fires will go out, we keep most of our clothes on before crawling into the warm sleeping bag. The cold takes its toll and soon we fall into a deep sleep, dreaming about the northern lights above magical Lapland.
Ann made this excursion with Xplore The North, an organization that specializes in traveling to Lapland. Click here to see more of her work.