To go or not to go, that is the question……
I am sitting in Canada talking to my friend, Tim, in England on Facebook and he is trying to convince me to come to Europe. So I said to him, “There are things I haven’t done here yet that I need to do before I go. I want to see the Northern Lights and I want to go dog sledding.” Well he told me he would deal with this and I should just book my flight. So I did.
Enter this amazing trip to Abisko National Park in Northern Sweden. My friend planned and organized all of the finer details because he is a planner and I am very much not a planner. All I had to do was book my flight from Oslo to Narvik, get on the train at Narvik that goes to Kiruna, get off at Abisko. Easy enough. Or so we think……..
As Murphy Law would have it, again, (I swear Murphy and I are besties these days), I find myself rolling around the floor in the airport bored to tears for a solid two and a half hours while my plane is delayed. Now given that I had allowed myself that 2 and a half hours to get to the train station for the last train, it was known and accepted that there was to be no train for me that day. As I arrived into Narvik, I trotted off to the Tourist Information Center to assess my options. They were as follows:
1. Spend $1000 AUD on a taxi to get to Abisko
2. Spend $500 AUD on a hotel in Narvik if I could actually find one because the backpackers hostels are closed as it is not the season.
3. Stand on the side of the road til the following morning and freeze.
So I asked the woman behind the counter for a piece of cardboard and a permanent marker. I scrawled out the word Abisko and headed down the road to go and find me a car to ride in with my map in hand.
Generally when hitchhiking it is a good idea to know which side of the road to stand on. I misunderstood the directions I was given and spent a good half an hour standing on the wrong side of the road before some lovely gents pulled over and pointed this out to me. I felt like a massive moron but laughed anyway and headed over to the other side of the road.
It didn’t take me too much longer from here to find a nice guy named Sven (yeah I know right!) and he told me he would drive me down the road to the junction where most of the trucks go by in very broken and hard to understand English. He got onto his phone and was ringing his friends to see if any of them on the truck route were going that way but no luck.
So after this, Sven decided he would drive me past this intersection and on to the Swedish-Norwegian border another forty minutes. We chatted along the way about whatever his broken English would allow and while we go along I am starting to observe my surroundings and the thermometer in the car. As we got progressively further down the road, the thermostat in the car told me that the outside temperature had dropped from the -7 degrees it was in Narvik to a now nippy -20 degrees…. We also had not seen any cars coming in the other direction as the road took us higher into the mountains and all we could see around was snow. I was starting to wonder whether I had made the right decision about this but then figured… OK, border, there has to be shelter there, I will be fine.
When we arrived at the border there was a tiny hut on the side of the road and a couple of trucks. Sven recognized one of them and he told me to wait for him while he went to talk to his friend. After two minutes he ushers me over and introduces me to his friend, Cornelius. Cornelius said he would love to drive me the rest of the way to Abisko and so next thing you know, the shoes are off and I am lifted by two men up into this luxuriously decked out truck equipped with microwave, fridge, bed, speaker system and stereo and heated seats!
I said goodbye to and thanked Sven for his amazing kindness and we started out drive to Abisko. Cornelius was one of the most incredible people I had ever met. He is a Dutch National and has amazing stories about flying helicopters in different wars, racing horses in Spain, driving truck fleets in Germany, his small kids. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I had had on the road in Europe and before I knew it, my time was up and we were pulling into a shop on the side of the road. He pointed up the hill to me over the train tracks to where the rest of the town was and I jumped out of the truck, thanked him and wished him well on his journey delivering dairy to the northern most parts of Norway and was left on my own on the side of the road.
I eventually found the backpackers hostel. I arrived about half an hour before Tim coming in from the other direction on a high because I did not know I could actually do it and yet I did. That was the start of my Arctic Circle adventure and it set the tone for the rest of what was to be my last couple of days overseas before returning home to Australia for the first time in two years. It was one of the most amazing places on the planet. And one of my favourites……
Read more about what I actually got up to once I made it to the Arctic Circle in the next installment!