Tag Archives: Kiruna

Living The Arctic Life! Electromagnetic Storms, Ice Hotels And Partying With The Locals.

The sights of that night will be forever imprinted on my mind…. I don’t think I could forget it if I tried….

After the excitement of dog sledding, my friends and I wandered down to the local store to have a look around at what we could find. In among gloves, hats, hardware tools and all kinds of other strange objects, we found a glorious plastic dish that was to serve as our entertainment for the afternoon.

So off we went, sliding down anything that looked even remotely hill-like, including giant piles of snow that the locals had removed from the roads with the excavator. No surface on an incline was left untouched as we tried to make our way down these slopes on our makeshift sled. At one point we even managed to become airborne and slam our buts into the ground of one giant pile of snow.

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Attempting to sled down a mound of snow removed from the road….

It left us fairly tired so we went in for our afternoon nap in anticipation of some more northern lights hunting and then heading down to the pub where a band was playing… the one night a month when they get live entertainment to Abisko and all of the locals come out in force.

Post nap, I was in the kitchen eating my usual northern meal of brown cheese and crispbread when somebody runs inside and says ‘you totally have to go outside right now!!’ Hurriedly the snowsuit goes on and I burst out of the door to be standing underneath a sky so vibrantly bright with green waves dancing across it that it was unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. We had struck gold, and timed our visit with an electromagnetic storm which was heightening the activity of the aurora. The lights were so bright that I managed to take a few pictures of them with my point and shoot camera, a feat almost unheard of when it comes to taking pictures of the northern lights.

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My point and shoot camera picture of the Northern Lights

We stood outside and ‘ooh’ed and ‘aah’ed for hours. At one point I lay down in the snow making snow angels while the purple and green hazes danced over the top of me. We then tried to take some group pictures of the amazing night sky with a professional camera, writing our names and other words like ‘Abisko’ with a red head torch in the sky below us. I never did wind up with copies of the pictures, but what my eyes saw that night will be forever etched into my mind and I am almost glad that I didn’t have a proper camera as it allowed me to experience it in life without feeling the need to be constantly behind a lens to catch it.

After what seemed like hours outside, and not being able to feel our toes or half of our bodies anymore, we decided to make our way down to the pub to see the band. I learned many things from my experience at the pub. Firstly, the international symbol for ‘you’re hot’ in northern Sweden is a raised eyebrow and a thumbs up. Secondly, you should not accept the strange man’s offer of four doubles of spiced whiskey shared among three because between that, the minus twenty degrees and the passionfruit-flavoured sparkling wine I consumed, I was incredibly drunk. The band played and we danced with some local boys before making our way back up the hill to the hostel for more consumption of Bailey’s and the attempted making of snow angels on the kitchen floor. After a laughing fit, where my friends tried to convince me to get up to mischief and I was sensible enough to not succumb to the peer pressure of annoying others for amusements purposes, I finally went to bed.

The morning was a somber and sorry day for all. We had to leave. And not a single one of us wanted to. Noon rolled around, we said goodbye to Abisko and we made our way to Kiruna on the train where we had a couple of hours to kill before our flight back to London. So of course, we went to visit the famous ice hotel.

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The train station in Abisko… taking us away 😦

The ice hotel was unlike anything I had ever seen. There were so many different sculptures and elements to the building it was amazing. I had a minor nap on the reindeer pelt in the makeshift ice chapel on one of the pews before running around the place with Indy taking silly pictures of us with the ice sculptures. Before we knew it was time to get back in a taxi and head to the airport. My adventure in the Arctic Circle was over…. for now.

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Napping in the chapel!

All I know is that I love this place. It is one of the most amazing places I have been in the world. There is no way on this planet that I will not get back there. It is just a matter of when… and I will of course take my place on the Ice Throne, become the Abisko Ice Queen, and never leave!

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The Ice Queen on her Ice Throne!

On The Wagon and I’m Hitchin’ A Ride… Across The Arctic!

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……..

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Views over the fjordlands of Norway from the plane

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.

4. Hitchhike…….

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.

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Me and my hitchhiking sign… hurrah!

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.

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Happily arrived in Abisko, not dead 😀

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!