Monday, 20 January 2014

In search of the Northern Lights


Welcome to 2014 to the late running BlackLOG - I had planned to go back to weekly postings and to shorten them.... so that's naught out of two  for starters.... Oh, well what do you expect for free.... If you are still with me, Let me take you back a few weeks...
Christmas for the Blacks was spent in search of the Northern Lights, taking us the furthest north we have been – into the Arctic circle in fact – just as well we didn’t take the Antarctic route – not sure I fancied being stuck on a  Russian research vessel for weeks on end...

We were in Lapland, which is a lot harder to define than you would first think*... Lapland seems to refer to just Northern Finland, or parts of Finland and Sweden or parts of Finland, Sweden and Norway and can even include parts of Russia if you are talking to the right or wrong person, depending on your view point . ...we were in the Finnish part.

* A bit like Holland which is in fact the northern part of the Netherlands but is often used (in the UK at least) to describe the whole country.  A term not very popular for the Dutch people living outside of Holland. Hang on a second where did the Dutch bit come from??? 

On our first night we were issued with a mobile phone which acts as an alarm in case the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) appear....

To while away the time waiting for the light show lots of activities were laid on for our entertainment.

Day light watching – officially we were told that at this time of year there is no daylight – The sun never makes an appearance above the horizon – although that said from 11am to 3:30 it was like a dull winters day in the UK – the snow covering might have helped – reflecting all that light they don’t have.... 

Snow shoeing - Surprisingly good fun – for a sport that essentially involves strapping large tennis racquets to your feet and stomping off through the deepest snow you can find…

The cutest Big foot you will ever see... 
Looks like a foot fault to me....
Come on we haven't got all day....
Snowmobiling - Not the most environmentally friendly past time but Mrs B and I are big fans.  The one drawback as a group activity, you are tethered to the slowest mover in the group – we heard one horror story of a Japanese couple who averaged around 3 miles an hour (If you have ever seen Despicable Me think…. Dr Nefario.... speeding off at slower than a crawl on his little mobility scooter. In short the sort of non-speed achieved when Mrs B is getting out of bed.... ).  As a result, the group were  over 2 and a half hours late returning…. If I had been on that trip I fear I would have had to have gone all Banzai on them. 

 We discovered one way of getting some adrenalin back into the trip – slow down and leave a large gap to the next snow mobile – then gun the accelerator and hurtle forward at break neck speed…It doesn't make you very popular with the people behind who don’t like the thrill of speed and so get left further and further behind…Oh well no one died and to be honest some of them looked like they needed a bit of excitement in their drab little lives….

Dr Nefario reaching almost 2 MPH.

"Banzai!"

Husky dog sledding - 0ne thing I learned, the dogs don’t expect to have to do all the work – they don’t mind when they are pulling on flat terrain or a downhill sections – However any  hint of an uphill section and you see a wash of sad disapproving faces staring back at you if the driver isn't running (really quite fast) behind the sled and helping to push it along….

On strike as the felt Mrs B wasn't putting
 in enough effort in the up hill sections....
Cross country skiing - Possibly the most horrific sport ever devised by man….Enough said. 

Other than I might have chucked all the toys out of the play pen when I fell over trying to use my down hill skills. I may also have disgraced myself after I fell off the track into deep snow. Just about managed to extract myself only to drop my ski pole down into the whole I had created. The air may have turned a bit blue.... and the little children standing a few yards a way may have turned red... what with all that white snow it was very patriotic... Mrs B and a number of irate parents were not amused....I look at it as early education opportunity for some young ears.

Visit to an amethyst mine - I was quite looking forward to this, not sure why – I had visions of climbing down into the depths of the earth with glittering walls….Sadly reality didn’t match my vision – we went down a couple of steps and found ourselves in a wooden room with some rocks thrown across the floor, given some little rock hammers and were instructed to find our own amethyst rocks… I got the impression that they threw some new rocks in between visits and we were there to break them up for local driveways…not exactly unpaid labour, more paid to do it labour….  

Looks like a mine...

Feels like a mine...
Turns out to be a sweat shop.... for gullible tourists

What do you expect if you book up with
"Gullible Travels"
Part of the "Fleese the Punter group" 
People watching -  We noticed a couple of women (a mother and daughter) who were pushed around the airport in wheel chairs – not a problem. They also proved to be very loud on the coach and although they sat at the back they  managed to project loudly so that everyone knew all about them.  We discovered that the mother was a vegetarian** who didn’t eat vegetables or fruit …. Which leaves basically….well, nuts I guess – All I can say is she must have eaten a lot of nuts as she was not exactly svelte and sylphlike, unless you happen to count the dance of the Hippos from Fantasia in that category…

** It always sounds like an illness to me, and probably accounts for the pale, gauntlook that most people suffering from vegetarianism have.

The daughter was a Vegan*** and had a book with her that translated all her vegan dietary needs  into every language known to man. Shame she didn’t take after her mother.  All she would have needed was a book about nuts….


*** A bit like Mister Spock from Star Trek****Takes everything abit seriously and wouldn’t know a sense of humour if it whacked them in the face with a custard pie…


**** But without the funny long ears and death grip – preferring to bore people to death with their dietary needs

 I did overhear one amusing story (Look, before you accuse me of ear wigging, I did say they were loud…. I would have had to cut my ears off and posted them to the other side of the planet to avoid hearing….Apologies for anyone not on the other side of the plant who heard this first hand). She apparently rang a restaurant in the UK and asked them if they catered for Vegans. She was assured they did and so booked a table….. When she arrived and asked about the vegan options she was informed that all their meat was reared organically and treated humanely before being butchered to death and served still bleeding on the plate….

Somehow despite illness and being from another planet they managed to get around the town unaided.  I was really looking forward to seeing if they suddenly needed wheelchair assistance on the way home.  Sadly the fates intervened when, on the last day, one of them slipped on the ice and ended up being detained in hospital and so neither of them made it to our flight.  Confusion set in when my ears discovered they would not suffer the same incessant noise on the way home but sadly my curiosity would never find out about their airport arrangements…

At last - an alarm….  An alarm went off at 2am one night.  Our initial excitement turned to bleary-eyed disappointment.  Sadly the alarm was not for the Northern lights but because some berk had not opened the flue for his wood burning stove and had managed to fill his room with smoke, eventually setting off the fire alarm throughout the hotel.  He stayed in his room, refusing to leave until the local Fire Brigade (at least I think they were local – it took them almost an hour to arrive) came along to have words with him… while the rest of the guests shivered outside waiting for the all clear. I suspect they were not harsh words though as I heard later that the hotel has to pay the Fire Brigade 800 Euros for every false alarm…. 
Can't you tell how happy everyone was to have
the opportunity to stand around in the cold at
2am in the morning...
Happy Fireman 800 afterall Euros is a sweetener for most people... 
Sadly that was the only alarm that we got on the trip - not a sniff of the Northern Lights. 

 

Photo Finish

 A few pictures to end with

Mrs B makes some new friends...
Reindeer make  excellent pets...they take you home
and then you get to eat them....

That's it Rudolph get  into the pot.

The Snow Fence...

Not sure if it is for keeping the snow in or out?  

Lights but not the ones we were looking for....

The Fins were a little annoyed when I told them that while
Santa might live in Lapland he originated in Turkey....

If they want proof - I don't see anyone eating Fin 
for their Christmas Dinner ....

Why Grandma what big ears you have....

"Psst - Would you like to buy a postcard
of the Northern Lights...."


No lights this visit...I guess we will just have to come back...

Since there are no Northern Lights to show
I thought you might like to see our Christmas lights.

I had complaints from Stansted Airport claiming a number
of pilots nearly landed in our garden..... Do we get salvage
 rights if they do?

6 comments:

  1. When we lived in Iceland, the Northern Lights were common (I probably don't need to say during the winter when it wasn't daylight pretty much 24 hours). We also took a ferry to an island (as opposed to the main island-which also goes without saying) which straddled the Arctic Circle. This was in July so, while we didn't see any Northern Lights, we didn't freeze our behinds off, either.

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    Replies
    1. Now call me fussy but I'm not sure I want to see the common Northern Lights...I want to see the posh ones.....Hmmm maybe that's why I'm still a Northern Light Virgin….I feel like an England Cricket* team…naught for six…

      * So called sport but in reality a form of humiliation and torture for the whole country…

      Delete
  2. Hi there Niel, sorry to hear you didn't see any of the lights, but at least there weren't any to be seen... Costa and I went for a long weeked to Iceland and ended up staying at a summer cabin in the middle of winter. Cold? Ah yes, insanely so. In fact, so cold, and desolate, there was no one to wake us up if the lights appeared and we couldn't convince our freezing bodies to get out from beneath every single item of clothing we had brought on the trip to peek out the window in the middle of the night. Well yes, of course the lights came out that night, but not the following one, when we were at a decent hotel with a wake up service... Elusive little things these lights huh?! Guess we shall live to see them another day/night/trip (none of that malarkey here in Brazil, of course!!)

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    Replies
    1. Wow a genuine star of Trip Advisor visiting my little blog....I feel very privileged…

      Great to hear from you, I hope everything is going well for you and Costa.

      I have heard so many stories of people who missed the Light show because they were feeling a bit cold and tired so either stayed in bed….or even worse actually went to bed thinking they would catch them the next night….Aaaarggghhhh

      Nicky and I might be heading to Brazil at some point in the future…when we were on Safari in Botswana we kept hearing so much about The Pantanal …. We might have to visit the Galapagos Islands first though before they shut it down for tourists….I’m sure Darwin never had these problems..

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  3. Great post! I lived in Alaska for 8 yrs so I saw the northern lights plenty of times. Always beautiful. Finland amythest mining...yeah I am gonna pass on that one for sure. I heard that the "Fleece The Punter Group" was under investigation for alleged wrongdoings involving fraudulent work visas. haha "Gullible Travels"

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