Norway - Sunday 29 November & Monday 30 November 2015
It was a dark and stormy night - and six friends huddled together in deepest Manchester to start their next adventure - but this time they really surpassed themselves - it was to be the adventure of a lifetime . . .and it all started on my birthday when we trained it over to Manchester Airport ready for our flight to Tromsø the following morning.
So on Monday morning we finally left behind a misty and wet Manchester, rose above the clouds into the sun and in no time at all were gliding over the fjords above Bergen, sun glinting on the snowy mountains.
But almost as suddenly, around Trondheim, the light levels turned to dusk and we were soon plunged into darkness and it was only 2.45pm. We'd arrived in the Polar Night - where the sun doesn't rise above the horizon for two months, from 21 November to 21 January. Found a lovely article here describing this, take a read: Polar Night - a time of colour.
We landed at Tromsø and onto coaches to take us through the network of underground roads (and roundabouts!!) to the quay and our mighty MS Finnmarken, one of the Hurtigruten fleet - the working mail boats that ply up and down the Norwegian coast daily from Bergen to Kirkenes, almost on the Russian border, delivering and collecting the mail.
so up the gangplank we trudge on this dark afternoon and the adventure begins . . .
And pulling out of Tromsø we see the Arctic Cathedral all illuminated.
After unpacking in our amazing little cabins, we await dinner at 7.30pm in the palatial restaurant on level 4 of the ship (there are 8 floors!).
Then just as we are finishing up around 9pm, the tannoy announces that the Northern LIghts are visible from the stern and we all dash as a one for coats, hats and cameras and hurry to deck 5, which has a wrap-around outside deck. The air is cold and dry, the stars are bright, and we witness the most entrancing sight we have ever seen.
Neither my photos nor my words will possibly do justice to the dancing curtains of light, delicately changing shape, colour, intensity and position with every second. We were entranced for a good hour and a half as the skies danced around and above us from the south, right around the port side of the ship and towards the west.
Meanwhile the Finnmarken ploughed on doggedly through the icy cold dark water, with the snow covered mountains on either side looming as beacons in the dark. My not-so-amazing photos are below for the record - but nothing could capture the real magic.
But before you look - maybe play Joni Mitchell's wonderful 'Little Green' which has the beautiful line that came to mind for me 'Just a little green, like the night when the Northern Lights perform'. I know the song is about the baby she gave up for adoption - but I love that seeing the Northern Lights is a given in some parts of the world (Canada for her). Anyway, it's one of my favourite tracks and it's such a gentle lyrical song it sort of fits the gentle, delicate wonder of what we were watching:
At 10.30pm we crept into the lovely little port of Skjervoy, with it's silent snowy streets, Christmas tree and cheerfully lit houses, and docked long enough for the parcels to be loaded and unloaded on the busy little port side.
And finally, at around midnight, we turned in for the night as a near perfect moonlight filled the windows
and we were rocked to sleep with the swell of the tide.
If you want to see how day two panned out, click here for Tuesday on board the Finnmarken . . .