Our ride to the summit of Mount Noulja was in the darkness of a moonlit night. The wind slapped my face to freeze my ears and nose and hissed past our climbing two-seater chairlift. The night air had made my gloves redundant, and the slow ride felt like a trip through a blast chiller. Each time the car stopped for the next passenger to alight, our chair would swing like a pendulum. Falling into the dark wilderness was less scary than dropping our snow boots in the silver abyss. Below us, the silver pathways of the ski-slope looked treacherous to my never-skied-in-my-life eyes. We were still minutes away from our destination, Aurora Sky Station. I looked up to the sky in the hope to see the promised glimmering skies, but all I could see was grey void.
The previous night was our first in Abisko. We stayed in Abisko Tourist Station, a lodge that offered basic amenities with an appalling Wi-Fi connectivity. It was 9:30 pm and the website, http://www.aurora-service.eu/, said that the aurora activity was high at that time. However at times, sleep wins over a possibility of sighting of nature’s marvel. I kept waking up frequently throughout the night to look outside my window, beyond the mountains on the other side of Lake Torneträsk and hoped to see the heavens on fire. My efforts were futile, maybe we were not cold enough.
Night View of Frozen Lake Torneträsk (on the left), Abisko Tourist Station(lower left), Abisko Village (in the centre), and Aurora Sky Station (lower right)
Inside the Sami Tent, Kiruna, Sweden
Smoke filled the Lavvu or Sami tent, yet the air inside was more agreeable than the breeze blowing from the frozen River Torne. We huddled around a wood fire, as our Sami guide passed us warm lingonberry juice.
“Don’t throw leftover drinks into the fire, Jabme Akka, Goddess of the underworld, resides under it,” she warned.
Sami are the indigenous inhabitants of Scandinavia, and like many other ethnic people, they ascertained divinity to their surroundings. Magic lurked everywhere and the revered everything . Nature set the rhythm and not man. Even in the current age, their life was in sync with nature. In summer, they would let go of their reindeer. The animals go into the forest to forage and return after the breeding season. The herds returned at the onset of winter, and the young calves belonged to its mother’s master…
The town welcomed us with snowflakes and winds of sub-zero warmth. Carpets of snow-covered the trees, houses, cars; the entire landscape, but the road. I am from the tropics, so to me Kiruna, which was 145 kilometres north of Arctic Circle, was exotic, like a sunny white beach might be to some.
Rising up from the stocky cubical structure, against the metallic grey horizon, was a skeletal clock; we were near the Town Hall of Sweden’s Northern Most City. Further away in the distance was Kirunavvara Mountain, with rock terraces that coiled down to earth’s bowels, towards world’s one of the largest iron reserves that was 4 km long, 80 m thick, and stretched to a depth of 2 km. Next to the Kirunavvara Mountain was Lossavaara Mountain that held a research mine and a ski slope.
Kiruna Town Hall