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.
In the day, we had trudged two kilometres in the snow to Abisko village. Snow covered the main street beside the train station and the cars parked next to the old wooden houses. It looked like a ghost town, but for an old man walking through the street with a grocery bag. A leafless tree could have been lifeless, but for a swing dangling from its branches. The village was a streak of humanity next to the Arctic wilderness of the Abisko National Park.
When we reached the Sky Station, there was a cheer, not for us but something in the air. The object of people’s adulation seemed nothing more than a stray cirrus cloud in the sky. By then, my hands felt as if being impaled with icicles, yet my eyes leered at the object in the sky; I realised, it was a greenish glow…Aurora Borealis!
After warming ourselves with the wood fire inside the café at the Sky Station, we returned prepared to face -10 ° Celsius. In the hope of a better view, we scampered or at least tried to, higher on the slope. Soon, the eastern horizon was ablaze; the greenish glow swirled higher and higher, broke into streaks of magenta and red, and stretched across the sky. Unable to see all the spirals of burning incense, I had to lie down on my back to see the symphony of lights or the curtain of lights above me. Was I hallucinating?
To the Vikings, the lights were Valkyrie, beautiful maidens who escorted their dead warriors to the heaven called Valhalla. To the Sami, the lights were the souls of the dead. To scientists, it was a play of Earth’s Magnetosphere with sun’s particles, or the points where earth meets space. To me, it was a flight of fantasy-
“Flames of green and red
Swirls of some incense divine
Frigid Arctic skies.”
P.S- I am thankful to Shannon Kretschmer (http://www.capture-the-spirit-photography.com/) for being my travel partner and sharing his images with me.