Published: March 1st 2012March 1st 2012
I just experienced one of the best trips of my life. One week in Norwegian and Swedish Lapland with a bunch of lifelong friends. You can’t ask for any more than that.
Bianca, Kiri, Corrie, Autumn, Aaron and I looking lovely, fresh and excited met at Lund Station around midday to begin the journey. Autumn had Burger King and Aaron had Subway which made me jealous as I had packed banana sandwiches. We eventually boarded the first train of the trip to Stockholm and it was an absolutely beautiful ride. There turned out to be several of these transfers, but we didn’t really care because we were so excited and I heard the most hilarious story in the world:
Once Bianca’s friend was dog sitting for her cousin. The dog was very old, and unfortunately passed away when under the friend’s care. The friend didn’t know what to do, but didn’t want to leave it there so she packed it into a duffle bag and head towards the subway. When she got to the subway a curious man said ‘Gee, that looks like a heavy bag! What do you have in there?!’.
Bianca’s friend was taken aback, but thought quickly and responded with ‘Ahhh a bunch of laptops!” with shifty eyes. She kept walking and then to her surprise, the man turned around, snatched the bag and ran away!! I hope he learnt his lesson.
After we got off the night train (which was a bit creepy due to some staring from a weird guy), backtracked a few stations and changed trains again, we finally arrived in Kiruna around 2pm. Thanks to this delay, we are able to get a full refund on our train tickets- win! As soon as we arrived we took the bus to the ice hotel which had a bar, chapel and some pretty cool rooms. Every year the Ice Hotel is redesigned and 50 artists from all over the world come and contribute to it. That night we checked into Camp Ripan and hit the sauna and rolled around in the snow. We also met some cool Dutch people and it turned out that we were on the same tour with them the next day!
The next morning we woke to an epic breakfast provided
by Camp Ripan. I don’t think I have ever had a breakfast as nice as that! After breakfast we waited… and waited.. and waited for our tour guide to pick us up. Unfortunately there had been a massive miscommunication and they got us mixed up with another group so we never saw the Dutch people again! On the up side, they found us a new tour guide, Stieg, who turned out to be an adventure alone. He picked us up and took us back to his place where we were provided with real warm clothes and reindeer stew. It was really yummy! Bianca also has the reputation of ‘The Bianca’ now because of all the phone calls and trying to sort out our tour. It seemed to work though as we got free icecream!
That afternoon we went dog sledding, something we had all be looking forward to. It was a lot of fun, but the dogs were really tired so Kiri and Aaron made up for a lot of the running. I felt so bad for them (the dogs, not the boys). When we got back from dog sledding we waited for ages and then finally drove to
a lake with a huge sled and a couple of snowmobiles. While we were setting up the sled, we caught our first glimpse of the northern lights, which is actually called ‘Aurora Borealis’. It was pretty faint, but awesome nevertheless. When we’d finished oohing and aaahing most of us hopped onto the sled (including a French couple and a Slovenien couple) other than Kiri and Bianca who drove the other snowmobile. It was so awesome to lay back on the sled under the starry night driving at 80km/hour. We even saw some shooting stars with tails! It took a while to get there because we all had a turn of driving the snowmobile- so much fun!
We finally arrived to the other side of the lake, but lost Kiri and Aaron who were on the other snowmobile. Stieg made everyone get off the sled and start walking in a general direction while he went and found the boys. Apparently the snowmobile hadn’t started properly. About ten minutes later we lost them again and so Stieg made us walk all the way to the hut while he found them again. This time they had crashed. When we arrived at the hut Stieg made us wait outside in the snow because apparently it was too cold inside and he had to light a fire (I hope you see the irony in this).
About half an hour later we were allowed inside to warm up. It was about 10pm and someone asked ‘when are we going to eat dinner?’ and Stieg responded with ‘once we get firewood and water then you can start thinking about food’. Finally there was enough firewood so Stieg told us to put the meat (which was a giant red sausage) in the over and fix the expendable table while he and Corrie fetched the water. We put the giant red sausage in the over and fixed up the table. They were taking ages and we were STARVING so someone made Kiri get the bag of groceries to see what was there. Suddenly a look of horror appeared on the Slovenien girls face and she starts yelling ‘he’s coming! He’s coming back! Put it back!!’ so we all freaked out and Kiri ran to put it back. Luckily Stieg didn’t notice we’d touched the groceries, but he did notice that the big red sausage was in the oven. He flipped out ‘why did you leave the plastic on the sausage!?!? It was the Australians wasn’t it!’. Woops. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. He also noticed we fixed the table, but apparently we didn’t do that right either. ‘if students these days are like you, how will the future be?!’. At 11 we finally ate dinner and went to bed.
Throughout this trip there were funny little rules Stieg put in place, but they seemed to keep changing and everyone kept on getting in trouble and having the door slammed in their face. It ended up being hilarious and we made a ‘cloud system’ amongst us. Every time you did something wrong (such as putting a glove on the table)you got a cloud. Autumn had the most. This might seem all strange and crazy (at one point I thought we were all going to be murdered), but it really gave us some of the best memories!
We woke up early enough to see the sun rise over the lake and appreciate the beauty of the remote area in the light! After this we had a quick breakfast and tried cross country skiing for the first time. It was so much fun and a lot of effort! When we got back another delicious feast of reindeer meat was simmering away waiting for us to eat it. This was quickly gobbled up and we prepared to leave. This time Bianca and I took the lone snowmobile and it was SO SCARY but really fun. Bianca got up to 80kms/hour and we were nearly unseated when we flew over a bump. I felt like I was going to die. We finally made it to the other side of the lake and made our way to the train station where we took our next leg of the journey to Narvik, Norway. To be honest I wasn’t overly excited about this part of the trip as I had heard this city was boring. The train ride was absolutely beautiful though as it went through the fjords and we had the best pizza in Scandinavia for dinner. We also had access to showers and real toilets that hadn’t been available the past two days.
Today we decided to try whale stew. I felt a bit funny about it, as I am actually for keeping whales alive but I figured it wasn’t going to do any good just sitting there. It really just tasted like beef, so keep killing cows and stop killing whales!! Narvik turned out to be really fun. The girls and I trekked to a lookout and Bianca and I went skiing. The guy in the ski shop was actually from Australia. It was so weird to hear him speak Norwegian and then speak to us with the Aussie accent! I only fell over once and now I know how to turn, though I still stuck the beginner slop until I had to go down the blue slope to get off the hill. Oh the T-bar ride up the mountain was so scary. I nearly cried and Bianca kept singing ‘Gold Canary’ to make me feel better.
The girls and I got the early train to Abisko while the boys stayed and skied in Narvik. Once we got there we really just spent our time having fika because the weather was horrible. At one point Stieg called us to say he missed us and that someone had left a ‘jumper with no arms’ behind (we have so much affection for this man). Our spirits were down because this would be the last time we could see the northern lights as we hadn’t seen them since the second night. The weather predictions were terrible and even the activity of the lights were predicted low. There needs to be clear sky to experience the wonder of Aurora Borealis. Regardless of the weather, the six of us head over to the chairlift up to the Aurora Sky Station. The guy wouldn’t let anyone on without gloves and warned us of extreme conditions and strong winds. We went up anyway and had a lecture on the lights and had another fika. We could hardly see a metre out the window because of the clouds! By what was meant to be the perfect time to see the northern lights, 10.30, the majority of people had started making the descent back down to Abisko. We decided to get our $100 worth and went up to the platform above the building. The six of us were lying there in silence under the cloudy, windy night, praying and hoping it would change. After about 45 minutes the wind pushed the clouds away and it happened. The most beautiful natural wonder I have ever seen in my life: Aurora Borealis, curving and winding her way through the night sky. She disappeared for a while, but not for too long. Eventually we had to leave as the station was closing. This was ok, because Aurora was disappearing again. According to someone who worked at the station, this night was one of the top ten appearances this year. We got back onto the chairlift and the view on the descent was amazing. That night I dreamt of what I experienced. What a way to end the trip!
In the morning we packed up, caught the train to Kiruna, got a taxi to the airport, flew from Kiruna to Stockholm, Stockholm to Copenhagen, and caught the train back to Lund. The six of us parted and I got the bus back to Delphi to my Swedish family.
I am still feeling exhilarated from this trip and I will never, ever forget it. There is a bit of a dent in the bank account but it is worth it. I’m not sure if you’ve gathered, but I believe Scandinavia is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Make your next trip here! After an epic winter, I am really looking forward to what spring and summer brings!