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Published: December 15th 2013
Aaahh, the first of our three extra days to do as we wish. This morning we farewelled our English companions who flew up to Ivalo with us on Tuesday. They were dressed again in their civvies - no more onesies for them! - in preparation for their flight to Helsinki and then on to London. Sophia and Matt then have to drive up to Nottingham and won't be home until about 8.00pm so they have a long day of travel ahead of them.
We hadn't put all of our gear on to wave goodbye but, even so, we decided to walk quickly down to the lake for a quick look. Bernie had the Sony camera with him so tried out its panorama function again. It really does make it super easy to take awesome panoramic photographs that we can post as headers on a blog entries.
With the temperature hovering at around -20° (about four degrees lower on the lake!) we had nowhere near enough clothes on to stay outside for more than a few minutes so we retreated to the warmth of the hotel. We stayed in our room until lunchtime writing up yesterday's activities for the travel
diary and processing photos. By lunchtime we really hadn't worked up that much of an appetite, but we pigged down a two course lunch anyway!! Salmon soup and a hazelnut and peach cake with vanilla custard that was delicious. We resisted the temptation to have a second piece.
After lunch we put all of our gear on to go outside. With the temperature still about 20 below we managed to fit our down jackets under our onesies so that we would be warm enough to go down to the lake's edge to take some 'sunset' photographs. It's not officially a sunset because the sun has not risen above the horizon, but the light changes from a strange sort of daytime dusk to full night between 2.00pm and 2.30pm. Once again the silence was amazing. The only sounds were of us cracking the crust of the snow beneath our feet as we moved around and the occasional percussive booms of the ice on the lake cracking.
We went back inside to warm up until it was time for the session we have organised with hotel guide, Lynda, to learn how to cross-country ski. While we were inside Toni returned
from his run to the Ivalo airport. He told us that he had checked on the Internet and the shooting stars that we were seeing last night were actually meteors from the Geminid meteor shower. As luck would have it, this meteor shower that rains down on earth annually, reached its peak for 2013 on the night of 13/14 December. We have certainly been able to observe a wealth of sky/space phenomena over the last few days.
At 3.30pm we went back outside to learn how to cross-country ski in the dark by the light of our head torches!! First Lynda had us shoosh along the practice track that she had laid out without poles as she insisted that it was easier to learn the footwork without the poles. Woo hoo, rather astonishingly this was something that I picked up more quickly than Bernie. In fact, Lynda even told me that my technique was very good. Imagine that! I only had one little forward trip which I was able to recover from really easily. On the other hand Bernie fell quite heavily three times and struggled to get upright again. He also managed to knock his head torch off
and had Lynda picking up after him to help him get set to continue.
Next we introduced the poles and off we went around the practice track again. This time I didn't fall over at all. Bernie had another fall - even with the poles to help maintain his balance! I think that, in part at least, the problem could be that Bernie can actually downhill ski whereas I am absolutely rubbish at it. Because I have no downhill technique to speak of, I think I was able to pick up the cross-country technique more easily. Anyway, we set off on one more circuit of the practice track and, just when it seemed that Bernie might be getting the hang of it, he fell over again!! After our three circuits of the track we packed it in with Lynda encouraging us to try out the track along the Lake's shoreline tomorrow on our own. When we got back inside I was really surprised to see that we had been outside for an hour.
We were sitting in our room to rest and recover until dinner time when there was a knock on our door about 5.20pm. Lynda told
us that Toni had just rung to say that the Northern Lights were ON!! We told Lynda that we would get our gear on and be straight out. Well, as straight out as you can be when you have to put on so many layers of clothing!! It was well worth the effort of getting back into our gear because the sky was full of the Aurora Borealis. So much so that we hardly knew where to look let alone where to point our cameras with a 180 degree arc of lights stretching from behind the hotel to the other side of the lake. Totally AWESOME! Between us we took about 300 photos in an hour!
After an hour the sky started to quieten a bit so we went inside for dinner at 7.00pm. Toni told us that it is important to eat and rest to help your body cope with the cold so, while it was tempting to stay out watching the lights, we thought that we should go in for a little while.
Pretty much straight after dinner we layered up again. Because it was still around 20 below, and we hoped to be out for
a while photographing the aurora, under my onesie I had Merino leggings and fleece pants, three pairs of socks, a long-sleeved Merino T-shirt, a short-sleeved Merino T-shirt, a Merino jumper and my duck-down jacket, a Merino neck warmer and ... three hats!Unfortunately, after putting on all of those layers, we went back outside to find the sky covered with cloud and zero auroral activity visible; in fact, we could barely see the moon!! Bugger.
We came back in and stripped off. You just cannot be inside with all of those layers on because the hotel's central heating is lovely and warm. About 9.00pm Bernie popped his head out to see what the weather was doing. Now it was snowing so no chance of seeing any auroral activity. This was very disappointing because the auroral forecast was for moderate to high activity. Unfortunately the meteorological forecast was cloudy with snow showers. So, with the auroral and weather forecasts unaligned for good aurora viewing we had an early night. We were very happy with the viewing that we had earlier, more activity tonight just would have been a bonus.
11,891 steps / 8.10 km
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