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Published: April 8th 2015
This could not have been a more fitting title for my next adventure. I had fluctuated between either going to Fort McMurray or Whitehorse in Yukon to see the Northern Lights and had decided that I would go to Whitehorse as it seemed to have more things to do while I was there. Anywhere north of the 60degree latitude mark is a prime spot to see these astonishing night show spectacular but this was the destination for my hopeful observation. This trip has been a mixture of highs and lows and one that has been mentally challenging for a number of different reasons, but I will never forget the moment I first had a glimpse on this amazing phenomenon that all people must put on their bucket list.
The journey did not start off how I had planned. Firstly, the economy parking at the airport was full which meant instead of paying $10 a day I was forced to pay $27 a day. This was the first of many financial disasters for this trip! I then had to walk through security check behind a very attractive girl only to beep when walking through the security screening area, having
to take my snow boots off and send out a horrendous smell that had security wishing I had not taken them off at all. Needless to say, the attractive girl quickly vacated the area. I then sat through the required journey to Whitehorse via Vancouver, which took a good 5 hours including stopover time.
I remember walking off the plane to a very simple looking airport, which looked more like a charter plane airfield than the airport of the capital of Yukon. I was greeted by a lovely German guide from Artic Range, the company I had booked my Northern Lights Experience through, and sat on the bus with a lovely New Zealand girl and a middle aged woman, both on their on journeys up further north. I was dropped off at the Westmark Hotel and briefed quite professionally by the guide, who showed me the good spots to visit, eat and little walks I could investigate. The only thing was that I had to wait an extra day before I got my taste of the Northern Lights as I was the only one on the tour that night and since I had booked an extra night
to stay they moved me to the Saturday night instead.
Whitehorse was not what I expected. The town itself was a mixture of a country town set up and an older industrial look. The housing was indeed not all that fancy as were most of the building, but like everything and anyone, if you look closely enough you can find the beauty within. Well I explored the town searching for this beauty and found it in a couple of places, particularly in restaurants and food, but more on that later. It is the first time in Canada I have felt uneasy and even threatened by the people on the streets. There were a number of interesting characters walking the along the sidewalk and small gangs of kids where out and about after dark. These people looked unfriendly, and in some cases maybe not mentally stable. Exploring the town felt like if I took a wrong turn it could be my last. Some of them spoke quite differently, some of them spat in hallways of the hotel; and most sent a shiver down your spine when you walked past them. I even had a longhaired hillbilly guy walk
past the window at which I was eating dinner one night and he stared at me through the restaurant window. I looked up and then quickly down and pretended I hadn’t noticed him by taking another bite of my meal. I saw out the corner of my eye the man took 3 steps then aggressively stopped, turned and really gave me a glare for a good 20 seconds. I felt his evil stare go straight through my soul. I dared not look up. I feared he was about to walk into the restaurant, but thankfully he moved on.
Having said that, the people that worked in all the restaurants and food outlets I visited were quite nice and normal looking for the most part. This may sound a bit harsh but when strange people walk through your hotels asking for money, most are dress in something that looks like they have worn it for days, It was a big contrast to the Fairmont Chateau that I had experienced just days ago. I found out clarification on this observation when exchanging texts with a work colleague about what to get Mel (my exchange teacher partner) for her birthday.
I actually felt unsafe and that brought on fear. Fear started to bring on anger and frustration and for the first time on my adventure, I felt the onset of homesickness and frustration at life. I walked around feeling angry about being alone, not having anyone to share these experiences with, and having spoken to mum the night before you start to realize how much people mean to you. You start to question yourself as a person; maybe the slightly psychotic feel of some the people I had encountered was rubbing off on me. I had also recently had three or four people message me and ask about gifts for Mel for her birthday and again you start to think about the people back home who may be missing you or were you becoming just a memory of their past?
During this stay I spoke to my mate Simon Illingworth and it was great to catch up with him and for that point in time in my trip it had made me feel a lot better; but speaking and seeing people is so much different. I had been warned of low points during the
exchange experience and this was definitely one of those moments.
The next day however was granted with a more positive outlook and a day of excitement. I had a very nice breakfast at the ‘Burnt Toast’ which I actually frequented a few times as it was just a nice little place to eat. Recommended by ‘The New York Times’ as a place to dine as well! I also visited the MacBride Museum and History of Yukon exhibit, which was actually a pretty cool little place. The guide was bubbly and passionate about what I would see and I was very impressed by the stuffed animals on display as it gave me a chance to really see, learn and know about the Canadian wild life, particularly the moose, which I am craving to see. I also saw the work of a local artist, which was actually really good and learn about the history of the Gold Rush and the way of living in Whitehorse right up to the 1950’s. Even though you paid a $10 entry fee, it was a cool little place and one I’d recommend.
I then spent the afternoon snowmobiling with another
Aussie girl (Melissa) from Western Australia who had also booked the same activity. For a short moment, the sound of her voice felt like home, which made me feel a lot better. Our guide was small in stature and had similarities in appearance to a thin Bob Hoskins with a beard. He also spoke with a friendly, pleasant hint of an Irish accent. He spoke to us about his adventures and his life before showing us the snowmobile we were going to share. I had never ridden a motor bike but it felt like I was riding the roads with my girl on the back, although she was holding on to handles than onto me which was fair considering we were complete strangers.
The experience was more like Jet skiing as a comparison and when we drove out onto the frozen lake it could easily been mistake for it. We took it in turns to drive around this picturesque setting of the lake before taking an up hill cross country route to two viewing spots where we soaked up the country side of Yukon and found again another hidden treasure to visit. We stopped for a cup
of hot chocolate and enjoyed the pleasure of each other’s company before heading back to the lake where we had a chance to put our foot on the gas so to speak and lit it rip. I had got it up to 70km/h an hour and was a bit conservative as I wasn’t sure how comfortable Melissa was as she had shown a tentative reluctance early on to driving. Turned out she was a silent rev head as when it was her turn she got it right up to 80km/h slightly denting my ego but was still great to see who having fun and really enjoying the experience.
The experience I had come to see happened later that night. I went down into the lobby where I ran into a group of travel industry people, again from Australia apart from one, who I was to join on this wonderful experience. They had told me they had been in Yukon for four days and had very little vision of the Northern Lights, but with clear skies their was optimism in the air that tonight would be a special night. And what a show it was!
From the moment we stepped out of the car into a dark, large clearing in amongst a surrounding forest of pine trees and mountains we saw the amazing green glow that decorated the ski and delighted our pupils with its amazing appearance. Like seeing an electrical current, the lights guided through the sky, forming a ‘U’ shape, a cloudy spread or a spike like appearance, each coming from different angles of the clearing. The group of 15 people, including the New Zealand girl I had met the day before were a buzz, soaking up the experience, taking photos or eating marsh mellows by a fire inside a Ti Pi. There was only one downfall of this entire experience. My camera was not equipped to capture this unique night sky spectacular. I tried all settings and even asked for help only to find my memories will only what I see, not through evidence of a photograph. Others who took photos bragged of many different colours pulsating from the skies marvelous creations, which I could only envy but admire at the same time.
It wasn’t until 2am in the morning and as we were about to leave, the lights
decided to really put on a show. Suddenly this bright green spike flared up over the trees, as if it was the glow stemmed from the Emerald City of the Land of Oz. It then spread into a long thin line before suddenly expanding across the sky to a point where it felt like it covered the large clearing. It was like God had opened up the gates of heaven and the spirits above were waving hello. The lights danced around in the sky completely hypnotizing each and every one of us. I can never explain it or give it as much justice of how it actually happened but this was one memory I never wanted to lose. Even on the bus home, it seemed that lights followed us into town with the bright green light giving us a guided escort right to the drop off point. The power of this light and its brightness meant I actually got some low quality photos of the lights showing up on my display, but I would have to wait until the Artic Range posted them on their web site to get a true rendition of what I had seen.
One of the ladies from the group I went with did volunteer to take some photos for me on her camera and email them to me which was really nice and I am looking forward to receiving them as they did look quite good. I also spoke to one of the ladies in the group and it turned out that she grew up in Morphett Vale only minutes from my stomping ground of Christies Beach. Out of all the places in the world, I never imagined meeting someone who grew up and lived, or even heard of where I lived but this night was one full of phenomenal experiences and situations.
I did venture out the next night with an Australian couple from Sydney who were visiting the grandkids in Vancouver and had decided to extend their trip and see this amazing experience. I also had ventured out and bought a better camera, and after a very enthusiastic 45-minute spill by the sales man, I had a camera equipped to take better photos. As it turned out, this was the second bad financial decision I made. Not in terms of the quality, the camera rocked and the
sales man who appeared excited to have human communications and share his wealth and extensive knowledge of photograph had sold me a beauty. Even though the quality of the lights was rated higher than the night previously, Mother Nature had put her curtains over the show and the cloudy night left us without a glimpse of the very experience that had mind blown me the previous encounter. We did however see fresh moose tracks in the area when we went for a small walk and they were a very interesting and the friendly couple and the Japanese guide where great to speak with and shared many intriguing stories over a hot chocolate.
My journey home nearly had a tragic end to it. It seemed my flaunting for danger was not yet over. I arrived home at 1am in the morning and was desperate to get home and lay my weary body on a homely bed. I seemed to have an issue with finding out where to pay my ticket. I followed what I could make out of the instructions on the ticket machine, only to have it tell me what I owed but have no means of
paying it. Suddenly I had lost the ticket I needed to vacate the premises in return I was given a receipt which made no sense and told me I had 15 minutes to leave the car park.
The exit was not very well marked and hard to read in the night so I took the first available exit I saw! This was no exit! This was the one way circular drive up and as I drove further and further down the spiral alley, I feared this was the case. It wasn’t until a car came from the other way just before I reached the entrance ‘to’ the car park that I realised I had gone the wrong way. This could have been more eventful and again luck was on my side. I reversed around and found myself lost in what seemed like the most complicated maze of a car park I had experience. Signage was not its strong point and a set of panic was crippling my bodily functions and awareness. I somehow found my way to the exit gates only to have the girl at the desk tell me I had the wrong ticket. I tried
to explain what occurred but I couldn’t help but to reply in this up tight, tied and maybe even panic aggressive voice! I felt bad at this at the time but I feared paying more that I had needed to and I just wanted to get to bed with work starting in 7 hours time. A resolution through a nearby helper raised the gates and my seemingly simple but eventful drive home could conclude with no more hiccups.
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