If you would have told me I had to sleep in a toilet in order to experience the most beautiful Northern Light you could imagine, and one of the most touching experiences of my life, I probably wouldn't have believed it, but that's exactly how it went.
It wasn't my first time chasing Aurora Borealis, and we actually fell in love by chance. In 2007, I was backpacking in Lofoten Islands, outstanding Norwegian land over the Arctic Circle.
It was the end of August when seeing the northern lights is close to impossible, given that there are almost 24 hours of light.
But on a random night, after an adrenaline exploration of an abandoned house that looked like a perfect residence of ghost stories, while going back to our hostel with other fellow travelers, we started to see some lights moving in the sky.
We were definitely not expecting to see Aurora Borealis in the not complete darkness called night in that season; but they still were there for our enjoyment! Compared to what I would have seen in the later years, this first time was a very light Northern light, but still so touching that I started to cry.
From that moment I never stopped thinking about going back to the north to experience Aurora Borealis at its best during the "dark season", and so I eventually did it for the first time in 2011.
I was still solo travelling at that time, and I went all the way from Rome until North Cape hitchhiking, camping or using hospitality networks, at the end of the Nordic winter with temperatures as low as -25 C. While the trip was successful and I managed to see Aurora Borealis in several occasions, I still had the feeling I missed the "big one".
After a few months, I met my better half Oti, and together we started an erratic life around the world as a couple, and we decided to document our adventures with photos and stories on our website.
Hearing my stories, Oti also got infected by the Northern Light fever, and that's how we started thinking of a new expedition to the North, the 3rd for me and the first one for her. I researched and read all information available on the internet to understand what would have been statistically the best moment to go and the best location to see the Northern Lights.
Considering the 11 years cycle of the sun activity, cloud coverage, darkness and temperature, we decided that our moment was around the equinox in between Autumn and Winter. It was a big challenge for Oti since she is really sensible to cold: strangely my Italian genes are more resistant to extreme temperatures than her Romanian DNA. Considering this, we made our way a little bit easier, hitchhiking until Oslo, before taking a train to the Arctic Circle, in order to decrease the nights spent in the cold. From there, we again started using our thumb to move around the North of Norway, looking for locations to experience the event of our lives.
But that was still not enough to erase all the chances of unexpected incidents. And so after a few days over the Arctic Circle, while trying to hitchhike more to the north, we reached the outskirt of a small village called Fauske, where we couldn't find any ride before the early Nordic night would set in.
A hotel in the most expensive country of the world was way out of our budget, and the idea of camping in our tent with a snow storm outside was not really appealing for Oti. That's how after weighting our options, we eventually decided to sleep in the handicapped toilet we found along the way. Its cleanness and services was way superior to the dirty guesthouses we have sometimes used in South East Asia: ensuite toilet with hot water.
We got acquainted with our luxury toilet already during the day, when we were making turns to hitchhike, while one of the two was warming up his feet using the miraculous water to restart the blood circulation in the frozen extremities.
Just as an extra precaution, we covered the clean floor with some cardboard recovered from a nearby minimarket, and our room was soon set for the night. It was a pleasant, warm and restoring sleep, and we never regretted our decision!
The day after, we managed to get a ride to the North and continued our peregrinations.
It was only after 2 more weeks and several northern Lights experienced, that we got to see the "Big One". We had to work hard to deserve this amazing prize: in fact we were Woofing in Olderdalen, not far from Tromso, cutting wood for many hours a day: an extenuating job for our backs.
Eventually all of the variables collimated, and on a cold clear night, we got to see 6 hours of uninterrupted Aurora, lighting the sky in bright colors and dancing without stopping until dawn. It was later classified as the strongest sun storm of the year and we were so glad we were there to experience it. We could see all the shapes available from "Coronas" to "Curtains" to rcs tinted in tones of green, red and violet, moving quickly and harmoniously over our heads.
Our mission this time was a total success, and a relief for our backs, since we decided to quickly abandon our temporary jobs as wood cutters, starting our way back to the "South" with an unforgettable experience engraved in our memories.
- As told to Priya Saha