Finally Dropping below the low lying clouds I looked out the plane window and saw Oslo’s snow covered forests extending out as far as I could see. Having been cooking in Mexico a handful of days earlier a shiver ran through my body after realising the reality of flying deep into the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. Of course I knew it would be cold and snowy, but in the warm sun of Mexico’s beaches I kinda figured how bad could it really be?. Seeing it finally made my brain connect the dots and realise maybe it was going to be a bit of a shock.
It turns out the weather wasn’t as bad as it looked. We’d had colder in South America so I had the clothes I needed. What was a shock was everything else…. Norway. It was so different to anything from the last year. I sat in the modern, fancy airport, and everything was quiet, calm. After a year of craziness, loudness, business, my brain was searching for stimulation but there was nothing. Everything was just perfect, it felt surreal. I had to call Ana to just tell someone how weird it was to be there, and she brought me back to Earth saying it was -30 C that day up in Svalbard. HUH!
I was lucky enough to spend a few days acclimatising in Oslo with a Espen’s parents, skiing on the lakes, eating great food, and receiving unbelievable hospitality. I was so grateful for those few days because they were such amazing people. And then it was time. For months I’d been looking forward to visiting Ana up in Svalbard. So I headed off on an early snowy morning to the airport to fly up to the tiny Island in the arctic. 1000km from the North Pole, Svalbard has only 2000 inhabitants, a history rich in mining, hunting and exploration, and not much else. The majority of people live in Longyearbyen which sits at the bottom of a deep valley leading into the sea. Beyond the town lies hundreds of kilometres of endless, epic nature.
Having arrived in my sombrero, complete with moustache and vacay shirt, poor Ana had to wait around until we were the last ones left in the airport as I spent a ridiculous amount of time putting on just about every layer of clothing I had in my pack. We did a poor job tying my pack to a snowmobile Ana had borrowed and then it was off to town. It was super fun zooming over the snow and bumps but also slightly terrifying knowing that this big loud machine we were fanging along on was not only on the edge of control at the best of times, but it was currently being driven by Ana. A few wall rides later and we somehow made it to town in one piece. And then it was off to uni. Having not studied for over 2 years being back in a lecture theatre was actually kinda fun.
The crazy thing about Svalbard is how active everyone is. Any day of the week, night or day people are heading off to go skiing, snowmobiling, hiking, camping, whatever. Everyone just wants to get out. And you can see why.
We did our own hikes, joined others on ski trips and even though theres always more you could do, Ana made it possible for me to see so many epic sides of Svalbard. So I’m super grateful for that.
Over the three weeks I spent up there the light went from a few hours of twilight around the middle of the day to almost a full sunrise and 6 hours of light by the end. The first week was so dark all the time that it felt like one long night. It was full of endless little surprises for my body clock. We’d wake up and guess the time, and since it was basically always dark we’d expect it to be around 7am and it would be 11. Which meant we’d go to bed when we were tired and realise that was at like 3am. Our body clocks became highly dysfunctional but we still got out and about.
Given the constant darkness at the start, Ana and all the other locals have become so used to doing things in the dark that its just what you do. But that never caught up with me. Heading off for a hike at 3pm sounds normal, but when its dark I couldn’t help feel that it was night time and so we’d be better off staying inside and waiting until tomorrow. Only there was no tomorrow because it would just be dark anyway. So getting used to just getting on with it and just doing things in the dark was something I had to work on.
Next time I’ll fill you in on all our trips.