December 21, 2015
It’s dinner time. We decide to walk down to the Radisson. This seems to be the only place serving vegetarian big plates. We are carrying our cameras and tripods, well just in case. The vegetarian pizza is pretty good, the husband and RP enjoyed their meal just as much. After we clear the bill, the husband as always cannot wait for me, so he’s gone while RP and I are still bundling up. Just as fast as he went out, he rushed back in shouted, come fast, come fast.. The diners on the next table look at us quizzically, as though unsure if they should run out too or not. RP tries to hurry them on by saying, ”Northern Lights!!!”. I try to shrug it off as nonchalantly as I can, while one diner calms his alarmed partner with a dismissive it’s the lights.
We don’t know what to expect, but as we step out and look up we see green streaks across the dark blue sky. We set up our tripods and click away like people possessed. We peeled off our gloved and hats to better see and operate our cameras. It’s freezing, but none of us seem to feel it. There’s an overdose of light pollution, but we are too scared to move to a darker place, lest the show ends before we get there. The show however went on for the next 3 hours or so; lights dancing all from mountain to mountain, all over the little town. A few cars passed by, as did a few locals. None but one stopped to look up and admire this magic. We wonder how it was even possible to take from granted something so special, so rare, that people travel across the globe just from a glimpse. We would find out soon. We finally decided to call it a night and head back. Now we realize how cold it was. If we didn’t keep walking, our toes would surely freeze in our woollen socks, inside our well insulated snow boots.
When we got back to the hotel two girls clad unbelievably scantily for so cold a night, step out hearing us, to ask if we truly saw the lights. Seeing how their faces fell, we assure them that we would be hanging around outside the hotel for some more time and would let the front desk know if the lights came on again. Sure enough, we soon saw some green flitting across the sky, like a post-credits roll. RP is now jumping up and down outside the hotel, waving his hands randomly shouting “ Hey!! Heyy!! Hello!! Lights!!”, to catch the manager’s attention. A short while later the girls came out. This was nothing like what we had just seen and knowing this, the girls are clearly still feeling a little cheated. Even so, they still got to see something.
December 22, 2015
I have described to you our experience of the Northern Lights, but there is yet another phenomenon that we lived through here – the Polar Night. A Polar Night is a night that lasts for at least 24 hours. For six months a year, the sun stays six degrees below the horizon all day long and the night reigns supreme. The darkness is not absolute, yet it is complete. The summer, the opposite happens – the sun never sets. I wonder how much toll it must take on the physical body to adjust every six months at first gradually and then rapidly to such drastic changes. When there is no light ( or dark), there is no way to tell the time, save by looking at your timepiece. Ten a.m. or ten p.m. it is all the same to us. We’ve staked out a great location for pictures. The lookout outside the police station provides a panoramic view of the town, cradled in the lap of the mountains. Our eyes have learnt to discern the faint green blobs, from starlight and city lights. We now have the perfect location, but not the same luck. We see faint streaks but nothing compares to yesterday. We spend the rest of the day walking around the tiny town and shopping in it’s only store. Svalbard is a duty free island and alcohol is incredibly cheap. Residents are issued a card based on which they can buy only a certain amount every month.We buy some beer and wine for the night and after a lot of contemplating and debating we buy local cognac, and aquavit and a bottle of high end whiskey to take back home. In the evening, we are treated to yet another small show – this time right outside our hotel. At dinner, we discover the true reach of the Gujarati-