Monthly Archives: December 2013

Heading North from Stockholm

We started the drive North about 10am Monday, not long after it got light (9:30am). It was easy driving on a freeway until we got to Gavle, where we stopped at a supermarket for supplies. The shopping centre was packed with holiday shoppers, and it took us about ten minutes to leave, the traffic was so dense.

The road dropped to two lanes, with frequent overtaking lanes. There was more signs of old snow about, and frozen lakes. At 2:30pm we stopped for a stretch as it got dark . We continued on driving through this dark world with buildings decorated with Christmas lights, and fighting the perception that it was late at night.

We stopped about 7pm, found a campsite in a pine forest, and set the tent up on a thin layer of snow. We cooked dinner and drank our cold beer (just leave in snow), and went to bed with two sleeping bags each (one inside another).

stopped at sunset-2:30pm
Judy inside two sleeping bags


Camped in the pine forest. Tent and car covered in snow the next morning
Judy scraping snow off the car

[mappress mapid=”3″]

In Stockholm

Exactly 6 months ago to the day, we arrived in Stockholm to begin our month-long Scandinavian road trip. It was just after the Northern summer solstice and it seemed like it was light all the time. We didn’t see any stars for a month.This time, it’s the complete opposite. We arrived yesterday morning and it was overcast, rainy and the light was dim. We went for a walk in the afternoon and by 4pm it was completely dark. Which was fine by us – we were ready for bed, although flying here this time was a much nicer trip. The first time, we flew Malaysian Airlines, stopped at Kuala Lumpur and Heathrow and arrived 34 hours after we left home. This time, we flew Qantas/Emirates, stopped at Dubai and arrived 22 hours after we left home.

We’re staying at the Hotell Dialog again. We stayed there night before we left Stockholm to start the Russian part of our trip. We know this part of town, it’s near the largest Ikea in the world and a heap of other shops – we need to shop for a few things before we head north in search of the Aurora. Food, snow shovel, more food, booze …. I’m beginning to understand why schnapps is popular in cold weather climates, it certainly gives one a nice warm glow.

It’s not actually very cold here, and there isn’t any snow in Stockholm. Yesterday the temperature range was 2 – 5C, and the forecast is similar for today. I haven’t quite worked out how to dress for both walking outside AND being inside heated shopping centres. Yesterday I wore a pair of thermals and a couple of other layers to walk  to the shops, then peeled most of it off when we were inside, and piled it all on again to do more walking. I guess I’ll just get it all worked out, then we’ll head north and I’ll just want to wear everything I brought with me, all the time.

Greg is watching the Space Weather website for signs that we’re going to get to see some lights soon. There is a lovely video which was taken on Christmas afternoon, from the lake we’re heading to, so we’re feeling hopeful that we’ll be lucky enough to see them. The customs officer told us that he had never seen any in Stockholm – too much light pollution in the city. Greg will do a post soon about the technical stuff, with some of the websites he’s following for information.

It’s almost 8.30am and there’s a glimmer of light outside. Time to get this day started.

One more thing, for Sam and Brianna … and any other Scrubs fans reading. We’re sitting having breakfast at the hotel and back-to-back Scrubs episodes are playing on the TV, with Swedish subtitles.

The Best Present Ever

Yesterday, on Christmas morning, we woke up at the decent time of 8am, reminisced briefly about all the years of early Christmas morning awakenings when we had little people in our lives, and then got down to the business of exchanging presents. I gave Greg a soft-sided, powered fridge bag, which he knew about and wanted, plus a signed limited first edition of Donna Tartt’s latest book The Goldfinch. We are both reading it at the moment and enjoying it very much. I also slipped in a copy of the South America on the Cheap Lonely Planet guide as we have been talking about going there next.

Greg gave me a book on the Northern Lights. Now, Greg is always a very good present-giver, so I had a suspicion that there might be more to it than just a book about something we thought we might like to do some day, but I didn’t want to seem ungrateful by shaking the book to see if anything would fall out. So I looked through it page by page until he gave up waiting for me to say something like ‘wouldn’t it be great to see this’ and brought out our itinerary. Oh. My. Goodness. Plane tickets to Stockholm this Friday. In 2 ½ days. In 60 hours. Unbelievable. Incredible. And probably the Best. Present. Ever.

He has been planning it for weeks – working out the best time to go in terms of the sun and moon cycles, the best place to go that will give us the best chance of seeing the Lights, car hire, warm clothes, guide book on how to camp in the snow. Because yes, we’ll be camping inside the Arctic Circle in winter … as you do. Well, actually most of you probably don’t … but we do. Of course we’ll let you know how it all goes, with pictures.

The soft-sided fridge bag will come with us …. but that’s so that we can stop our food from freezing, as opposed to keeping it cold! We have a small mountain of camping gear, clothes, tent, and assorted other paraphernalia to go through and pack. But that’s okay, we don’t fly out until late tomorrow night. Plenty of time.