The Astronomy Voyage and Northern Lights

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After our recent globe-trotting adventures in the sunshine, Petra and I were ready to hit the road again. But this time around, I decided to take us to see a sight that was like nothing else on Earth – a spectacle called the Northern Lights.

Now, to see the lights, we had to take a cruise ship to the Arctic Circle – one of the coldest places on the planet. As a sun-loving, desert-dwelling gecko, I had my concerns.

But hey, I like to think I’m pretty resourceful. So, after cramming our cases with 18 jumpers, 8 pairs of gloves, 6 scarves, 3 big coats and a LOT of thermal underwear, we were ready to rock!

1. The Magical Norwegian Coast

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Okay, so this trip wasn’t just any old cruise to see the Northern Lights. Oh, no – it was a 12-day cruise with Hurtigruten called the “Astronomy Voyage” which basically involved travelling with some really brainy astronomers who taught us all about the night sky. How cool is that?

We travelled along hundreds of miles of Norway’s coastline, sailed through the famous Norwegian fjords, and visited lots of little towns dotted along the shore. The cruise ship stopped at Ålesund – a town surrounded by icy peaks which took us to a medieval city called Trondheim, then crossed into the magical Arctic Circle. By now, my thermal underwear was really coming into its own!

Although, I completely forget about the cold when we reached the Lofoten Islands. They’re surrounded by soaring mountains caked in snow and the light blue waters there are so clear it’s like looking into a mirror – and me and Petra fell in love with all the cosy cabins sitting beside the shore.

But it was soon time to move on. As we sailed further north, we couldn’t help but start looking out of our cabin window each night to see if we could spot the elusive Northern Lights dancing in the distance.

2. Life onboard – fun and activities

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Despite being kept occupied looking for the lights, the cruise ship had tons of activities on-board to keep us entertained. One of the really cool activities was a free club called the ‘Young Explorers Programme’ – technically for 7-13 year olds, but little geckos get a free pass too!

The whole programme is brilliant for kids who want to learn about being a real explorer – which turns out to be the coolest job in the world! Along with fun on-board activities, we were taught all about famous explorers, wildlife, local food and looking after the environment – really important stuff!

But the best experience by far was listening to the lectures and talks by the astronomy professors. As well as learning about the Northern Lights, we went out on deck and were promised a guided tour of the night sky. I was a bit worried how long a guided tour of the sky might take (it’s pretty massive), but the whole talk was brilliant.

Without any towns or cities for miles, we could literally see millions of stars. Although, technically, I only counted 867 stars before losing track, but I’m pretty sure there were way more than that.

Numb with amazement (and maybe the sub-zero temperatures) we raced inside to get warm. After spending 15 minutes trying to unbutton our coats with freezing feet, we headed straight for a dip in the Jacuzzi and sauna – instant bliss!

3. Mesmerised by lights

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There’s a great chance you’ll see the lights during this winter cruise, but sometimes they decide not to show up. Kind of a pain, but if you don’t see them, Hurtigruten have a “Northern Lights Promise” which means you can come back next winter – for FREE! How nice is that?

But our group got lucky. One night, the moment we’d all been waiting for finally arrived. Suddenly, Petra noticed this magical light started shimmering across the sky – a wave of greens, reds, yellows and violets all started dancing silently in the darkness. It was like the sky was putting on a show just for us.

In my travel book, it says the lights are “collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.” But I prefer the theory from long ago when people thought the lights were the dancing spirits of ancestors. That whole idea sounds a lot nicer – and it’s also waaaaay easier to remember!

4. The trip of a lifetime

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As we turned south towards home, the ports we’d visited by night were now in daylight. More stunning scenery and scenic stops along the way ended an amazing trip.

We’ve been lucky enough to visit some incredible places, but somehow, I know this trip was extra special. Despite freezing my little tail off, seeing the Northern Lights (and getting to travel with Petra!) turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience I’ll never forget.

Published 26th January 2017

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