Northern Lights Hunting

It’s 7:30pm, my husband and I spent most of the morning at the Blue Lagoon. We’ve just finished exploring the Geyser’s. The sun has set, yet remnants of light still remain. We head to our camper van to search for the nearest grocery store. Finding an open one proves to be a challenge. Its winter here in Iceland and most business close once the sun sets. Eventually we find an open grocery store, park our camper and prepare our meal.

After supper we map out our Aurora Borealis hunt using the Aurora Borealis forecast. We determine that our best odds of catching a glimpse of the Northern lights lies in the town of Hella. It’s roughly an hour drive from the geyser’s, which is where we parked our camper van to eat. The forecast predicts that the northern lights wont be visible until about 11pm so we hit the road.

It’s nearing 10pm, the roads have been deserted our entire drive with nothing but darkness due to cloud coverage, our headlights shining on the road reflectors. The roads here are narrow, barely wide enough for our camper van and they don’t have curbs, shoulders or medians, they just drops off into the ditch. We finally see the first car we’ve seen the entire drive, they happen to be pulled off on a side road with their hazards on, knowing that you don’t see many cars going by we stop and ask if they need assistance. They’re both outside the car leaning against the driver side. They politely decline our assistance and we continue on.

As we’re driving away I notice while watching them through the passenger mirror, the couple is pointing to sky. I lean forward onto the dash to stare out the windshield. The sky is black, the clouds have cleared and there are more clusters of stars in the sky than I’ve ever been able to see at one time. It’s one of the most breathtaking views. The stars illuminate the white capped mountains in the distance. 

Out of no where its seems there are cars everywhere tail lights in front of us, headlights in the rearview mirror, cars turning onto the main road from side roads and I realize the hunt for the northern lights has begun and its exhilarating. My husband finds a place to turn off to snap some photos of the incredible sky.

We find an entrance to a fenced in field off the main road. Still sitting in the car my husband turns the camera to raw mode, sets the lens wide open and switches on the timer. We anxiously wait for the image to play back on the display screen. When it finally does, the excitement leaps out of me and again and I’m squealing! The image its self is blurry, but we realize the northern lights are all around us. I’m rocking in my seat with excitement at this point! Im leaning out of the camper van passenger window looking up into the sky. It’s not as vivid to the naked eye, appears to be more like low hanging dark bluish colored clouds.

My husband begins to unload the camera equipment while I prepare some drinks. We capture some amazing photos over the next 20 minutes, but the clouds shift and sky becomes dark once more. We continue on to Hella following the train of vehicles now out on the roads. We find some camping grounds that are deserted, we drive all the way to the end of the field and back up the camper van along the tree line.

Again, we break out the camera equipment and the alcohol! I pour my wine into a tea-cup and pop the cap off a beer for my husband. Soon after, we realize this is a great location for catching a glimpses and photographing the northern lights. We spend over an hour outside capturing photos, drinking and listening to music. Its nearing 2am and we decide to camp here for the night. I’ve had a little too much to drink and the joke of the night becomes “We got Hella lucky in Hella!”

Seeing the northern lights for the first time made me feel so tiny and insignificant in this giant galaxy of unimaginable infinite space. It’s a strange thing traveling and experiencing such strong emotions. It brings you to some higher understanding of the world around you. I’ve waited since I was a child for this moment and here I stand in awe of mother nature and her beauty next to my best friend. I will always cherish these moments.



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