Author Topic: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission  (Read 2896 times)

Offline Aaaron

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Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« on: January 14, 2018, 12:05:14 PM »
I'll begin this TR while I have another 25 min at a lounge here in ARN.

A bit of background, about two years ago I made a commitment to myself to visit 30 countries by my 30th birthday.  I had been to about 6 at the time, maybe fewer.  Fast forward nearly two years, and I was 3 months shy of my birthday and sitting pretty at 23 countries.  I always said I would just rail around Europe if I ran out of time, so I planned a quick trip to Vienna, Bratislava, and Prague.  That din't happen for a few reasons so I switched to Scandinavia, as seeing the Northern Lights has been my top bucket list item for 20+ years.

I did a bit of research and found that none of the northern cities in Norway, Sweden, or Finland have flights to each other.  For example, if you want to fly from Tromso in northern Norway to Kittila in northern Finland, you fly down to OSL, over to HEL, then up to Kittila.  So I looked into a one way car rental.  Nope... drop off fees cost upwards of a thousand dollars.

At the same time I heard about the original IceHotel out side of Kiruna, Sweden, and decided I needed to do it for the story.  Shortly thereafter a popular FB video (https://www.facebook.com/UNILADAdventure/videos/1956306338032177/) caught my eye about a hotel called the Northern Lights Ranch in northern Finland.  Google maps said it was about a 3.5-4 hour drive from Kiruna.  Booked.

The city of Narvik in Norway was about a 2.5 hour drive, so Kiruna became my hub to visit all three countries.  After reading up a bit, I booked a rental car, the hotels, and moved to the flights.

I booked EWR-ARN-KRN in J on SAS for 70k UA exactly 22 days out, but in retrospect I should have used AC.  Oh well.  I wasn't sure how I was getting home, but was trying to fly through MUC to visit Dachau.  That didn't happen and at the last minute a seat on the LH flight from FRA to IAD on the Queen opened in F, and I grabbed it (70k AC) with a connection from ARN on LH as well.  The connecting flight from KRN wasn't at a good time, so I booked a Norwegian flight Rev from KRN down to ARN.

Now to the actual trip.  Last Wednesday I hopped on a train from Baltimore to EWR, and hopped on the direct flight to ARN.  I only had a 50 hour layover, which was shortened to 35 due to a late arrival, but made in to the next terminal and through passport control and security in about 10-15 minutes.  ARN is beautiful, btw.

Landed in KRN in the morning and picked up my car, which was obviously outfitted in studded snow tires.  I splurged on an automatic with AWD to make myself a bit more comfortable with the amount of driving I was doing.

I need to go catch my flight to FRA, but here are some teaser pics of the first hotel, the Northern Lights Ranch. http://www.theranch.fi/







« Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 12:12:00 PM by Aaaron »

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2018, 12:09:59 PM »
Nice, looking forward to the rest.

Hoping the weather held for you.

Offline mmgfarb

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2018, 02:27:28 PM »
Sounds like quite the trip, looking forward to the rest of the TR!
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Offline Yaalili

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2018, 04:26:16 PM »
That room looks great!

Offline Dan

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2018, 04:47:20 PM »
Man that room looks amazing.
Save your time, I don't answer PM. Post it in the forum and a dedicated DDF'er will get back to you as soon as possible.

Offline mmgfarb

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2018, 04:47:58 PM »
Man that room looks amazing.
+1 that looks so cool
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Offline Dan

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2018, 04:50:02 PM »
How much was the car and hotel?
Don't worry, we won't judge you. Too much ;)
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Offline Aaaron

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2018, 05:14:32 PM »
How much was the car and hotel?
Don't worry, we won't judge you. Too much ;)

Car was ~2700 SEK (500 SEK to cover crossing into Norway) [$335], and I don't even want to know how much I spent on diesel.
That hotel was 390 EUR, but they upgraded me to a "Deluxe Suite" (has an additional den area, the Super Duper Deluxe has a hot tub outside that would've been cool.  You can see all three in my pic above.) 

Offline Aaaron

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2018, 05:22:26 PM »
After I picked up the car I double checked my map, and realized that there was another Ice Hotel that I had seen - again - on FB (https://www.facebook.com/yahoonews/videos/1020023988153382/), and it was only 20 minutes out of the way on my way to the ranch.  Of course I had to swing by, especially since it was themed this year (their second year).

It's part of the Lapland Hotel Collection, and it's called SnowVillage.  15 Eur bought entry.










How's this for a shabbos table?



I took a million pics, but none came out nice since my hands were literally shaking from the cold, and I wasn't going to set up a tripod.  FTR, this hotel is significantly cheaper then the IceHotel I stayed in, which I will discuss in a future installment.

TBC...






Offline Dawie

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2018, 05:24:14 PM »
WOW and brrr

Offline Yammer

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2018, 05:37:56 PM »
As mentioned above the room looks amazing. I always wondered how ppl stay in an Ice hotel...

Offline Aaaron

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2018, 06:32:52 PM »
After I went through the SnowVillage, even freezing my butt on the kiddie ice slide, I made the way up past the ski resort at Levi, to the Northern Lights Ranch.  Google Maps/Waze are off by about a mile, but a quick phone call and they guided me right there.

A quick note before I forget, those cars handle ridiculously well, even on the many roads that look like this:



So when Waze says something will take 4 hours, in the states you may beat it by a few.  In Lapland, you can easily shave an hour off.

Back on topic, I arrived, and the check in process was simple and painless, they walked me to my cabin, informed me I had been upgraded, and showed me all the features.  A pair of snowshoes hand outside, all the floors a heated (which is awesome), water pressure and temperature was great, and a large selection of toiletries.

Well it was starting to get dark so I got to taking pictures.  At one point, my Mavic froze and started descending onto a tree, when finally the connection came back and I was able to bring it home with only one propeller damaged.  Anyway... I am far from a professional so I played around with different settings on my mirrorless, used my GoPro a bit, and my phone as well.  IIRC, that pic in the first post was taken with my GoPro.

I had been keeping an eye on the weather and KP index (I have no clue what it is, but I know what to look for, kinda like Bitcoin).  It was going to be a cloudy afternoon/evening, with them parting in the early night.  Hopefully.  Another hiccup was a predicted KP of 1.33-1.67, max.  In short, you want 2+, preferably 4+ at that latitude.

After taking a few hundred pics, I decided to get some work done and wait for the clouds to clear.  And clear they did!  I think it was about 10 when I finally looked up and saw them.  It was weird, because at that weakness they disappear if you look directly at them, but they're clear as day in your periphery.  But I immediately whipped out the camera and that's where my lack of skills became apparent.  I could not get them on "film" through the glass.  I think it was due to some ambient light coming in from outside causing the reflection to amplify with the long exposure.  But what do I know.  So at that point I cheated. I took some clean inside pics, then went outside and got some more, and then merged them into this composite:



I know it's cheating, but I'm happy ;D

I then fell asleep and woke up at 5am with the big dipper framed perfectly in one of the panels above my head.  The whole thing was so mesmerizing.  I got up a little later as it began to get light, took a few more pictures in and out, including the drone pic in the first post, then got ready to check out. 



At that point I remembered that they had mentioned a snow chapel and some baby reindeer, so I went to inquire.  One of the employees showed me to the chapel, which I thought was incredible (for 2 days...), then they let me feed the reindeer some treats.  Adorable little things.









Offline Aaaron

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2018, 06:33:38 PM »
As mentioned above the room looks amazing. I always wondered how ppl stay in an Ice hotel...

It was actually surprisingly comfortable and a great experience.  I'll discuss that in a future installment.

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2018, 06:41:15 PM »
It was actually surprisingly comfortable and a great experience.  I'll discuss that in a future installment.

Offline a good yeshiva bachur

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Re: Chasing the Aurora - Aaaron on a mission
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2018, 06:58:12 PM »
What kind of car did you get?