Seeing as all our travel plans this year (and the next…?) have been put on hold, to ease the wanderlust I’ll post a throwback photo every week from our past trips. Join me as I travel from my sofa!
It seems cliché to talk about bucket lists nowadays. But seeing the Northern Lights has always been near the top of mine. When I saw Iceland Air’s promo package ads in the London tube station, seeing the “most spectacular light show on Earth” was just too tempting to miss.
The trip did not disappoint.
Years on, I still remember how cold my toes were waiting for the lights. They are a beautiful, if unpredictable, natural phenomenon after all. There was no guarantee we would see them on our trip. In fact, the night we were scheduled to go aurora borealis-hunting, it snowed very heavily, so our tour operator gave us a second chance the following night to try again, for free.
Why “hunt,” you ask? Well, because it really is a hunt, more than anything else. What happens is this: you go out with a huge bunch of people in a convoy of large buses. The bus driver switches off the lights and you all drive around in pitch-black darkness while the tour guide talks about the phenomenon, how/why it happens, its history, etc. The guide also asks all passengers to keep their eyes peeled out for any signs of the lights. They can be green or even red, it all depends on the conditions.
And like I said, there’s no guarantee you’d see them. Aurora borealis (or the Northern Lights) can be seen around November to early April. Best conditions to see the lights are clear, cloudless, and cold night skies far away from city lights.
The following day, our guide tried to manage our expectations lower because it had been snowing earlier that day. He even told us stories of disgruntled tour passengers asking for their money back because of an unsuccessful trip. (Of course, that’s not possible. No soli bayad.)
We finally stopped at what the guide/driver thought to be a good spot and disembarked. Everyone had their cameras and tripods at the ready. It was butt-freezing cold outside… the first and only time since then that I felt cold so intense, my toes seemed disconnected from my feet. I kept jumping from foot to foot, thinking of frozen North Pole explorers and hypothermia (overactive imagination thanks to NatGeo channel). We stayed outside for close to two hours – at one point even resignedly climbing back into the bus – waiting, waiting.
So, imagine the pure pleasure we all had seeing this.
By the time we visited Reykjavík, we had already travelled to a number of countries. 10/10, we always, always came across Filipinos – be it a noisy tour group; the old university org-mate we hadn’t seen in years whom we suddenly bumped into at the Spanish Steps in Rome; or the sweet manang cashier who, when she found out we were Filipino, gave us an extra cup of mashed potatoes in a Barcelona KFC.
I thought to myself that because Iceland was so far up north, this was finally going to be the place we don’t see Pinoys. The first morning after our arrival, Hub and I were getting ready to leave the room for the breakfast buffet downstairs when I heard, in clear Tagalog, not one but two housekeepers chatting in the room next door. They were tidying the beds.
Turns out, there’s a small community of Filipinos in Iceland, over 1,400+ strong. We Pinoys really are everywhere!
Think critically dear readers,
P.S. We just watched Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga on Netflix last night — I had no idea the main characters were from Iceland! Fun film. Makes us want to go back, after all *gestures broadly at everything* this.