The sky is clear and dark but the northern lights are inactive. The sign outside our tiny silver car says “Ved rodt lys Stopp her”, so we are sitting still at a red light (rodt lys) that controls a 0.5 km section of single lane road on a blustery mountain pass in the middle of nowhere. It is 1 am. There are no other people or cars or lights in sight. Duke and I (Cherilynn) are discussing whether or not to obey the signal. The laughable absurdity of our situation is my impetus to begin writing this post. I have plugged my laptop into the power inverter Duke has installed in the car to re-charge camera batteries. We are waiting until the light turns green. It is surreal, particularly since at this moment we do not actually know where we are, and we do not know if there is really any other vehicle coming from the other direction. Still, we are waiting for the green light. It is so weird to be waiting in the wilderness for this green light.
Somehow we missed a turn to our planned destination of a town called Skibotn (SHEE-bohtin) along a route known as the Northern Lights highway (E8). Skibotn is about 120 km from our base in Tromso, NORWAY. But after 150+ km on the trip odometer and increasing signs of remote wilderness (in spite of the sign saying “Ved rodt lys Stopp her”), we are at last awakened to our mysterious navigational error and are reversing our course…and now waiting for this absurd green light – okay a second time! One could wonder how we missed our cue about turning around when the red light on the other side of this narrow stretch of road first stopped us. Oh well…
Now it is a day later as I work to complete this post, and I can relate how the rest of the evening of (28 Feb – 1 Mar) unfolded. After more than 10 minutes the light finally turned green with no other vehicle having passed through the zone. Closer scrutiny of our low resolution roadmap revealed that we had ventured far beyond the turn onto E6 that would take us to Skibotn and had evidently traveled to within 10 km of the Finnish/Lapland border by continuing on the apparently historic E8** before turning around. So then, in addition to kicking ourselves for the navigational error, we were kicking ourselves for having turned around before reaching Finland – a country neither of us has visited before.
Aaaaagh!! Little to no northern lights, no Skibotn, no first time in Finland, and a long drive (2+ hours) back to home base in Tromso. We were feeling more than a little bit defeated. Yeah…Ready, Set, STOP! That’s how it felt.
Until….a very late night STOP! along the E8 within an hour of Tromso gave us the gift of the ghostly green lights such as you see in the image below.
We would have missed this display if we had returned to Tromso earlier in the evening. We finally arrived back at our little apartment on Gulenvegen in Tromso at about 4am…exhausted and grateful. Yes…it is evidently good to wait for green lights.
** From a panel about the E8 at a roadside stop: A trail of some kind has existed as a Northern Peninsula link from Skibotn to the northern regions of Finland for ages. Local people used the road to reach markets in Norway, Sweden and Finland. The road was constructed for reindeer and sleds, and was only navigable during the winter months. During World War II, the German occupation forces in Norway constructed a traffic road to the Finnish border. Sections of this original road, on the stretch between Skibotn and the Finnish border, have been preserved to this day.
Here is a YouTube link to let you see what this part of the E8 is like in the daytime. Remember that for us, it was totally dark and we did not have the escort service!