Announcing: Aurora 2012!

According to the clever guys at NASA, we are currently experiencing a peak in an 11-year sunspot cycle, which among other things will bring more auroras than has been seen in a long time. Apparently this Solar Max is due in the 2012/2013 northern hemisphere winter period. And so… Gareth and I are heading over to the Arctic Circle to go hunt the aurora borealis!

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We will be spending the first week in the little town of Äkäsentie in Finland, where we hope to not only see spectacular auroras, but also go husky sledding, reindeer sleighing and cross country walking in snow shoes. We might even indulge in the Finnish tradition of spending hours in the sauna and then cooling off rapidly with some ice swimming! What’s more, I will be able to cross off one of the items on my travel bucket list! And all this will happen with less than an hour’s daylight each day and an average temperature ranging from -40° to 0° Celsius.

As you can imagine, we are quite excited.

And a little daunted by the prospect of the extreme cold. So we are systematically stocking up on thermal underwear, soft shell inner layers, warm woollens, ski jackets, gloves, scarves and silly hats. It’s going to be spectacular!

The second week will be spent in Caerphilly in Wales visiting Gareth’s parents. We will be there for Gareth’s 35th birthday and Christmas, and it will be good to see his side of the family again. I’m also looking forward to visiting Cardiff again, as I used to work there when we lived in Penarth for two years. There are few cities as magical in wintertime as Cardiff, what with the faerie lights in the trees, the outdoor ice skating in front of City Hall and the Christmas music performed by street musicians all along the Queen Street shopping district.

We’re off again just before New Year and will be spending the last week of our holiday in Aviemore in Scotland, near Inverness. We chose this location because we wanted one last glimpse at the auroras in case we miss them during the first week, and Aviemore was the most northern town where we could find accommodation while still in Britain. Our resort is situated inside the Cairngorms National Park and should provide some stunning winter scenery if we are able to drag ourselves away from the fireplace.

There are 4.5 months to go before we set off on this adventure. So far only our accommodation has been sorted out. We still need to book plane tickets (which has been hampered by the Rand’s weak performance against the Pound and the Euro the last few months), get visas, hire a car for Scotland and do some sightseeing research.

We started planning this holiday in January this year. I was so excited at first that I actually had trouble sleeping at night. Since then the glamour has faded a bit and while we hadn’t forgotten about the prospect, the anticipation has mostly been simmering in the background. But now… now December is rapidly approaching and I’m having trouble sleeping at nights again…

For more posts in the Winter Escape 2012 series, click here.

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