1/16/2020, Murmansk, Dragon
The story actually began at 10pm yesterday. It was all of a sudden that snowflakes began to fall down around 10. Therefore, the plan to go out for aurora was cancelled. I was both astonished and disappointed to be informed of the news while I was just prepared with my equipment. Since my flight was tomorrow anyway, I thought of ways to make it tonight.
Finally with the help of a local travel agency, I managed to find a place where the weather would be relatively clear without any precipitation at 2 am and which was 70 kilometers away from where I stayed. Already making up my mind, I chose to take a Yandex taxi. The driver didn’t speak английский или китайский expectedly but we quickly made a deal of 5,000 rub via Google Translator. I would well say, travelling such a long distance by taxi was still cheaper than being accompanied by a tour group. The only difference was your payment also covered guiding fees if in group yet you had to decide on where to go by yourself if by taxi.
We started out at about half past 11 when it snowed heavily. Along the way, my thoughts were on what I would do and how I would feel if the aurora presented itself. As we headed away from the central district, the sky became clearer. At the same time, I felt more and more active with every minute passing by. I saw trees hiding in the dark plain, mountains far away rising up and down, the moon blinking behind the clouds. It was quiet everywhere except for the operating engine, for nothing much else seemed to be active on such a freezing night. Probably I had been asleep for some time but one thing was for sure that I was both thrilled in the hope of seeing aurora and worried that my wishes would collapse.
Before we could enter the destination, our car was stopped by a pair of soldiers, a tall thin young man and a short fat man. I was questioned by the stout one but obviously I did not understand him. We ended up communicating completely on smartphone. Although I had a limited knowledge of Russian, I could tell that he spoke ‘Блядь’ when he did a misprint. I would say soldiers I met behaved kindly whether in Moscow or in Murmansk. Nothing unexpected happened. I, accompanied by the driver, was let go but wasn’t allowed to get into the town. Therefore, we headed back to the parking lot where there were a group of tourists waiting with the same purpose. I had intended to stop there but there was a misunderstanding between him and me which made the driver keep going. When we got down to a discussion it began to snow again where we stopped. He suggested to rise higher but it seemed that he didn’t know which way led to a higher place.
As we were about to stop to take a break, there were three hounds barking away from a warehouse. It was terrifying to hear disturbing howl with no other residences in the proximity. Hence we got back to the car soon and went forward immediately. As time passed 2 am, the possibility went down, much to my dismay, because the earth rotated ceaselessly and the aurora was moving west leaving us behind. Still I cherished hope, but I was kind of able to face the reality. It was a relief to see our track drew a long line on the map which represented my effort to chase the splendid view. After I gave up the idea of meeting the aurora on my 20th lunar birthday, we came to a halt at the same empty field and I was attempted to take some photos as a final souvenir.
It was 5 am or so when we got to the hostel, 6 hours before my flight to St. Petersburg was due. After waving goodbye to my good partner, I hurried upstairs to go to sleep. Although it was not a success to not see the aurora, it was an invaluable experience to run all the way to the highest latitude I had ever been to.
I got up at a quarter past 11, when a Chinese couple were surprised to know that I set off no more than two hours earlier than my flight. I rushed out of the room on my way to the airport and did not realize I would see them at the same airport an hour later, which was funny.
‘Misfortune is not alone’. I reported the taxi driver impulsively who did not have enough change to give back. Besides, there was a time I thought I had already missed my flight because it was postponed over and over again. A lot of passengers including me were asked to wait and to pass the security check twice before finally we took off at 17. I was once glad that I could claim insurance for delay but later I was informed that the terms were effective only if the flight was 5 hours late or more.
There was a curved river cutting St. Petersburg in half. Getting out of the subway station, I found myself approximately at the midpoint and began to look for my apartment. On my right hand were two parallel streets called Nevsky prospect. The house numbers went from small to large on one while they followed inverse sequences on the other. I had a fresh memory because I was struggling here and there looking for House x58 before it was actually found on the other side. What was worse, it rained all of sudden and the hostess asked me to check in as soon as possible on the phone.
Obviously, it was not decent to walk through the city without an umbrella on a rainy night. I did nothing much and got prepared for tomorrow’s sightseeing before going to bed.
Edited: Later while I was sorting the photos I took, I ‘discovered’ the aurora. It totally was a delightful surprise, but not that timely.