It was a crisp, sunny autumn day in Akureyri – the biggest city in northern Iceland. My agenda for the day was to see the northern lights. I had just been on a 10-day photography workshop with a big group of people. The workshop happened in Southern Iceland and after that, I drove around the country by myself, in search of more waterfalls and auroras. Weather in Iceland is very unpredictable in October and hence this clear day was my best chance to see the northern lights.
My plan was to shoot sunset and the northern lights at Godafoss. I had the whole day to kill before sunset and drove north aimlessly until I reached a small town called Dalvik. This part of Iceland is not on the main tourist circuit but it’s really the most beautiful drive in Iceland. I drove through snow-covered mountains where sheep grazed in peace until I reached a small black sand beach. This must be the closest I have been to the Arctic circle and looking out of the beach, it felt like I was looking at the end of the world!
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful with maybe fish-and-chips for lunch and the drive to Godafoss. Godafoss in Icelandic means “waterfall of the Gods”. It is a spectacular, horse-shoe shaped waterfall falling from just 39 ft. The sunset was pretty amazing and there were a couple of other photographers waiting for northern lights.
The northern lights/aurora, however, was very faint when it showed up. There was a little streak in the sky and clouds rolled in out of nowhere. I waited and waited until I noticed that there was a layer of ice on my camera lens. I walked to my car to warm the camera and myself. Some kind of obsession takes over me when I am in places like these. I can wait in the cold for long hours to see something silly like a sunset. There was no more aurora to be seen and at around 11pm, I decided to drive back to Akureyri.
As I was almost near Akureyri, I noticed there were cars parked on the side of the road. And then there it was, the aurora! The strongest I had seen in Iceland. I quickly parked by the side of a lake (or bay?) and took some pictures of the aurora above Akureyri. But now the regret and panic! I should have stayed back at Godafoss! I missed it after waiting for so long! Even though Google maps says the drive is 30 minutes, I had driven for almost an hour because of the curvy mountain roads and darkness. But I had to go back! And thus, I started driving back.
As I was driving back, I came across a mountain pass. I had driven through this pass during the day and it was beautiful. Now, there was something else happening that was even more beautiful! Aurora! I stopped my car in the middle of the road as there was snow on the shoulders. And there I was in the middle of nowhere, while the night sky put on a private show just for me! On a cold, silent night, the sky lit up in all directions! The aurora does not make any sound. The sky lights up and the angels dance in silence, like waves breaking in and out of the stars! It was nothing like I have ever seen or experienced before. The show went on for 10 more minutes and not a single car passed by. I had no words to describe what I was seeing or experiencing. It was pure joy, some kind of physical joy that I could feel in my body. I screamed in joy and jumped and danced around, and had no idea where to look. How did this happen? And what have I done to deserve this! Oh, what a magnificent night! Oh, what magic!!
I went back to my room, immediately edited some pictures and posted for everyone to see. But the story remained untold. I wanted to keep it for myself. I think about this night all the time. It’s like watching a movie. The best movie I have ever watched. It’s one of those moments that will pass by my eyes when I am dying.
2019 hasn’t been a good year. For the past couple of years, I have been trying to find a home. This year, I decided to stay, not travel and maybe find a home for myself or create one. As the year ends, I feel more lost and stuck. I felt less lost when I was in the middle of nowhere on a cold, Icelandic night. I have come so far away from the other home and right now it’s hard to go back there. I felt more at home when I was traveling. Because when I was traveling, I sometimes found magic. I found familiar stories and sorrows and happiness in strangers all over the world. I am going back to Iceland again in 2020 to see the northern lights. Am I being greedy? Maybe it will not be as magical as the first time but there is magic in the world that I want to see and bring back with me. Until I find a home, the big wide world is where my home will be.