On my vision board is a picture of the Northern Lights or aurora borealis. Yes, it has been my dream to see this natural phenomenon for a long time. My beloved husband is ever so supportive of ensuring that the things on my vision board come true for me. He had told me a year or two ago that the chances of seeing the aurora borealis is in 2012-2013 due to the active solar flare. I reminded him in June this year about it as I did not want to miss the opportunity. We considered Europe or Alaska and made some enquiries with friends from both continents. A friend, Annie, who had moved from Utah to Alaska three years ago sent me a DVD, book and a calendar with beautiful pictures of aurora borealis on the covers. We were sold and decided we need to at least visit her in Alaska to thank her in person.
Mike quickly booked air tickets and made arrangement. I did not pay much attention to the details until a month before our departure date when he told me that Fairbank’s temperature was then -28degF (-33degC). Would we survived going from 30C to -30C?
I checked around. Even my sister in Germany had never experienced that kind of temperature. Then I remember my ex-neighbor, whose tale about spending -30C in Harbin still scares me. Her family of five had booked a Chan Brother’s tour to Harbin a few years ago. In the photos she showed me, all of them had face mask on. Why? To prevent breathing in cold air but also to catch the continuous run of mucous from the nose. eek! I whatsapped her and she immediately invited me to a Deepavali lunch so that she can teach me some survival skills.
At her house, she brought out all her winter stuff and offered to loan them to us. I was reluctant to borrow the boots but she insisted and was adamant that our shoes from Timberland were insufficient. So we got the boots, purchased from Ecco and Landsend from her. You need to layer yourself, she said. Buy Heattec from Uniqlo, then wear a long john over it, followed by shirt, sweater then overcoat. I took notes. Facemask is really useful at that temperature, she said. That went on my list, followed by ear muffs and heat pads. (I dread the runny nose which thank goodness didn’t affect us while we were there). Next, she produced a thermal flask and insisted I took along. This Japanese-made Nissan Stainless steel flask had proven to remain drinkably hot after eight hours. We took a few fleece wears from her and ski pants. Thus, I felt more confident of braving the winter after.
Mike made his own preparation. He purchased two new cameras and two new camera bags (?). He knew I couldn’t object when he insisted his old camera was not able to handle the sensitivity needed to photograph the aurora borealis. He also read up extensively on how to protect the camera from the cold, the techniques required and how to prevent condensation.
Despite having spent winter in Japan and Germany, I don’t own many winter stuff as most of my stuff are borrowed, saving me storage space. Mike decided we should do some shopping now. We can’t be borrowing long johns. So we made a last minute trip to 313, where we bought many stuff from Uniqlo and Winter Times. Thank goodness we did that, for even though the website claimed we could rent the winter gears from the resort, we didn’t see any while we were there.
With the current limitation on luggage on airlines (one piece check in per person), we had no choice but to bring along three luggage and three cabin bags in order to bring all our bulky winter stuff along.
As you can see, I have survived the cold to tell the tale. Coming next, our Alaska adventures.