Updated: Jul 1
0300 hrs, 02nd January 2007. A blissful epiphany while driving the incomparable Arctic Highway in a plucky little Fiat.
The further north we drove, the more beautiful the empty landscape became. Flooded by moonlight crystalline in its sharpness, the fjords became more precipitous and foreboding, the mountains reached closer to perfection, and even the star-drenched sky seem to move closer. And then, framed by the long suffering Fiat’s windscreen, a faint emerald curtain draped itself across the sky ahead, and began to shimmer.
We pulled over to watch as the aurora built in intensity, Hypnotised by its movements. It cascaded across the sky, shimmering playfully then disappearing, before building again with a dignified intensity which only nature can produce. Sometimes, rather than sweeping through the skies, it simply hung in the same place for minutes at a time, only to race off to another part of the sky without warning.
After watching the awesome spectacle fifteen minutes, the cold overcame us, so we piled back into the Fiat and continued north, stopping every so often when the skies were lit up so stunningly that it seemed disrespectful to drive through the display.
Continuing into the early hours, my travelling companions slept while I drove onward in a state of near euphoria. Hundreds of miles of empty perfection swept past the little Fiat, which a few days earlier had seemed incapable of even leaving the UK. Often, I would stop to photograph yet another glistening mountainscape, or find myself cruising down a perfect valley, the path of the ice-road beneath me being mirrored by the shimmering aurora high above.
Even the Fiat finally felt right. From thinking it the car from Hell a few months previously and cursing its stuttering progress at the start of our journey, it had shown itself to be a car of character. Few other cars could have made the Arctic experience so memorable, and certainly no new car could compare. Its rear engine, rear wheel drive layout was great for traction on the ice while the fast, light steering made sliding the car around on the throttle an easy joy. In the bitter cold of the Arctic night, I warmed to the pugnacious little Fiat, and its big heart.
My friend took over driving at about five AM and I slept blissfully, buried on the back seat beneath a pile of sleeping bags and down jackets, completely content with the world, as if coaxing the Fiat to the Arctic was the most natural thing in the world to do; my calling in life. Thanks for the epiphany, little Fiat.