Awe-struck by the dancing lights

I will never forget the way my heart leapt when I saw that first sliver of green in the sky.

I was sitting in a cozy Tundra Buggy as it rumbled and bounced over the ice hummocks on the Churchill River, beginning to sweat under the six layers of clothing that I had painstakingly crawled into in preparation for a night out on the tundra. We weren't more than two kilometers outside of town when I glanced out the window. And suddenly, there they were – the Northern Lights streaking down from the heavens where a minute before there had been only darkness and winking stars. Goosebumps immediately rose on my skin beneath all of the layers – but I promise they had nothing to do with me feeling cold.

Many moments on my Frontiers North trip prompted goosebumps to rise on my skin beneath copious layers of clothing; moments where I felt the urge to pinch myself because I couldn't quite believe the adventures presented to me by Manitoba, of all places. Whether it was chasing the aurora across the darkened tundra, swishing across the packed snow behind a team of sled dogs, or snowshoeing through the silent boreal forest, there were many pinch-worthy moments in just a few short days on the tundra.

I actually used to tell people that I came from the tundra. Not because I did, of course, but because the university I went to for my undergrad degree was located in rural northern Ohio, our mascot was a polar bear, and we called the main quad on campus “The Tundra” because of the cold winds that would blow through during the winter months. But it of course doesn't compare to the real thing at all.

Before my tour with Frontiers North, I had very little knowledge of what life near the Arctic Circle was really like. I had no clue how hardy and resourceful the people this far up north have had to become in order to survive. This is the part of the world where snowmobiles are the preferred method of transport in the winter; where the local dogsledding hero is also the airport mechanic; where carrying around a rifle “just in case” you run into a polar bear is the norm; and where shimmering, magic-like green lights frequently skip across the night sky.

On that dark night on the tundra, when the Northern Lights burst into life before my eyes, I didn't care that it was -29 degrees C (-20 F) outside; that I could no longer feel my toes; that a layer of ice had formed over the outside of my scarf. I just stood and stared. One of those mouth-hanging-open, wide-eyed stares as I watched the aurora begin to “dance” above our heads – a brilliant display of cascading, leaping, shimmering light in all shades of greens and purples that lasted a few breathless minutes before dying out.

Yes, the tundra is cold. And yes, the tundra can be harsh. But the tundra can also be incredibly beautiful. And only a tour like this could have convinced me of that.

Written by: Amanda Williams, A Dangerous Business Travel Blog

Photo: Dan Harper Photography

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