Foto: Gintare Turskyte/Tiia Grøn

Night time in the forest

It’s a foggy, rainy night in the forest. Small lights are moving in between the trees, piercing the fog – lights from the head-lamps of several people, wandering in the darkness in pursuit of something…

No, this is not the opening scene of a movie. It’s called ‘night orienteering’, and it happens quite often here in Tromsø. Sound like fun? Well, Utropia decided to make it even better, and for the first time ever, we tried this night-time activity!

Before we share with you our Utropia night-orienteering adventure, a few words about the essence of the activity. Orienteering requires personal navigation skills in unfamiliar terrain. Briefly said – the goal is to navigate from point to point through an unknown area, keeping a good pace and using only a map and compass. It’s absolutely suitable for all genders and all ages. Orienteering can be done on foot, in the mountains, by bike, on skis and by day or by night. Several tracks exist in Tromsø, not only on the island, but also on the mainland.

The thrill of night-orienteering starts right at the beginning when you put the special tracker in the first control point and realise that your time is already counting down! Run! Run for the next one and find it! With the basics explained, using a topographic map is not that hard. Of course, it involves a large amount of decision making, seeing as the fastest way is not always the easiest one – so the question often is: «do we follow the path in a circle around the marsh or go straight through it?»! Well, when you hear that the competing team is already two points ahead of you – you take the direct path! Despite the wet socks and the «squish!» sound upon each step, you’re overjoyed to spot the white and orange flag. Don’t forget to take a head-lamp – having light in the forest somehow makes the things easier, and let’s face it, less spooky. The adrenaline of running and competing with others decreases at each point reached, so when you get lost (as we did), finding the right path is a matter of staying calm and getting on with it. At the end of the pursuit, a small ticket is given to each participant telling them the time they spent between each flag. It can be a lot of fun to see how quickly you travelled at times, and to see how badly you got lost at others – going in circles, trying to imagine where this control point could possibly be! Utropia went home wet, muddy and with the biggest smile ever!

Let’s go into the dark forest and chase the white and orange flags! Let’s try to collect them all! Let’s compete for better times and try to beat our competitors! But let’s also laugh at our great teamwork, finding point number 7 before even finding point number 1, running downhill, crossing the wet marsh and getting our socks wet and spooking the others by hiding behind a tree. Let’s fall, get up, get lost, laugh and let’s find the last point before finishing and feeling invincible. Orienteering is our fun suggestion for you, so gather your friends, find the local orienteering group (who give you a map and a tracker key for a small fee) and go exploring!

Text: Boyka Todorova