On the run from winter!

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Latvia  , Ventspils,
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tomorrow's the first day of Autumn, and we are now well and truly on our way south……it’s time, we are now effectively running from the winter, every day you notice the change. Only six weeks ago darkness came at 11.30pm, the days were hot by northern European standards (still not many days over thirty), and nothing more than a t-shirt and shorts were required. Now it’s dark at 9pm, the leaves are turning orange and falling across the road as we cycle and you can definitely feel a chill in the air. It’s hard to believe that in a few months’ time it could be as cold as minus 30 here, there will be snow covering everything and parts of the Baltic Sea will be frozen to the point where ferries between the islands no longer operate, replaced by an ice highway. We were really surprised that during winter you can drive to Estonia’s largest island, Saaremaa.


We crossed the Estonia / Latvia border about a week ago and have been doing our first serious stretch of cycling. We have been riding through some of the most lovely countryside trying to guess what is being grown on all the farms we pass. Every so often the farms stop and we find ourselves in the forest. The birch and pine forests are truly amazing and have become our new obsession. Looking from our bikes we see a blur of tree trunks, all perfectly straight and incredibly tall. The mossy floor of the forest is covered in a dappled sunlight which, in patches, seems to have an irridescent glow. The effect is quite mesmerising and I would happily ride through this landscape for days on end.

After spending a few days in Riga, a very beautiful old city occasionally interrupted by monstrous yet curious Soviet relics, we made it to the coast and spent the next few days fighting our way south against a very strong headwind. We feel a little like we’ve missed the end of the season, not only is the weather taking a cold turn but the people have all but disappeared. Many of the camp grounds where we plan to stay are now shut and the ones where we do stay are all empty. The camp grounds are really pretty awesome and you can tell that in the summer holidays they would have been teeming with people, but we're obviously a few weeks late.

Most of the coastline seems deserted, but we have just arrived in Ventspils, a huge shipping port which is still active although clearly past its prime. We passed a lot of abandoned houses and decrepit factories as we came into the outskirts of the town and then arrived at a waterfront filled with huge cranes, container ships loading up with coal, and shipyards full of mountains of timber. The centre of the town has lots of lovely old timber buildings and big town squares which seem rather out of place beside the massive industrial waterfront. But somehow, even in the drizzling rain, we are captivated by this very strange place.


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