Storms, Castles and another visit from Lady Luck

Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
Trip End Feb 02, 2011

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Flag of Latvia  , Bauskas Rajons,
Saturday, August 14, 2010

When I woke up yesterday in the forest nearby Tallinn we heard lots of loud gunfire including bursts from a machine gun and occasionally from what sounded like a bazooka. I stuck my head out of the tent and saw about five people were wandering around among the trees, an old couple collecting something off the ground, a few walking through with shopping bags and a group of soldiers running around doing orienteering or something. It seemed we had set up right in the middle of a very busy public forest - but no one seemed to mind at all, in fact no one payed the slightest bit of attention to us.

We packed up and headed out onto the road in what was looking like it was about to be a very warm day. And indeed it was. The sun was burning hot and the humidity was sweltering. After about half an hour of riding, just after turning onto a rather large divided four lane road - the kind we do our best to avoid, we started to sway wildly, the wind from the overtaking trucks making it even worse. I quickly noticed our back tire was totally flat, in ten very scary seconds it had completely deflated. Felix pulled us safely off the road and in a flash and with no tantrum from me, (only excellent helping and a few happy snaps of us in our high-vis vests which we finally got to use, in every other breakdown we have been on roads or tracks too small to bother taking them out) we had the spare on and we got going again. On the way to Ari and Mari we had our first flat tire, the spare Felix and Kim fitted in a jiffy and then Felix repaired the tube at Ari and Mari’s house. The second time the patch had come off so it was time for a new tube.

It was only a few hours later after a little bit of a chase and we were at a friendly motorbike garage/shop run by two very nice young Estonian men who sold us a new tube and fitted it onto the wheel. One of the guys was also a semi-official importer of Ural parts. So as Felix has guessed, the Baltic States might just turn out to be the place where breakdowns will be repaired the quickest and parts easiest to be found.

Twenty kilometres or so later, after much searching, ice-cream eating and asking around we found access to a lovely beach. After exploring a little and Felix having a little swim, I cooked up a late lunch with the wonderful fresh vegetables we bought from man selling them straight from his garden on the side of the road. Travelling through Estonia had been a absolute pleasure, a feast for the eyes, an inspiration and the gardens have made me quite jealous. Everyone seemed to have a huge, flourishing vegetable garden, full to the brim with food and surrounded by big old fruit trees their branches drooping under the wight of all their fruit. And everything is so green and lush, the sun is so hot yet there is frequent downpours to keep everything moist, I want to be a plant so I can soak up all the goodness. The little (and not so little) old farm houses scattered among the fields and through the forest are so picturesque and beautiful. We have seen people out milking their cows by hand. It maybe is just an illusion, I think their are many poor people struggling to get by on these little farms, but it seems like such an idyllic, perfect farm life - the kind of life I keep myself awake at night wishing I could live. Felix and I want to move to Estonia.

Lunch was a very long, filling and drawn out event. When we had finished we washed up and moved Nina a little further down the beach to where we decided to sleep and she was a little more hidden behind some tall grass and reeds. The many families and children that were playing in the water earlier had left. Felix and I had another swim before setting up the mosquito net, the sky was totally clear and it was still so warm so we decided to sleep out. I Fell asleep watching the sun setting over the sea but Felix stayed up longer listening to a radio national podcast and weaving some grass.

Several times I woke up last night and the sky was totally clear. I wanted so badly to watch for shooting stars but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open, Felix on the other hand was able to keep his eyes open and this morning reported on having seem some great ones.

So this morning we had another stroke of amazing luck. Around six I woke and noticed the sky was no longer clear - thick stormy clouds had gathered all around. I heard a rumble of thunder and woke up Felix, concerned we shouldn’t continue to lay on the beach as the thunderstorm was almost upon us. Felix was a little reluctant to get up but thank goodness we did! And not a moment to soon, just as we were putting on our helmets and jackets the sky opened up and we were drenched. If we hadn’t packed our sleeping bags up when we did they would have been totally full of water. We zoomed (Nina style which is really more of a gentle lope) down the track away from the beach, through the town and wonderfully the good people running the fuel station had a roof over their pumps so we had somewhere to shelter until the storm passed a few minutes later.

Through the next few hours we had a mixture of short stormy downpours and warm summery wind to dry us off again. We crossed the border into Latvia in a little town along a road not marked on our maps as exisiting. All that was left of the border was a small sign - all too easy too miss - there was not even a small break between the houses and gardens, if you didn’t notice the sign and a small disused guards watch-tower away off the road, you wouldn't realise you had just entered another country.

We did a little shop across the border and discovered food here is extremely cheap. A few days worth of gourmet food cost us about the same a three beers in Norway. After eating we carried on and sometime in the afternoon came to a castle on a hill jutting out of the pancake flat surrounding landscape. The clouds had completely gone now and the sun was beating down. Added to the roasting summer sun was very high humidity so in motorbike jackets and pants we were sweating like crazy. Even out of our heavy clothes we were still sweltering so pretty quickly we parked and went down to the river that ran below the castle where we had a wonderfully refreshing swim much to the amusement of other tourists looking down at us from the castle walls.

After a swim we went into the castle where we looked in the museum which was full of artefacts found surrounding the castle. The history of the castle went way over my head, it is from a culture and place who’s history is very well avoided in Australian schools because of it’s little direct relevance to our history so I couldn’t really take in everything and remember who battled who where and when and what it was all about and who lived there in the castle but throughout its history it went from being a grand and modern castle (for its time) to a complete ruin and now back to a wonderfully restored piece of history. Walking through the museum was really great, the rooms restored to how they would have been were really stunning, such simple grandeur.

After exploring the restored museum section we went out into another section left in ruins. Here was my highlight, climbing the tower! We went up and around and up and around the inside of the tower, it’s walls meters thick, crumbling and sprouting a lot of greenery. Right up on top of the tower we had a fantastic view over the landscape, with a view like that it’s pretty clear why they built the tower where they did. Down below a group of people were setting up for a public dance/rave party in the park, so loud dance music was reaching us up on the tower, the afternoon sun was still hammering us but thankfully there was a little breeze to cool us a little. It was quite a bizarre scene, standing on a castle tower in the sweltering sun with dance music pumping below and out over the Latvian countryside.

We came down from the tower and walked through the park before going down to the the river again for another swim. We talked to some of the people setting up for the party, Felix wanted to go but I was very frightened by the sound of it all. We were told there was a nice island in the middle of the river further downstream where we could camp however no rivers were marked on our maps so we could only go looking with the vague directions given to us. We didn’t find the island but have found a beautiful place by the river with a perfect swimming spot. Some young guys told us it is fine to camp here but other older people have told it’s not allowed - but there are many people camping along the rive and spending the evening swimming.
We had dinner and now are going to sleep out, it’s so warm we haven’t even bothered with sleeping bags, we’re just in our clothes laying on our leathers under our mosquito net - the mozzies are thick and ferocious.

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