Saturday, 16 August 2014

Out of Estonia

Beach view from my campsite
When I got off the ferry from Muhu at 5.30 pm I was first determined to cycle 30 km to a beach RMK campsite. But the area was so nice that I wondered if I should stay here instead. And then, just by some lucky intuition, I decided to cycle down a dirt road leading to a spit of land. I soon realised that this was a great idea. The area seemed deserted but nice forest right and left - unfortunately most of it fenced in, although the signs said that this was RMK property. I didn't really understand this because RMK means public land. Soon I found an abandoned track leading to the sea and decided that this was home for tonight although it was just 6.30 pm. (I usually cycle till 8.30 pm.) When I set up my tent I encountered an unforeseen obstacle: ants!

They forced me to look around for another campsite - thank God! Because now I found the ideal beach camp site. The vegetation was very dense here but someone had cut "niches" into the thick brush creating grassy flat spots that were on three sides surrounded by low trees and scrub: perfect wind shelter and morning shade. And all this with a view onto the sea.... I don't know why the vegetation had been trimmed like that - and why no one else was there - but I was a very happy camper. At 6 am I was woken by sheep noises - and then it dawned on my sleepy mind what the fences were for. RMK tried to preserve this grassland by keeping sheep. As I hadn't jumped any fences I told myself that the sheep must be on the other side - and fell asleep again.

Cemetery well
Next day I found a village library with wifi and try to figure out where to stay in Pärnu, my next town stop but had to learn that Pärnu is even more expensive than Tallinn. Arriving on a weekend didn't help either. I was still deliberating what to go when the librarian threw me out because she closed the place. No wonder - I had been the only visitor in one hour... Outside I spotted I heavily loaded bike and soon met its owner: the first other long-distance cyclist on this trip who was on the road since February and was headed to the US now. Over two hours we exchanged travel stories and tips until we finally made a move - in opposite directions. My already confused schedule was now screwed up completely. I just cycled on towards Pärnu and thought of staying at a cheap campsite along the road. But when I got there it seemed to be too close to the road for a quiet night. But my backup plan worked great. I turned off the main road onto an alternative bike routes. These are usually a nightmare on gravel. This one was not different but it lead me to an old orthodox cemetery in the forest, an enchanting but somewhat eerie place - especially at dusk. Some candles and lights on graves added to the special "atmosphere". But there was also a well which provided me with the opportunity for a sponge bath and a bit of laundry. I left the dead very refreshed and found a nice campsite in pine forest nearby - although I admit that I wanted to camp away from the cemetery.

My luck continued in the morning. I had decided to continue on the alternative bike route and the gravel road turned out not to be too bad. But the real bonus was that it led me to a quarry lake and a refreshing swim. Therefore I entered Pärnu relatively clean.

I went to the modern art museum first because it stayed open till late and I wanted to store myth bags there while visiting the rest of town. I didn't expect much from the museum except a cheap luggage storage and free internet but was positively surprised by the exhibition: Due to recent political events the museum board had canceled its scheduled exhibition and was now showing Ukranian artists. Without my bags sightseeing was so much easier - I cycled around town, visited the city museum and did some shopping before leaving in the evening. Pärnu was a bit of a zoo in high season. Screaming kids everywhere, fully booked hotels and drivers looking for a parking space. I was glad to leave.....

The fantastic summer weather was finally changing and rain was expected in a couple of days. Therefore my plan was to put in two long days and get into Riga before the bad weather began. The route itself wasn't too nice either: For long stretches I had to cycle either in the main busy highway along the coast or do detours on forest roads. Choose your poison!

After a trip to hell on the main highway out of Pärnu where I felt like cycling for my life and turned off in forest roads mainly to find a quiet campsite. The rest of the route out of Estonia was quite nice along the old coastal road with little traffic. The last quirky event in Estonia was a visit to the brandnew Kapli visitor centre where I found an unusual toilet: there were shelves along the wall with glasses full of different dried animal scat - quite an interesting bathroom decoration....

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