Estonia: our first Baltic state
Estonia is our first Baltic state and marks the beginning of the westward journey home. It is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe and so we found an abundance of woods to camp in and rarely saw anyone in the evening.
I found my first and so far only waterfall of the holiday in Estonia. I’ve found that the problem with cycling around a sea is that it’s flat and so water tends to slowly move rather than cascade. This makes the rivers less interesting and harder to wild camp, especially in the middle of summer when they dry up.
A good tip for bicycle tourers is to ignore road work signs (within reason!). We were cycling along and saw some signs but decided to carry on anyway, not wanting to subject ourselves to the same detour as cars. A tourer can quickly nip past the workmen before they can blink and avoid going the long way around.
We found that the bridge had been ripped up and that they were in the process of building a new one. Fortunately there was a small pedestrian bridge which we could use. Ignoring the signs saved us a 30 minute detour.
A common sight as we cycled along were stalks beside the road. We enjoyed racing alongside them as they gradually flapped higher. The most I saw at once was seven pecking around in a plowed field.
As mentioned at the beginning, a recurring problem in Estonia is water when wild camping. In an earlier post I introduced the tourers rule that:
‘Touring Tip 3: European churches and graveyards (nearly) always have water’
In Estonia this rule held true, but not quite to the same quality as before. Many churches had boreholes with hand water pumps, some had wells and used a log weight system to fetch the water. Many others had similar medieval well contraptions.
With regard to our recent experiences, I am amending the touring tip to:
‘Touring Tip 3: European churches and graveyards (nearly) always have water, but always carry a way of purifying it’
Carrying purification tablets or simply always boiling water could be a tip in itself but it is so obvious that I think most people would already be aware of it. Water was a constant problem in Estonia, due to the lack of population and infrustructure. We were cycling on a boiling hot day and had run out of water, so we looked at the map and decided to stop at the next house we found. When we got there, it turned out to be an assortment of shacks with a dirty looking pipe running to a hole in the ground. We looked at the map again and decided to carry on to the next one. We got there and found a young woman in the garden with two children running around. We communicated by waving our water bottles and she looked thoroughly puzzled, but eventually understood and pointed at her well.
We went up to it and found it was our turn to be puzzled, it had a waterpump attached to a pipe leading to the house which we didn’t want to touch. She saw our confusion and came over and dropped the iron bucked in. We then pulled it up and used it to fill our bottles. We purified the water to be on the safe side.
On one of the evenings wild camping was impossible due to lack of water, so we stopped at RMK Lemme campground near Majaka. At reception we queued behind a caravan tourer trying to check in using Google translate, the old woman was having none of it though and in the end he gave up. He came over and spoke to us and said he thinks tents are free to pitch. We looked it up and discovered that Estonia does have legal wild camping spots in the woods, consisting of a water tap and dry toilets. Motor vehicles are charged €3 entry but bicycles/tents are free. This website has some interesting information about camping in the Baltic States which is useful if you ever plan to visit: Riga Bike Tours.
At the free campsite we met caravaners doing the exact same route as us, only in a lot less time! They told us about visiting Kaali järv Craters, a series of eight meteor craters on an island in the Baltic Sea. In the evening we swam in the sea and then had a beautiful sunset, the clouds are the remnant of a freak rain shower that lasted 5 minutes and drenched us during supper.
At Ikla, the border town to Latvia I spotted a cabin hidden amongst the trees. It’s not any kind of tourist attraction but simply someone’s house that has long since been abandoned and taken over by nature.
From Ikla we cycled on into Latvia, where the expedition took a turn for the worse…
The cycle tour so far:
England – Cornwall to Wales
Ireland – Winding Westwards
Ireland – Starting the Wild Atlantic Way
Ireland – The Wild Atlantic
Ireland – Causeway Coastal Route
England – Stopover in the Peaks
Netherlands – Bicycle touring through the Netherlands
Germany – Hamburg and Lubeck
Denmark – Reaching the Baltic Sea
Denmark – Exploring Copenhagen
Sweden – Cycling Southern Sweden
Sweden – Destination: Gotland
Sweden – Cycling to Stockholm
Finland – Åland Islands and the Archipelago Sea
Finland – The King’s Road
Estonia – Our first Baltic state