Stuck in 1st Gear


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June 10th 2011
Published: June 10th 2011
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What have I done since I last blogged? Moved on but not all that much and still managed to make it to a new country. You gotta love Europe for its incy wincy distances and new countries every few hundred kilometres.

Ride out of Tartu pretty uneventful. Did meet a Swiss cyclist, Jepp, riding into town as I was riding out. He had ridden from Switzerland in the same time that I had spent in Estonia. And done double the distance. Hmmm. Am glad I'm not cycling with these guys I'm meeting along the way. Actually, what am I saying? There's no way I even could!

I did end up camping that night in a place that also doubles as a nightclub "Life" just near Podha. Luckily, there was no life at the club. Just me. Although the following morning the owner was cruely whippersnippering around my camp area - at 6am!!! Even with ear plugs in it was loud. And then there were the road works. It really was a strange place. But I payed 2 euro so i couldn't really complain. But I did think it was odd that the somewhat dirty bathroom was cleaned AFTER I had had my shower. I would have preferred before.

The next day was spent going into the "mountains". I had a lovely break at Voru in a little restaurant cafe, Kohvik Kateriina to you know, refuel by eating pizza and cake, and then made my way slowly to Suurmagi. At 318m it is the highest "mountain" in the Baltics. OK, no mountain by even our miserly standards, but it was still a pretty hard slog going up and down the hills. Not helped by this 30C temperature. I thought I was in the Baltics not the Balkans.

I spent the evening in a picturesque little town, Rouge, in a guesthouse (but camping) overlooking the lake. I had such a glorious night's sleep helped by the exceptionally spongy, flat ground. Bliss. The only thing that got me up this morning was the relentless sun. It was 7 and already too hot in the tent.

So, just another sunny day in Latvia. Yep, today saw me crossing "the border" which is really an EU sign saying Latvia. I could have told you, without a sign that I was in a different country. OK, so I am riding on a secondary road but in Estonia (I know I shouldn't compare but I can't help it) it would have been relatively smooth, with a hard shoulder and quiet. As soon as I crossed the border it was quiet, yes, but neither was it smooth, nor was there a hard shoulder in sight. Welcome to Latvia.

Actually I tell a lie. The last few kilometres out of Estonia, I was accompanied by the road work trucks. What a nightmare! The road was gravel and tar, so my tyres resembled those similiar to what I had in Turkey. Like a crunchy chocolate bar on wheels. It wasn't fun cycling. Prior to that , climbing out of Rouga, my gear cable went. So I am currently stuck in low gear one (not bad in this hilly terrain but kinda annoying when there's a tailwind and my legs can't go around fast enough...)

I am in a town called, Aluksne staying in a motel, Vejakalns, not far from the city centre. I have to say, crappy as the roads are, the people, in this town anyway, have been extraordinarily welcoming. A young boy, saw me struggling with my map (!!!), asked me in English whether I needed help. He pointed me in the right direction. And then I had a man stop his car, get out and give me directions to where I wanted to go. And the people at the motel are ever so kind and friendly. I'm not saying Estonians aren't but it's been a long time since I had this kind of spontaneous, voluntary assistance. And I am grateful. Me and maps, well, we don't really go together and it's nice when people put me out of my misery.

So plan for tomorrow, get the bike fixed and then following that, move on. Not sure where to but south towards Rezekne.

Thanks Latvia for the warm welcome. I needed it on a day like today. But please, I know you haven't had rain for a while so can you organise to have it not rain on me. Somehow?

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10th June 2011

That was certainly a surprise when I came on here, the first blog I read saying that you are heading towards Rēzekne. You'll be pleased to know that there is forecast a thunderstorm this weekend. I hope you enjoy your time in Latvia, especially in/around Rēzekne.

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