Fantastic Four Thousand

By Stephen Ewashkiw | July 12, 2013

4011 km so far.

A walk on the beach of the Baltic Sea is a great way to start the day. The sand is silky soft and a beautiful white and the wind hasn’t yet had a chance to whip up.

beach near the baltic sea latvia

More beach near the Baltic Sea, Liepāja.

I had heard you can go out early and hunt for amber that has washed up onshore over night. I didn’t really believe it. Then, after a few minutes on the beach, there before me was a tiny piece of amber which is now one of the few keepsakes of this trip.

What’s That Smell?

This morning’s campground is just south of Liepāja and has a great garden between the campsite and the sea. It is fully stocked with currants, raspberries, carrots, beans, mint, potatoes, strawberries, and, surprisingly, two marijuana plants. They were unexpected in a campground garden, but there they stood, about 4 feet tall, starting to flower and looking beautiful.

What's in your garden?

What’s in your garden?

Apparently it’s not that unusual here, for as we rode through Liepāja I spotted another tall marijuana plant growing in someone else’s garden right next to the road.

Bunnies, it must be bunnies!

Bunnies, it must be bunnies!

We rode through Liepāja, and it was reminiscent of some of the small rural villages we have cycled through, with old, run-down wooden homes lining the streets, but this was on a much larger scale. The city has around 85,000 inhabitants, but much of town reminded us of the American Wild West, if the Wild West had a tram running through it.

old wooden house latvia

Latvian wooden house, reminiscent of the Old West.

It also had the largest grocery store we have been to in a very long time, so we restocked our food pannier. We now have two kinds of curry paste, rice, rice noodles, and cous cous to keep us going.

We have also been having some difficulty finding the right fuel for our Trangia stove in the Baltics, but today we tracked it down.

It turns out Denatured Alcohol, or Methylated Spirits, are called Denaturētais Spirits in Latvian and Denatureeritud Piiritus in Estonian. We bought them in a giant hardware store called K-Rauta, where it was kept in the paint department (because it is also paint thinner). Now we are also stocked up with camping fuel again. I may have bought a bit too much, grabbing two one litre bottles, but I figured better get it while the getting was good.

When we left the hardware store we accidentally ended up on a closed road. Just after we got off of it, we realised it was closed for an in-progress drag race. Oops. Close call.

It Blows Right Through You

We headed north to Pāvilosta, and the wind blew. The north wind really does howl and growl and roll. It also makes riding fairly difficult. And it never seems to stop. The ride was exhausting. We passed through some incredibly beautiful forests, and for a while we rode alongside the ancient coast of the Baltic Sea (20 km from the current coast), and still the wind blew.

calm lake in latvia

Site our our wind-free lunch break.

Just before Pāvilosta we crossed another milestone. 4,000 km cycled since we began.

Struggling to look happy about 4,000 km as the wind howls around us. (Also, we may have chocolate in our teeth.)

Struggling to look happy about 4,000 km as the wind howls around us. (Also, we may have chocolate in our teeth.)

It is only 16 days since we crossed the 3,000 km mark. The next thousand will go a bit more slowly as we encounter some big cities soon, and I have a few yoga classes on the horizon.

Before we really knew where we were going on this trip, what route we would take, the people we would meet, and the experiences we would have, I was telling people it was “about 4,000 or 5,000 km from Rome to St. Petersburg.” Looks like I estimated right. We won’t break the 5,000 mark before (if) we get to StP.

The campground we had chosen for the night had a sign outside with the subtitle “By The Wind”. The sign did not lie. The last thing we wanted after spending all day riding straight into a headwind was to set our tent up in the wind. Fortunately, Fisherman’s Garden (which may have been Zvejniekadārzs in Latvian), was just across the road and much more sheltered.

It also came complete with a children’s playground, including a pirate ship, made of a real boat!

Yoga Brings Us Together

We did yoga after dinner, and as soon as we started Jane was jumped on, in a very adorable way, by a young girl who wanted to play. Theo, another young child, whose grandfather ran the campground, joined me in doing tree pose and handstand, much to his, and my, amusement and enjoyment.

We have found that Latvians are generally very warm and welcoming. It’s not just the children, either. We had a great conversation with Theo’s mother about the area, growing up here, and her life in Stockholm.

We also met Talis and Liene, the parents of the young girl with whom Jane had been doing yoga. It turns out Talis lived in London at the same time as Jane and I did, and he and I both went to the same college in London, at the same time. We are hoping to see them again when I teach yoga at Saules Joga in Riga next week.

Times like these, when a whole campground feels like a big family coming together, are the ones that keep us going. The more we travel, the more we are reminded that even if we travel 4,000 km, people’s lives, their struggles and their triumphs, their worries and their happiness, are all linked, all one.

Soundtrack: Suede (The London Suede), Suede | Blur, Think Tank | Jane’s iPod on Shuffle  

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