Living La Vida Latvia

By Jane Mountain | July 11, 2013

3945 km so far.

First, note the distance above. Almost 4,000 km. That seems like a lot to me!

Then look at a few pictures from last night’s camping.

tents in the forest latvia

Tents sprung up like mushrooms in the night.

No Room Of One’s Own

This morning we continued along the bike path we’ve been following since we got to the Baltic Sea. It’s a great little route, nicely paved, running through the pine forests along the beach. A huge improvement on highways or nasty gravel roads. The only problem is, the path is very popular, so there are sections where the ride becomes Touring Cyclist: The Video Game.

Dodge the beach babes: 30 points. Avoid the baby stroller: 55 points. Don’t run over the tiny fluffy dog: 70 points.

Truth be told, Stephen and I are suffering a little from overexposure to our fellow humans. A side-effect of camping every night is that we lose any semblance of privacy, since we are sharing facilities with lots of other people every night. Only our tent shelters us from peering eyes, but nothing can keep out the sound of other people all around.

Hanging Around Town

First thing this morning, we headed into Palanga, which we had been lead to believe is a tacky tourist beach town, for supplies. We thought it would be a quick trip, until we discovered that it is actually quite a pretty beachside town, with a newly refurbished main drag. We found a modern coffee shop and stopped for fancy coffees and pastries.

After coffee, we wanted to make a quick stop at the grocery store. But instead, we got caught in a massive crowd. As we tried to ride down the street, about 10 rally cars went by us and we momentarily became part of the rally car parade as they drove to their starting line. They were about to set off on a 1000 km race. Sounds like a pretty short distance to go in a car!

Town centre, Palanga.

Town centre, Palanga.

For the last few days, we have been searching for fuel for our camping stove. It uses denatured alcohol or methylated spirits, which so far has been very easy to come by. Not so in the Baltics. We stopped by a few Apotekas (drug stores) but to no avail. No one seems to sell what we need.

After spending too much time in town, we set off again. The bike path led us across a very narrow and crowded pedestrian bridge that was barely wide enough for our bikes. Eastern / Baltic Europeans are MUCH pushier than we are used to, so we got shoved around a bit as we tried to make our way across.

Staring Contest

The combination of the crowds and waiting too long for lunch had us both grumpy as we sat on a bench in a town just before the border to make our lunch. This town was filled with the less well heeled beach crowds, and they lumbered past us as we prepared our picnic. Each person who passed by stared at us as though we had three heads. We came up with three possible explanations for this overabundance of staring:

  • They had never seen anyone have a picnic before.
  • They had never seen sandwiches before.
  • We are far better looking than we realised.

We found the only way to combat the stares is to stare right back. This usually gets even the most persistent starers to look away.

Stop staring!!

Stop staring!!

After what seemed like a long day already, we finally crossed the border. Lithuania to Latvia. Not expecting much change.

border between latvia and lithuania

The disused crossing from Latvia to Lithuania, with John the touring cyclist.

We stopped at the disused crossing for a pee break, and while we were getting ready to move on, two cyclists rode up.

I Can’t Stand The Rain

They were Nic and John, British cyclists who have been on the road about a month. Their route is taking them from London to Moscow, then across Siberia and into China. At some point they’ll take a train in China and then set off through South East Asia. The kicker is, they’re trying to see how far they can get on £1,000 each, so they are free camping every night and eating cheap.

I love this idea, because it proves that you don’t have to be rich to take a grand bicycle tour. Then again, Stephen and I could probably not hack the trip without our fancy coffees and a few nights in a hotel here and there.

We stopped in the first town across the border to get cash and continue our search for fuel. As we were shopping, the rain came, fast and hard. We watching through the market windows as it poured down and briefly considered waiting it out. Instead we decided we could outrun it. After about 20 minutes of pedalling as hard as we could, we succeeded. We had just enough time to dry off in the hot sun and wind before we arrived at the campsite.

Dinner was one-pot spaghetti, made using a substitute fuel (a canister of Ethanol Gel, Trangia fans) and borrowing the electric kettle carried by some Polish cycle tourists we met at the campsite.

This campground is really cute and right on the sea. It is a little overrun by mosquitos and very overrun by children. All the Latvians are on holiday this month, and camping is definitely a family activity here. Every campsite we’ve been in has its own adventure playground – this one boasts two trampolines and a zipline.

It is past 11pm and we are in bed. Once again we’ll be falling asleep to the sound of children playing all around us.  

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