What A Difference A Day Makes

By Jane Mountain | July 15, 2013

4170 km so far.

Despite our best efforts to get out early(ish) again this morning, it just didn’t work. It was after 10 before we left the campground. I think we are physically adjusting to the late summer light here, so we are going to sleep a little later, and not worrying so much about making it to our destination early. Even if we don’t make camp until 7 or 8, we still have hours of daylight left, so what does it matter?

Shortly after 10, we said goodbye to our new Swiss friend, Jean-Yves, who was still packing up his camp, and set out in the general direction of Riga.

camping in talsi latvia

We ended up sharing our space with Jean-Yves. This is the rare moment when he’s not smiling.

Hare And Tortoise

We weren’t sure what our route would be today, since our options were to follow the main highway A10 or get off onto some smaller roads. In The Baltics, you can never be sure if the smaller roads are just dirt and gravel, and we really didn’t want to ride on an unpaved surface for 80 km. But, we thought the A10 might be crazy busy, it being Monday morning and Ventspils being a major port town.

There are great bike trails throughout Ventspils, and they led us right out of the city through the town’s train depot, which was filled with old Russian trains, presumably built during the Soviet era.

old trains on the track in latvia

Train in the yard at Ventspils.

They really knew how to build things that would last.

Once we got on the highway, we were convinced today must be a holiday. There was no traffic. Really none. OK, a car would go by every few minutes, but this was one quiet road. And perfectly paved! With a tailwind!

This minor miracle of a quiet, perfect road with a tailwind has never happened to us before. It was amazing.

The last few days on the bike I’ve been wondering if I am getting sick of the biking life. It has just been so hard, and not enjoyable at all to ride, with the wind and the bad roads, that I thought “Maybe this is the point in the trip when I’ve had enough. Maybe this is the beginning of the end.”

Today erased all those doubts. Under decent conditions, being on the bike, zipping down the highway is just a great joy. Today I didn’t just want to get there, wherever there is, I was already there.

We are bike touring!! Hooray!

We rode for a few hours, thinking we were incredibly fast. As we were going through a little town, we saw a touring cyclist taking a catnap on a bench by the side of the road. We approached and realised it was Jean-Yves. What the? We left camp before him, we took the same route, and yet here he was in front of us on the road.

We were mystified until we identified a small difference in our routes, and remembered that we had stopped for 1/2 an hour at the grocery store. We left him stretching and yawning by the side of the road, sure that he would catch up with us in no time.

Lovely Latvians

We had another glamorous bus-shelter lunch, there being no other decent place to stop. As we were eating, a disheveled woman started stumbling up the road mumbling to herself. I took no notice, until Stephen pointed out that she was probably coming to eat our brains, since she was clearly a zombie. But no, she was just a fairly drunk Latvian woman who talked a blue streak at us before passing by the bus shelter on her way from nowhere to nowhere.

Jean-Yves also passed us during lunch, and stopped for another quick chat before carrying on ahead of us. Would we see him again this evening? Probably.

We finally ended up in Talsi, a town about 80 km from where we’d started. Stephen wanted to press on to another town 40 km further on, but I convinced him that was a bad idea, no matter how fast the road was today.

We stopped at a guesthouse in town and asked to see a room. It was tiny, but quite cute, with a big jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. I was already dreaming of the bath I would have when I asked the price. 65 LVL which is the equivalent of $120! I still don’t know who would pay that out here in the non-touristed middle of Latvia, but I told the owner it was too expensive for us.

touring bikes latvia

Outside the expensive guesthouse in Talsi.

She then proceeded to recommend a cheaper guesthouse in town, tell me how wonderful the owner was, and then phoned her to make sure there was a room there. Amazing.

We have found Latvians to be remarkably friendly and welcoming, and this was a great example of the kind of people they seem to be. Imagine helping out your only competition in town? So nice.

The Hotel Saule is a nice little guesthouse a little closer to our price range. The owner and her young teenaged daughter checked us in as a team, the owner speaking Latvian and the daughter translating. They were amazingly helpful and friendly, spending a lot of time pointing out places to eat in town and telling us about the main attractions.

white tiger lilies

Tiger lilies at Hotel Seule in Talsi.

They were also both strikingly beautiful.

The daughter looked like a stereotypical farmer’s daughter, with her flowery sundress, shiny blonde ponytails, and clear perfect skin. Latvians all around have a Californian look. Blond hair, tanned skin, healthy complexions – but without any of the fake enhancements Californians have these day.

We cooked dinner by a little lake at the bottom of the guesthouse garden, with a view of town in the distance. Cous cous with a side of lentils and carrots. Um, and some fried Haloumi. Have we mentioned how bad we are at being vegan on the road?

After dinner we walked around exploring and found a gorgeous little town, filled with early 20th C wooden buildings, most in need of some love, but very picturesque. People stopped to talk to us and smiled when we walked by. Kitties came out of every nook to mew and play.

lake talsi latvia

The peaceful lake in Talsi.

We even saw two guys riding homemade scooter / bicycle / skateboard contraptions down the only hill in town, spinning around as they took the corner at high speeds. They were also blonde and beautiful, putting us in mind of the early days of Dogtown, when all the California surfer boys were experimenting with homemade skateboards.

cat grafitti in latvia

Kitties were big in Talsi.

As with almost every town we’ve seen on this trip, there is a darker side lurking just a few decades in the past.

We got back to our room a little before dark and sat for a while just appreciating how it felt to be inside, in our own space, with no prying eyes, screaming kids, or drunken adults to disturb us.

Soundtrack: Magnetic Fields, Distortion | The Aislers Set, The Last Match | Sivert Høyem, Ladies And Gentlemen Of The Opposition | Rheostatics, Whale Music  

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Cassie

    Cassie July 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Kitties… sounds like a great town to me :)

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