23rd July – 27th July
As has been the case when we have a ferry trip booked, we woke earlier than the alarm. After breakfast Dave put the bikes inside and went to fill and empty on the way to the ferry. The petrol station attendant wasn’t happy for us to take any water which is the first time we have come across this. We did end up finding a tap near the ferry terminal so all was not lost. We arrived at the terminal 1.30 hours before the ferry departure time but so did everyone else by the look of the queue. No dramas boarding the M/S Mariella, one of the Viking line ferries. The journey of 2.45 hours was on very calm seas and we passed several little islands leaving Helsinki. Offloading in Tallinn was a breeze and as for customs, what customs, not a soul to be seen. We drove to the supermarket for drinks and some fruit before making our way to our wildcamp spot at Pikakari rand, one of the main beaches. We had a walk along the beach and was going to continue out to the point however a group of naked men put paid to that! Back to Tilly to grab our beach mats and down to the beach for a couple of hours of people watching. Summers here are very short so there were a lot of locals enjoying the beautiful sunshine. The water is quite flat, so when a ferry goes past and the backwash reaches the shore, everyone runs in the water to have the waves wash over them. As soon as the waves die down, they get back out, it was quite a sight. Sadly we had to move last night due to a group of young people who cranked up the sub woofer at 1am! We only had to drive a short distance to another spot for a peaceful night. Not sure what we will do tomorrow night yet, a thunderstorm has been forecast which should keep folks at home with a bit of luck.
No thunderstorm but we moved to our previous nights spot to ensure a quiet night. Back on the bikes again today for our 6km ride into Tallinn. I can’t honestly say what we expected from this Baltic capital but the main centre is very modern and the old town is the most intact and best preserved medieval town in Northern Europe. 28 turrets are still standing as is part of the old wall. We visited quite a number of the churches with the best one being The Aleksander Nevsky cathedral built in classic orthodox tradition with onion-shaped domes. Normally costing €3 we visited during the Sunday mass for free where the choir was singing in an alcove above the congregation, it was quite moving. The town hall square was bustling with the activity of its market which was selling locally hand made goods, I even sat with an Estonian lady and did some needlework with her! We wandered the cobblestone streets popping into some of the shops to see some stunning silk wall hangings and coloured glassware before having our first meal out since Germany. Back on the bikes for our ride home and off to the beach again for a few hours. Dave had a couple of swims in the Baltic Sea while I soaked up the sun. A most enjoyable day.
A drive of just over 100 kms through scenery reminiscent of Finland had us arriving in Pärnu, a seaside favourite of both Estonians and tourists alike. We drove past the main beach which was extremely crowded on another sunny day. Many restaurants and cafes as well as souvenir shops lined the strip, although we only saw this from a distance due to limited parking opportunities unless you wanted to pay €3.20 per hour!! There are lots of brightly coloured timber houses lining the streets. We drove out to a sea beacon that was recommended as a wildcamp spot and are happily parked up for the night. It is next to a wood pulping plant and there must have been at least a million trees stacked ready for pulping. We sat on the beach for a little while after dipping our tootsies in the ocean and then had a walk along the shore before coming back to Tilly and some shade. We spent the afternoon watching the ocean and the beach goers enjoying themselves, thankfully no nudies here.
A short 20km drive to the Soomaa National Park, 39844 hectares of mires and bogs which began to form after the area became free of glacial ice. Subsiding waters created bodies of water which later turned into mires. Large mires have reached the development stage of bogs and our first stop was the Riisa bog, the smallest one in the national park. 4.8kms in length the raised boardwalk winds through picturesque bog and forests along the river. We saw a lot of peat and sphagnum moss, wild mushrooms, small blue butterflies and a naked man hoping out of one of the bog lakes. Don’t know why we keep coming across nude men, there was nothing about that in the travel brochures! In his defence I don’t think he knew we were coming along the path, his wife stayed in the water until we had passed. We also saw some tiny carnivorous plants and lots of lillies in the bog lakes. Another 8kms along a dirt road, we come to the Soomaa nature centre where we will stay for the night. After lunch we walked along another raised boardwalk, this time the 1.8km beaver trail which winds its way through a shady spruce forest and a forest of birch and ferns. A brook runs through this area and beavers can sometimes be seen, but sadly not today although there is lots of evidence of their presence in beaver dams and trees that have been gnawed. The area is also renowned for its 5th season when rainwater or meltwater runs off into the rivers which can’t accomodate the volume of water. High Spring waters can rise as much as 1 metre per day for three or four days in a row and the floods can last up to a couple of weeks. We completed the beaver walk in a bit of rain, a thunderstorm has again been forecast.
We did get a thunderstorm last night, however only a little one. A couple of claps of thunder and a bit of rain and then it was over. On our departure today from Estonia, driving through lovely little towns with tidy gardens and brightly coloured wooden houses, we stopped at Tolkuse bog, mainly for a bit of exercise. Another forest area with a boardwalk surrounding three large bog lakes. The peat here is 4 metres deep and a Viking ship is buried beneath the bog. As a lot of the area has been used for agriculture, the bog is quite dry in places however the colours of the peat moss were just as bright as yesterday’s. We climbed the lookout tower which gave us a great view over the very flat landscape with the bog and forest on one side and the ocean the other. We crossed the border into Latvia driving through what used to be a border post and was immediately aware of the soviet influence again in some of the buildings. We had a walk around the little village of Salacgrīva where we will stay tonight and are now comfortable in our chairs overlooking the river on what turned out to be another sunny day.