Saturday, 5 May 2012

On the road at last

Well, here we are on our next journey. Everything went smoothly on the flight to Stockholm, apart from the SAS baggage check-in staff, who couldn't get their heads around the fact that a cycle is a different shape to a suitcase and wont fit through their X-Ray machine.
Google's Street Map did it`s job once more and we found our way effortlessly for the 40k from the airport to our hostel.
It filled the bill as a place to sleep, and was equipped with shared showers and kitchen facilities and several Lithuanians. I perhaps made them wish the Iron Curtain was still intact when I played my ukulele.
Next day we had a look around Stockholm before heading out to the ferry port. It ticked all the boxes for `classic European City` ... impressive churches, elegant waterfront buildings, quaint `old quarter` ... etc, etc ; but somehow there was something missing? (I guess we`re not in Horwich any more Toto!)
The ferry (The Victoria) was large, with comfortable cabins, and being mid-week and out of season, relatively empty. We`d opted for the cheaper 4-person shared cabin (rather than a 2-berth to ourselves), but as it happened we were the only occupants. The Baltic was like a mill-pond and we woke up in Tallinn, relaxed and raring to go!
Overnight, the hot sunny weather we`d enjoyed in Stockholm left us, and it was cold and overcast with a fresh NE wind. (thankfully at our backs). We left the city and covered about 50k out into the sticks and then looked for a place to put our tent. On the outskirts of the tiny village of Hagudi, a few km off the beaten track, I asked at a door if we could put our tent up nearby (in sign language of course, cos even with the phrase written down my pronunciation of Estonian is nothing like how it should sound).

Two old ladies answered the door and insisted that it was too cold for us to camp, and that we should stay inside the house. We were shown a lovely warm room and were glad to take up their offer. In the evening once again I treated the people of the former Eastern Bloc, so long deprived access to modern western culture, to another ukulele recital.
Next day we were up and off by 7.00am. Again it was very cold although by lunch time the sun did come out and the afternoon was very pleasant weatherwise. That was the only pleasant part as we found ourselves battling down a seemingly interminable road through pine forest and open farmland. Heavy lorry after tanker after more trucks hurtled past us on our 0.5m wide cycle lane, for hour after hour. There was nothing for it but to grit our teeth and complete the 112k into Parnu. It was the longest day`s cycling we have done and when we arrived we were pretty well #/(%&)%)ed. The campsite was closed so, with the help of a young woman who I asked for directions, we found a cheap hostel. At only 20Eu for the pair of us, beach-front and with a sea-view it was marvelous.
The lady was friendly and welcoming and so we decided to have 2 nights here and look around the town.
Parnu reminds me of Morecambe. A faded seaside resort that was once, in its heyday, the height of chic, fell into decline, but which is now perhaps on the up again.
So, thats the story so far as `Day 4`. The cycle path follows beside the sea now for the next 150k and we ought to be in Latvia by tomorrow night. (and the sun has come out again ..... :-)

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