In this post, we want to take you with us to the beach. More precisely, to the Latvian coastline of the Baltic Sea between Miķeļtornis and Pape, as this is where we spent twelve days, from day 56 to day 67. Being at and around the beach for such a long time is a real privilege. The coast just never gets boring: Soft dunes, high cliffs, forests and rivers to our left; almost motionless water, tiny ripples or powerful waves to our right; clear blue sky, fluffy white or huge grey clouds above us; and all kind of birds around us. Underneath our feet, the sand was constantly changing; we were quite happy when it was compact on a wide beach, but we also had hard times walking on wobbly stones, soft sand or narrow strips of walkable sand – you have to jump to avoid getting your feet wet. We didn’t have any issues with rivers cutting our way this time – either the rivers were shallow enough to cross or there was a bridge nearby. Every once in a while we had to or chose to walk on forest trails parallel to the coast, but after a bit we always ended up returning to the beach, as if it was drawing us back by an invisible hand.
There was not only natural beauty around us, however. That particular part of the Latvian coastline used to be heavily guarded by Soviet troops, and at regular intervals, we spotted rusty observation towers and ruins of Soviet army buildings. We were told that the main task of the soldiers stationed there was to rake the sand every day, summer and winter, to be able to trace the footsteps in case anybody tried to escape. Those days are long over and now you see fishermen in their tiny boats, people going for a stroll or a swim and amber hunters. We tried to find amber during our walk as well, but every time we picked up something that looked like amber, it was a caramel-coloured ordinary stone and as it is not so easy to bend with a heavy backpack, we soon gave up looking for it.
After some cloudy and rather cool days around Midsummer, meteorological summer had finally arrived to the Baltics with temperatures up to 30 and almost non-stop sunshine. Yes, we know there has been a heat wave in Central and Southern Europe and you are not really impressed by anything lower than 45 degrees – but it was a great feeling to hike in shorts and t-shirt and to go for a dip in the Baltic Sea when we felt like it.
In this part of the trip, we had no problem finding a shop or accommodation when needed, but we still stayed in some special places. In Užava, we camped in the wild for the first time, and were rewarded with an amazing sunset.
The next day, we started with a refreshing bath in the Baltic Sea. We couldn’t leave the region without visiting the Užava brewery. Since our arrival in Latvia, their beer was praised by locals as the best in the country. We got there around noon, so our lunch that day was a bottle of beer each with crunchy garlic bread. It felt like a great idea while we were sitting, but we were a bit wobbly when we moved on.
We planned on hiking all the way to Jūrkalne on that day, but to cover a distance of 34 km was a bit too ambitious. Just at the point where we couldn’t walk any further, a camping site appeared out of nowhere and it even had free huts. Even the lack of a proper toilet, running water and a shower didn’t made us change our mind, we were just happy we could stay there.
Our hiking life is full of contrasts. The next day, we walked the remaining bit until Jūrkalne village. We stayed always on the beach, with impressive cliffs rising up to our left, until a huge ladder led up to the village. We found a boutique hotel for the same price as the hut on the night before, had a nice lunch and relaxed in our comfortable room.
To get to Liepāja, where we spent two rest days with perfect beach weather, we had a really long hiking day; 30 km with high temperatures and permanent sunshine. In order to make it, we established a new hiking routine: walk two hours – beach break – walk two hours – beach break – final stretch until we reached the destination.
The last bit until Liepāja was quite fascinating: North of the harbour, there are remnants of a huge defense system built by czarist Russia at the end of the 19th century. Massive concrete blocks are slowly crumbling by the impact of wind and water and are now part of the beach, with people sunbathing in between them. The curious thing is, the Northern Forts have never been used by the military.
We had booked a hostel in Liepāja, which is the summer branch of our hostel in Rīga and it definitely had a relaxed holiday atmosphere. For the first time, we would be sharing a 4 bed room, but for some reason our prospective roommates never arrived, so we had the room to ourselves. Liepāja is an elegant and at the same time laid back coastal town with a very vibrant and fun beach life, so we enjoyed our rest days a lot!
The day we left Liepāja was the hottest day so far. It was a Sunday and the beaches were full of happy Latvians enjoying the nice weather. They watched incredulously as two hikers with heavy backpacks were passing in front of them. We had our beach breaks as well, of course, and for those one or two hours we were just two more people on the beach, wearing shorts and bikini. When we were in hiking mode again, we passed a group of young people and one woman actually approached us and asked about our hike. She offered us delicious cool strawberries, which lifted our spirits for the rest of the day.
The next morning, dark clouds were building up and the temperature dropped considerably. We had slept in our tent on a campsite and fortunately were ready to leave when the first drops fell. By the time the rain became really strong, we were close to a community center where we could wait. During the whole day, the rain didn’t stop, and strong headwind as well as a stony beach were making our hike really hard. We were happy when we finally saw the lighthouse of Pape – of course it still took a while until we reached the village – and followed a guesthouse sign at the beach. The friendly gentleman who spoke English immediately called his mother, who was in charge of the guesthouse, and yes, they had a room for us for the night. But no, there was no shop in the village (our provisions consisted of some cookies and chocolate). A bit later, the friendly gentleman knocked on our door and brought two plates with wonderful cheese toasts! We should be really hungry after hiking the whole day, he had rightly assumed. With full bellies, our clothes drying in the room and our shoes in a sunny spot in the garden – the sun had decided to return to finish the day on a positive note – we walked to the beach in front of the house. The sea was very powerful and the scenery just gorgeous:
We returned to the house and had a nice long chat with another family member. We discovered that they were Lithuanians owning a house in Latvia. An excellent start into the Lithuanian part of our hike!
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