After the urban life of Rīga, we slowly returned to the calm and serenity of the seaside with its endless beaches lined by green pine forests. During eight days, we were following the coastline between lively Jūrmala and quiet Cape Kolka, where the waters of the Gulf of Rīga meet those of the Baltic Sea. We could walk most of the time on the beach and if we had to change to a road, it was usually a secondary one with very little traffic. We rarely met anybody during the hiking day; kilometers of beautiful sand beaches all to ourselves!
On day 43 we were back on the road again, full of energy from the rest days in Rīga. Our destination was Jūrmala, which brings a frown to the face of many local people: too posh, too glitzy, too Russian. On the other hand, it’s the closest beach to Rīga and very well connected by train and – as we were about to discover – by an excellent bicycle trail, so we suppose Rīga dwellers go there anyway. We left town crossing the Daugava river on a huge bridge and walking through peaceful suburbs.
The sign at the bicycle trail we wanted to follow made us hopeful: “Jūrmala 16 km”. Funny, our GPS indicated a distance of 23 km to the center of Jūrmala. The solution to this difference was the beach. The town boasts a 26 km long beach, and after the indicated distance one would only reach the easternmost part of the municipality. We wanted to go West and were hoping to reach more or less the middle of the beach, where the camping grounds are located.
Once we were at the coast of Jūrmala, we immediately got caught by the beach atmosphere. It was a sunny and warm day and a long stretch of wonderful white compact sand was in front of us.
So we took off shoes and socks and continued our hike barefoot on the beach (with a refreshment and a lunch break at two of the numerous beach bars). That was all very nice and beautiful, but we learned a lesson that day: For long distances (we walked about 6 km on the beach), walking barefoot is not a good idea – our soles hurt like crazy at the end of the day.
The next day, we still had 12 km to walk on Jūrmala beach – this time with our shoes on. The sand was as white and beautiful and good to walk on (even to cycle) as in the central part, but now there were almost no people around. The weather was a bit cloudy, but still very warm, so we decided to take our first bath in the Baltic Sea. It was very refreshing and gave us new energy to take the trail up North.
The whole coastline up to Cape Kolka is dotted with little fishing villages and whenever we were walking on the road, we saw stalls selling smoked fish. When we were close to the village where we wanted to stay (since Rīga, we were not booking in advance anymore), we bought a nice piece of smoked fish for our dinner and followed the next “Camping” sign. The place we found was next to the sea, had a trailer selling beer and snacks and was very cheap. On the downside, there were no showers, only a dry toilet in a sad state and quite a lot of small flying animals. We took a second bath in the Baltic to cool down, set up our tent and had dinner. The camping was ok, but why do we have to pay for a place that doesn’t offer more than a picknick site? The answer came at night, when we were just about to fall asleep: Two groups of Russians camping left and right from us started a battle of their sound systems playing their favorite songs. The group that lost the battle took revenge the next morning REALLY early and played their choice of songs once again. So we got our money’s worth; try finding that at a picknick site!
Understandably, we were in desperate need of coffee the next day. The trailer wasn’t open at the time we left and we ended up having to walk about two hours until the next kafejnīca (café). After that, we felt a bit better, but the lack of sleep and the warm and sticky weather didn’t help to recover our energy. Finally, it started to rain a bit and while we were considering whether to take out the rain gear or not, the rain became more intense. We put on the rain protection and the capes and as soon as we were all set, it stopped raining and the sun came out. Walking with a rain cape flapping around you really only makes sense when it’s pouring, so we stopped once more to store everything in the backpacks.
With our mood pretty low at that point, we were quite relieved to see a guesthouse sign on the road. We went inside and they had cozy rooms in a house with shower and kitchen for a very reasonable price. Even better, there was a veikals (shop) nearby, so we could get everything we needed for dinner, breakfast and the next day.
It had been quite stormy during the night (lucky we slept inside a building), but the following day – number 46 of our trip – started warm and sunny, without the humidity of the day before. We soon found our way back to the beach, where we walked most of the time. Around lunchtime, there was some movement on the until then solitary beach and the path lead to an camping area. To our delight, the camping had a public restaurant, which meant we could have a warm lunch and some time to relax before moving on.
After the break, we had enough energy to make a total of 27 km walk until the next town, Mērsrags. The town had a yacht harbour with a pretty and affordable guesthouse, where we could spend the night.
There was no breakfast in the guesthouse, but we had discovered an ednīca (canteen) in the center of Mērsrags, which opened early enough to serve coffee before we would leave for our hike. We entered and asked the nice lady in English for “breakfast”. She didn’t ask any questions and turned around to her kitchen. A few minutes later, we were sitting on front of two cups of coffee (Turkish style; the one which requires patience until the ground coffee has set) and two huge omelets with bacon, cheese and vegetables = Latvian breakfast.
It was a beautiful day, a pleasure to walk at the beach and admire the ever changing clouds, waves and landscape. However, the amount of kilometers we had walked since Rīga had taken their toll on our legs – we needed a rest! We did some extra effort to make it to a town with accommodation. Once again, we were lucky: The first guesthouse on our way turned out to be a really good choice. We got a comfortable room and the guesthouse, which usually caters for bigger groups, had a professional kitchen, a cozy living room and a spacious garden which we could use. On top of it, they had heated up the sauna on the day we arrived and we could use it for free!
Day 48 was our rest day and we went out to explore the small town of Kaltene. It didn’t take us long, but we found a small shop, so we could buy everything we needed for a lazy day in the guesthouse. Is there a better way to spend a cloudy day?
With our energies renewed, we continued on our way up North. We did a bit of road hiking until the next bigger town, where we could have lunch and do our shopping for the day. In that town, Roja, we met the first hiker since we started walking in Tallinn! A young Australian living in Scotland who had just decided to hike from Cape Kolka down to Rīga. “So when did you start in Kolka?” “This morning.” We were impressed. He had walked a distance of 33 kilometers already, and it was only midday! We were planning on getting there the next day.
We had a beautiful afternoon hike on the beach and it only started raining when we arrived at Pūrciems, where we wanted to spend the night. We rented a small wooden hut and listened to the wind and rain already in our warm sleeping bags.
Day 50 was the day we made it to Kolka! Most of the time it was nice and sunny, but walking at the coast has this disadvantage: We see so much of the sky that depending on which part we are looking at, there can be threatening dark grey clouds or no clouds at all. At the same time that we enjoyed the sunshine, we were already calculating how long it would take for the dark clouds to release the rain.
It was at one of those moments that we arrived at a charming café on a camping site, looking forward to a coffee break. When we saw the menu, we were ready to change it into a lunch break, but to our disappointment, the kitchen was closed on that day. While there were tempting smells coming from inside (they were preparing lunch for a youth group), we had to make do with a cup of coffee. On the positive side, we had a comfortable place to watch the rain and could continue our hike at the beach when it was dry again.
We were not as lucky when the rain came down a second time – at least we were wearing our rain gear – but by then we were already approaching Kolka. The village, that is, because Cape Kolka (Kolkarags) was an additional 3 km further North. We ended up staying in the hotel, where we initially sat down just to have a late lunch, so we had a place to put up our feet and watch the rain and the clouds.
Later that evening we convinced ourselves to get out of the hotel room and go for a walk. Kolka village had nothing much to offer besides the hotel and two supermarkets, so we walked on until Kolkarags. Lucky us! The clouds started to disappear and we could enjoy a beautiful sunset at this incredible place. The point where the waves of the Baltic Sea and Rīga Bay meet is spectacular and the view is so open and wide that you think you are at the prow of a ship. If one would spend the day at Cape Kolka, one would see the sunrise on the Rīga Bay and the sunset in the Baltic Sea.
Enjoy the impressions of this evening!