We are on our way!
We know that many of you thought about us on our first hiking day and we really enjoyed the kind messages we received. As you are certainly very curious about how the first days went, we will advance this post before the one about Tallinn. It deserves a post of its own, which will follow shortly.
If you remember the countdown, we were due to start on May 1 at 7 AM, Estonian time. At 7.03 we were outside of the apartment in Tallinn and crossed the city through its less appealing neighborhoods until the nearest beach to the West – Stroomi Rand. The few people on the street must have thought we were lost when we passed by; fully equipped hikers, colourful backpacks, hiking poles and all.
When you imagine the first day of a year-long adventure, you can’t help but picture blue skies, sunshine and birds singing all around. We have prepared ourselves to enjoy the first day even on a cold, rainy day, birds still in Africa. Fortunately, we did not need to use this mental exercise. The weather was more than kind to us, we enjoyed the beautiful landscape (since Stroomi Beach), and the birds sang us into sleep that day.
Our backpacks are heavy, but we manage; after 10km, shoulders, back and feet start hurting, but we expect our bodies to adjust to this new effort; what we did not expect was the lack of accommodation along our route – at least in the region we are crossing now.
On our first day, we were planning on walking only 10-15 km. After 18 km, close to Kakumäe Beach, we had not passed any place suitable to spend the night and the only store was closed for the holiday. It was still early in the day, so we kept on walking. Soon we realized that the next location with any chance to find something to eat and a place to stay is Tabasalu, about 3 km away. As it happened, a bridge disappeared and we had to make a detour of 2 km!
When we finally reached Tabasalu, we were starving and entered the next roadside restaurant. Did you know there are roadside gourmet restaurants? We didn’t. But we couldn’t walk any further, so we enjoyed fine food in not so fine attire. The meal did not break our bank, but was way more than we had planned on spending on food.
To make up for it, we bought supplies for the next meals in the supermarket next door (open on Sundays and holidays!), and decided (there was not really much of a choice) to set up our tent in the nearby nature reserve Rannamõisa. As the president of the Estonian ramblers association had informed us, camping is allowed everywhere in Estonia, except where it’s explicitly forbidden.
We found a nice spot close to a picnic area and set up camp. By 8.00 PM we were already in our sleeping bags, listening to the birds chirping away until sunset (Moiken was fast asleep long before the concert was over).
We woke up to even more cheerful singing the next morning. Despite the forecast, it has not rained during the night, so we could not test if the the tent is really waterproof, but we were not too sad about this. After breakfast and packing, we were off again to our next destination, Vääna-Jõesu. This place was at 18 km hiking distance and the map showed several accommodation places and a camping site, so that should be an easy one.
It wasn’t. After a sunny start into the day, the temperature dropped and it started to rain. Slowly at first, then it grew more and more intense. At the same rate, we started to gear up. First we added the warm jacket to our layers, then we put up the hood of our rain jackets, a bit later we put the rain cover on our backpacks and finally we wore the rain ponchos on top of everything! That kept our stuff reasonably dry, but did not prevent our trousers from getting soaked and our hands from freezing in the cold rain. During the last kms into Vääna-Jõesu we were not very talkative, both thinking about the big question of the day: Where are we going to sleep tonight?
Just in the entrance to the town, we spotted a camping ground – and they even had huts for rent, a much more appealing idea than setting up our tent in the rain. It looked quite empty, but there was a telephone number at the reception. We called the manager, but all he could say in English was: “My camping is closed.”
Not too far from there was a small roadside café (this time, not gourmet), run by a Russian guy, where we could attend to our most immediate needs: Stay in a dry place, put down our backpacks and enjoy a hot beverage (we ended up ordering two pieces of delicious cake as well, just because we deserved it). Then we tried to solve the accommodation issue by asking the café owner as well as the supermarket staff next door about places to stay in the town. The answer was the same: “nitchevo” (nothing) in Vääna-Jõesu, the next lodging possibility is a spa hotel about 17 km from there.
Spa hotel! 17 km!! We didn’t like the sound of that. We tried everything to find an alternative to that expensive and distant option, but there simply was none. So we took a pragmatic approach: the hotel was located at our next stage. We could take a bus there, sleep in a warm place where we could dry our clothes, use wifi to find out about alternatives for the following day and return to Vääna-Jõesuu to continue hiking where we had stopped.
Getting to Laulasmaa Spa Hotel required some more improvisation, as the bus connection existed on the schedule, but not in real life. Thankfully, Kaia-Liisa and Andres, a very kind Estonian couple, had pity on two dripping hitchhikers with huge backpacks and gave us a ride in their comfortable car straight to the hotel. From then on, the day took a dramatic turn for the better. A nice hot shower, a comfy bed, a room big enough for us to spread out all our wet gear and a good dinner with our lunch supplies. We decided to extend our stay for an additional night, so we didn’t have to worry about a sleeping place after the next day’s hike.
This made our third hiking stage an extremely pleasant one. After a huge breakfast, we took the bus back to
Vääna-Jõesuu and on a sunny day and without backpacks walked the 17 km to Laulasmaa.
Finally, we could really appreciate the gorgeous landscape of the Estonian coast without suburban neighborhoods and without rain. Tranquil pinewood forests, endless beaches of white sand, steep cliffs, gushing rivers, waterfalls, a variety of birds – our favorites are flocks of swans living in the Baltic sea – it’s a pleasure walking here!
We ended the day relaxing in the hotel pool and sauna. Life is good and we are ready for the next surprises of our hiking adventure!