With relaxed muscles and recovered energy, we started our next day of hiking. And a great start it was: The sun was shining bright and we could follow the Pärnu river on a pleasant bicycle path for the first kilometers. After a huge bridge, we crossed the last neighborhoods of Pärnu. The houses became smaller and more scattered and soon we were hiking in the forest. Looking to our right, we could see that we were close to the sea again. A small path was going in that direction – let’s follow it, what could possibly go wrong?
It didn’t take long for us to find out that we were hiking on a golf course! The short grass was actually very nice to walk on and there were no golfers in sight, only a man on his lawn mower. We kept walking and when he was close by, we politely said hello and moved on. Good, no sign of irritation on his side. We left the golf course, which was being prepared for the summer season. Then we continued on a quiet forest path until a river crossed our way and forced us to get back to the main road.
This time, it was not a road with a car coming our way every couple of minutes. We were walking along the Via Baltica, the main connection between the Baltic countries. Every minute, trucks and buses were passing by us. We were not too happy, but bravely walked on. Soon, a small forest path appeared to our left and we could follow it until we reached our destination, after 26 km of hiking.
We had a room in a hostel-style old-fashioned house, run by an Estonian gentleman. Kaido spoke little English, but good German and even a bit Portuguese, as he has worked in Angola for a while. He used to be a professional diver and still keeps his equipment at the place, in a private diving museum. We were too exhausted to go anywhere, so he lit the fireplace in the living room for us to feel comfortable before we went to sleep.
The next morning, day 29 of our hike, Kaido came by to chat a bit more and was quite impressed with our trip. He even called his friend, a journalist from the Pärnu newspaper, to tell him about us.
We went off in direction to the next village. When we almost arrived there, a car stopped in front of us and out came – Kaido! Did we forget anything at the hostel? No, he was going to see his friends, the fishermen, and invited us to join him. Of course we accepted the invitation and soon we found ourselves sitting in a little hut, together with two fishermen and two fisherwomen seeking shelter from the cold wind outside. They started showing us their treasures: two smoking chambers full of shiny silver and golden fish and a ice-filled basin with freshly caught garfish. We were invited to try some of the fish right out of the smoke and it was really great. Pity that we couldn’t take any with us. Kaido left us where he had picked us up and we said goodbye once more.
For the last days in Estonia we had booked all accommodation in advance. We were quite lucky with the (lack of) rain, but it was still pretty cold, so we didn’t want to risk having to sleep outside. Our next sleeping place was in Rannametsa, in a manageable distance of 15 km. When we arrived at the place, the owner was very surprised, as his lodging wasn’t open until mid-June. We insisted that we had called and that they confirmed the reservation, but when we checked the number, we realized that we had called the number of a different place. In the list of accommodations, it was one line below. In real life, it was an additional 7 km further South. When he saw our disappointment, the owner had pity on us and offered to get one of his huts ready for us to spend the night. We managed to cancel our reservation at the other place, so all was good again.
For dinner, we took our food to the nearby beach, where we climbed a birdwatching tower. With a great view of the sea and the birds (they had lent us binoculars!), we had a nice picknick of bread, smoked ham and cabbage salad.
The distance we didn’t walk on the day before, we had to walk on day 30, but we managed the 20 km to Kabli quite well. We could walk on a quiet secondary road parallel to the Via Baltica. That was easy and straight forward, but a bit boring. When we were getting closer to our destination, we saw signs indicating an RMK nature trail along the beach, which we followed. Unfortunately, the trail was quite short and would lead back to the starting point. Once we got to the beach, we were determined not to go back to the road and as the stretch of sand was wide and good to walk on, we just continued straight. At some point, we had to take off our shoes and socks to cross the shallow water until the other end of the bay, but with the sunny weather this was quite a pleasure. It is a good feeling to dip the feet in the water instead of having them stuck in heavy boots. In the end, we had walked 2 km at the beach and were very close to the campsite where we had a hut for the night.
After settling in, we walked back almost the same distance on the road to reach the only shop in the village. But that was already after some rest and without a heavy backpack. We shared our dinner with Martin, a German pensioner who was cycling along the Baltic coast in the opposite direction. It was great chatting with a person with so much energy and curiosity to discover new places the slow way. He gave us a lot of good tips about what to do and see along the route. We only had to keep in mind that a day trip for a cyclist is in 4-5 day distance for a hiker.
Our last day in Estonia had arrived and we were so excited to cross the first border on our trip that we ended up almost running the last 5 km until Ikla, the border town on the Estonian side. Every kilometer, there was a sign counting down the distance until the border, as we were following an RMK long distance trail, crossing Estonia from North to South.
Finally, the border came into sight. Thanks to Schengen, a quite unspectacular place marked by flags, stones and a pole with both country names written on it. Ah, and cameras, as there was no person controlling the border.
Once in Latvia, we took a break on a sunny bench and made our first discovery trip in the country: A huge pier made out of field stones reached far into the sea and we decided to follow it, despite the heavy backpacks. Back on the main road of Ainaži, we could walk on a nice sidewalk and practice our first word in Latvian: Sveiki (hello). When we arrived at the pretty hotel, we were glad we had booked in advance. No, not because it was full. We were the only guests and it looked like they had opened the hotel just for us. There was a shop and a pub just across the street, where we had our first taste of Latvian food. Very good! Curious as we are, we had to try the national liquor – Black Balsam. It tastes… very special. We were missing Vana Tallinn already. Another discovery: More people seem to speak English compared to Estonia. We can hardly wait to get to know this country better!