The long way to… could be the title of many of our posts. As we try to stay as close to the coastline and as far away from the main roads as possible, we often walk a much longer distance from A to B than the direct way. This was true for the week in which we hiked 128 km from Virtsu, where the ferry from Muhu arrives, to Pärnu, the fourth biggest town in Estonia. Had we hiked the direct way of 66 km, we would have arrived in 3 days. But then we wouldn’t have as many stories to tell you as we have now.
It was a sunny and windless day, the 20th of our hike, when we took the ferry back to the mainland. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast on the ship and after some grocery shopping in Virtsu, we were ready to continue our way South. There was a certain déjà vu when we passed a run down train station and followed the hiking trail in a straight line. We left the train line/hiking trail after a few km and crossed a birch forest, then green fields. For our lunch and recovery break, we found a bench at a nicely restored windmill. We were not too worried that it belonged to a holiday park. There were hardly any people and the only guests greeted us in a friendly way and left.
In the afternoon, we were approaching our accommodation for the night. As it was located at the coast, we had to walk about 2 km from the main road – the longest 2 km of the day. We must have been good kids, because the opposite of the day before happened: We received an upgrade! As there were no other guests, they didn’t want to heat the main house, where we had booked a room, and gave us the captain’s lodge instead. Imagine a spacious fully equipped wooden house right at the shore, with a small private beach. Add a sauna to it, now you have our sleeping place. Guess what we did that evening? We heated up our own sauna and cooled down in the calm waters of the bay!
On day 21, we were lucky with the weather and our route: We started hiking on the main road for about an hour, and our GPS indicated we had to stay on this road until the end, as there was no continuing secondary road. When we took a break, José stopped a car passing by and asked the driver for directions. It was the lady delivering the mail and she knew all about the hidden ways in the area! We could stay on calm dirt roads until we reached our hotel. Actually, the place was called “Motel”, but instead of shabby rooms and grumpy attendants, we found a friendly and light building right at the shore. We enjoyed a tasty dinner of wild boar meatballs and ended the day watching the beautiful sunset on our private terrace.
The next day, we started hiking right after breakfast. On the map, we had found an RMK campfire site at a convenient distance and the hotel attendant encouraged us to go there as it is a very pretty place, close to a river. That’s where we would spend the night! About 2 km away from the hotel, José noticed that he didn’t have his wallet on him. There was no other solution, he had to return to the hotel while Moiken went to the next kauplus to do some shopping. Fortunately, he came back with the wallet, but this little detour added 4 km to the daily distance.
We continued to the campfire site and even had beer and sausages with us for a nice barbecue in the woods. The place was indeed perfect; protected by the trees and close to a small stream, an iron barbecue place and firewood ready for our lunch. There was only one problem: Camping was explicitly forbidden. We even thought about ignoring the sign, as nobody would see us anyway. However, the reason for the prohibition was that the soil was too fragile for tents, and we didn’t want to be the ones destroying this beautiful place.
Plan B was to enjoy our barbecue and get some rest, before we hiked further to search for a lodging place. Fortunately, days are very long at this time of the year, because it was already 6 PM when we started. We passed huge meadows on our way, the only other living beings were the birds around us and a deer, running away as it noticed us. We finally arrived at a guesthouse, but it hadn’t opened yet, there was not even anyone around who we could ask to at least camp there.
Now we were in search of any place to put up our tent. While we were wondering where this could be, we walked by a huge family home. As usual, we greeted the inhabitants and as the reply sounded very friendly, José approached the lady: “Excuse me, do you know a place where we could stay tonight?” She asked us to come in and called another lady who could speak English.
Half an hour later, we were sitting in their visitors’ house, hot tea and dinner in front of us! Mrs. Hansen and her mother-in-law would not have us sleep in our tent, that would be much too cold. Instead, they lit the fireplace in the visitors’ house, prepared the beds and made sure we would not go to sleep hungry. As it was a nice evening, Mrs. Hansen took us for a walk to the beach, offering each of us a glass of red wine to enjoy while watching the sunset. Moiken could chat a bit with her in Russian, but her limited vocabulary was not enough to explain the nice lady our crazy idea of walking through Europe during one year.
We went to sleep very happy with this proof of the kindness of people and how a difficult situation can turn into a beautiful experience.
We would have liked to stay a bit more with this nice family, but we wanted to reach the next town before the announced rain, to be able to have our lunch break in a dry and warm place.
We managed to be in Tõstamaa just when the rain started, and the restaurant we found was so cozy that we ended up spending about 4 hours there having lunch, coffee and chatting with the nice ladies who ran the place. We still had about 10 km to walk to our sleeping place, where we were being expected, so we finally had to leave.
We decided to follow a small path marked on the map instead of taking the direct main road. After 2 km, the path ended at a small stream which we couldn’t cross by any means, so we ended up having to walk back the whole way. One hour walk for nothing because of our failed attempt to avoid the main road. When we finally arrived, we were very tired, so we were ok with the tiny hut. Outside toilet and shower – no problem. Price is pretty high for the standard – yes, but there is breakfast. We even called the owner to extend our stay in the “Flower Camp”, so we could have a rest day the next day. On the count of three, Moiken was sound asleep.
José wasn’t. As soon as we had turned off the light, he heard a faint scratching noise. It didn’t come from inside the hut, but it sounded as if this could change pretty soon. No need to mention he couldn’t close an eye that night.
Moiken woke up to the same noise, so at breakfast (served in the kitchen used by the employee taking care of the camp), we decided to leave for another place. There was a lodging not too far from there, where we booked a place before cancelling our extension, packing up and leaving as fast as we could.
So we split our “rest day” in two. Day 24 was a 9 km hike to our new lodging, which turned out to be an excellent decision. We stayed in a nice, clean and spacious room with private bathroom and shower, enjoyed a delicious home cooked dinner and even could do our laundry at no extra charge.
The following day was a 12 km hike in sunny and warm weather, on which we reached the Pärnu Bay. Here, a secondary road followed the coastline all the way, but it was not until we reached the small fishing port of Lindi, where we would spend the night, that we saw the sea again. Lindi Sadam (Lindi Port) didn’t have any special attractions other than it’s seaside location, but it had a kauplus, so we didn’t have to carry our groceries for long – meaning we could have a beer in the evening! As our room had a fully equipped kitchen next door, José prepared a tasty dinner of chicken with mixed salad for us.
On day 26 we were back to our regular 20+ km hikes, but we advanced pretty quickly, as we were finally approaching Pärnu! (Remember: City = restaurants, cafés, supermarkets, entertainment…) We would be staying in the home of a Couchsurfing host, so we were curious how it was going to be this time.
The trail was easy to follow and we were close to the coast most of the time. Actually, it was one of the nicest trails so far, losing some points only for the dusty road (fortunately, there were very few vehicles coming our way) and the horseflies. We found a scenic picnic place for our lunch break and then continued on to Pärnu. The weather had changed in the afternoon and we were fully equipped with backpack cover and rain poncho, when we reached the first neighborhood of the city. Streets lined with one-storey wooden houses made for a very nice entry.
We were about two hours early when we reached our host’s place, in walking distance from the city center. Fortunately, he lives two minutes away from a bakery, so there was no doubt where we would be waiting for him. Urmas picked us up in the bakery, and we went to drop off our backpacks at his place. He rents a nicely renovated studio in a building from Soviet times (not renovated at all; you feel like stepping back in time when entering the building and returning to 2015 when opening the door to Urmas’ apartment). Out of the dinner options in Pärnu, we decided to try the best pizza in the world (!), which was really delicious. As we had so much to talk about, we moved to a craft beer bar afterwards, where we tried many different local and international beers. When we got back to his place, we ended a great night out with a glass of French cognac.
Urmas had to get up early the next day to go to work; both of us were quite happy that we could sleep a bit more to cure the hangover. Pärnu is a popular destination in Summer because of its endless sand beach, and all year round because of its spa treatments. It was a bit too cold for the former, but the latter evoked good memories of Haapsalu. So we called up the local spa hotel to book a massage (mud bath was vetoed by one of us and our shoulders and backs were badly in need of a more localized treatment).
We had the rest of the morning to explore Pärnu and wandered around the old town with its pretty turn-of-the-century buildings and beautiful parks. Not surprisingly, the attraction we headed to was the old market. We just love market halls! Well, that one was a bit of a disappointment: It was not really old – unless you consider 40 years old (with which we could never agree, of course) – and 80% of the shops were selling – clothes. We were on a mission to find something nice to prepare for dinner and José ended up discovering a butcher where he bought a good piece of pork chops. For the other ingredients, we went to a supermarket.
Then it was back to the apartment to start the preparations for José’s special that night: pork chops stuffed with plums, roasted with baby potatoes. We ended up having to hurry to the spa hotel to make it in time for our appointment, because it was much further away than we thought. The massage was worth it, though, and our muscles said thank you. When we returned to Urmas’ apartment, we discovered that we had walked 11 km that day – on a rest day!
We finished dinner preparations, which was great fun in a bachelor’s kitchen, and enjoyed the lovely meal accompanied by a bottle of red wine together with our host. Moiken was in charge of dessert, an easy task given that Urmas liked Vana Tallinn and had never tried the ice cream. Now it was time to say goodbye to Urmas and Pärnu; in a few days, we would be crossing the first border of our hike!