Day 8 – Tallinn to Caleste Campsite (Estonia)
After a quiet night’s sleep and breakfast we were ready, however we had a few errands to do before setting off on the Eurovelo. We shopped for 3 days worth of food, bought an extra gas canister and set about looking for a spanner to tighten our bike stands. This took us a lot longer than we intended. We managed to set off at the very late hour of 12pm. “Better late than never” we say!
We had an excellent tail wind , which meant we were chewing up the km with ease. We briefly stopped at a so called waterfall but unfortunately there was only a trickle of water.After only an hour’s cycling, we stopped for lunch at a viewing point, where two other cyclists were eating. They were from Germany and cycle touring for one week around Estonia. We ate lunch as motorists briefly stopped to admire the views of the surrounding beaches.
The Eurovelo tries to keep things interesting and on this occasion it took us on a little detour off the obvious minor road, towards a little town (name escapes us), there was an interesting Historical church with a large stone in memory of someone a long time ago (Jon seemed particularly interested in this). We kept going, knowing we only had a few kilometres left before reaching Padise.
A couple of kilometres before Padise we noticed a sign for a campsite called ‘Kallaste Taku’, we had also spotted it on Mapsme but were glad to see it confirmed by a road sign.
We had arrived at Padise, which consisted of a local pub and two food shops. We had a refreshing pint of local beer and a sprite (grand total of €3, what a bargain!!). Luckily for us we had just got our drinks before closing time.
We had 1.5km of dirt track leading into the forest before reaching the campsite. We had no idea what to expect and just hoped that they had space. Once there we were impressed straight away. There were two main buildings with showers and a kitchen (bonus!!). The property was well preserved and blended into it’s natural environment with a rustic quaint feel to the place. We paid €14 (ok a bit steep!) but were just happy to rest. We were also informed that there would be a concert later that night and we could attend for a meer €10.It was just across the footbridge over the nearby lake, next to a small, rustic open-air motor museum.We set up our tent ⛺️ in as much shade as possible and showered. Once all freshened up, we ate dinner. We could hear applause coming from the concert and decided to head over. The concert was on all week and was called ‘Kalju Lava’, Mick Pedaja & Angelia were playing tonight. Crossing the footbridge, we were impressed with just how many activities were on offer, from stilt walking, tight rope walking, giant dominoes, trampolining, golf frisbee and so much more. There were also ‘gypsy looking’ barrel shaped wooden buildings, used for accomodation; one even had a sauna!We must have arrived during the half time intermission of the concert, as most people were on the lawn having a go at some activities. We tried the tight rope and failed miserably as well as the stilts (much more difficult than one initially thinks)
A huge fire was also going, two Latvian men asked us for a lighter, Jon bravely lit the cigarette up via the flames and completely impressed the two young Latvian guys. We carried on chatting for a half hour or so, then were informed that they could go into the concert for free and that we should come with them and pretend to know ‘Fred’.
We followed nervously and sat in some very good front row seats, listening to some fantastic vocals and guitar playing. Some of the songs were even in English.We left before the end of the concert as we both couldn’t keep our eyes open (which incidentally is how I feel writing this blog).
Day 9 – Kaleste campsite to wild camp next to beach near Soderby (Estonia)
This was a very full day. The previous evening we had been advised by two drunk but well-meaning young Latvian lads of a nearby tourist attraction. It was 5km back in the opposite direction to where we were heading but their photos looked amazing so we had to check it out. They informed us that the area was known as the underwater prison and is regularly used as a setting for local TV and film.
We got up at 8am, had breakfast and left Kaleste campsite by bike , without panniers, to cycle the 5km to Endime Rummu Vagla, which we now know is a disused Soviet prison, overlooking a large lake and adjacent to towering banks of scree. Before reaching the entrance we first noticed the huge piles of scree from the road, which were signed (we think ironically…as Estonia is flat) as ‘Haapsalu mnt’, 26m in height. They actually did look like miniature mountains.
Further down the road, the entrance to the old prison proper was closed, with G4 security signs and an abundance of barbed wire everywhere but a little further on we could enter a lane, passing a multitude of derelict buildings and cycle to the rear of the prison walls overlooking the lake.From there we could see partially and fully submerged structures in the lake and could also walk/climb the ‘mountain’ overlooking the whole site…A very unusual experience but well worth the side trip if only for the striking photos. I
Returning to our campsite we collected our panniers and set off at shortly after 11am. We had gone no more than a kilometre before we pulled off the road again to explore Padis Mois (manor) or more correctly, the ancient structure adjacent to the manor house, which again served only to emphasise how Estonia is so much a country of contrasting structures. To our astonishment, not only was it possible to enter the impressive building, but you were free to wander throughout, climbing various internal stairwells up to the turret atop the medieval structure overlooking surrounding countryside…All free of charge.
Setting off again we soon spotted a stork”s nest atop a street light and noticed an increase in the number of poppies by the roadside. Shortly afterward we were directed to our first dirt road of the day by the Eurovelo signs. Unfortunately the surface was only recently laid and wasn’t great but it was still far better than those in Patagonia. We forgave Eurovelo slightly when an adult doe bounded across the track in front of us.
Despite a late(ish) start, we made good progress as the wind was generally in our favour. At 2.30pm we found a near perfect lunch spot in a tiny hamlet called Keibu, equipped with table, bench, clock and even a thermometer…we just had to stop.Back on the road we covered the next 10km very swiftly and pulled over just before the village of Nova to look at some large roadside maps and to use a ‘lovely’ WC. On the opposite side of the road our attention was caught by an information sign and the possibility of an ice cream from the cafe. The owner couldn’t have been more excited to see us. The cafe had only opened 2 days before and when she discovered we were from Australia and were cycling to Instanbul she insisted on us signing the visitor book as we were her most ‘exotic’ customers to date. She insisted on filling our water bottles and giving us maps we probably didn’t need. We ate an ice cream or two before saying goodbye and wishing her the very best (another example of Estonian kindness).
Soon after, Eurovelo sent us down another dirt road. This was understandable as it was through some beautiful national park and close to the coast but the surface was not good enough to enjoy the forested scenery as we would have wished. The dirt road continued for approx. 10km before we pulled over by a sign and decided to give ourselves a break by walking 400m to the nearest beach. Reaching it we found the wind quite strong but there were still bikini clad locals basking on the nearby dunes.
Back at the bikes we considered camping next to a perfect spot but it was only 4pm and still a little early. We decided to push only for another half hour or so before finding a wild camp spot.
The dirt road continued for another few kms and much to our relief, eventually gave way to sealed road. By 5pm we started looking for a spot to camp and after exploring one or two promising areas only to establish that they were private, we tried a quiet lane, which eventually led to the waterfront and a secluded area where we could pitch the tent and cook a meal, which included something that looked like cous cous in the packet but tasted very different! We had covered 90km with panniers (some on poor dirt roads) plus 10km in the morning without panniers, so all up it had been a decent days work.
Day 10 – Wild camp next to beach near Soderby to Haapsalu (Estonia)
This was a pretty easy day. We woke up early (for once) and were on the road before 8.30am. The sun continued to shine and the light breeze was assisting.
We had only 30km to go to Haapsalu, where we planned to replenish food supplies and stay in a proper campsite with shower overnight. Thankfully the Eurovelo route did not send us down any dirt roads and the only point of interest was a brief stop at a small windmill.
We rolled into Haapsalu after only 2 hours cycling, grabbed lunch and checked into a campsite, where the owner delighted in getting out the Australian flag just for us.We spent the afternoon at the town castle, which was hosting a rock concert the following day and at the local supermarket trying to figure out what exactly we had eaten for dinner the night before.
Back at the campsite the weather changed and we huddled in the kitchen hoping that the rain would ease off before we had to set off the following day.
Day 11 Haapsalu to Lihula (Estonia)
This was ‘supposed’ to have been a leisurely day’s cycle of approx. 60km from Haapsalu to the ancient town (former Estonia capital) of Lihula, with a maximum elevation of only 20 metres (easy).
We awoke pretty early (for us) and were pleased to see that the overnight rain had stopped and the sun was out. We dismantled most of the tent and left the fly hanging on a washing line to dry whilst we ate breakfast and grabbed a shower. Only when we went in search of the showers did we discover that the shower room was attached to a sauna and a beautiful lounge area. We cursed the fact that we had not spotted the lounge the previous night as we had sheltered from the rain under the eaves of the reception building for 2 hours…Never mind.
We had decided the previous night to give the suggested Eurovelo route via the Islands of Kardla and Kuressaare a miss; as this needed an additional 6 days and with no pressing recommendations we felt we could use 6 days more productively later in the trip. Instead we decided to cycle close to the coast in a vaguely Southerly direction for a day or two and meet the Eurovelo close to Virtusu, where the ferry from Kuressaare disembarks.
With the tent dry, we set off in the morning sunshine at 8.45am following the Eurovelo. The first 45 minutes flew by as we travelled in a Westerly direction from Haapsalu, with a strong South East breeze over our shoulders, stopping only for a photo of a derelict ancient mansion.
However, when we saw the ferry signs on the road ahead it began to dawn on us that we had cocked things up. This was confirmed 2 minutes later when the road ran out at the ferry terminal. We had mistakenly assumed that we were on a coastal route which eventually turned South but had actually cycled 10km down a dead end…bugger!
We reassessed our route and decided to let mapsme direct us South rather than go back on the same main road. This worked in that it kept us on quieter, more scenic roads but also meant that they were occasionally dirt roads of varying quality. They were also generally into what was becoming a strong headwind. After 2 hour’s cycling we had covered 28km but we’re only 8km from our starting point in Haapsalu!
We joined the main road again and cycled peloton style for a few more km to reduce wind resistance. At 12.30 we stopped for lunch in a bus shelter having cycled 48km but only 28km from Haapsalu.
Setting off again we took a photo of a stork mid flight on the roadside ahead of us and managed to avoid the majority of the rain predicted for the day.
Another side road meant that we cycled through beautiful purple strewn fields of lavender.
Vanessa’s preference was to take the longer minor roads in order to avoid the heavier traffic, whilst Jon’s was to do a combination of the two, so as not to take more time due to our earlier unplanned detour. Later on in the day Jon’s suggested route along the main road meant that we unwittingly completely bypassed the Kasari Slid (bridge), which at the time of its construction in 1904, was the longest concrete reinforced bridge in Europe at 308 metres! Immediately he realised his error, Jon pedalled back some 400 metres on the alternative route to take a souvenir photo of the landmark, which is now only accessible by foot or cycle…Crisis averted!
A few dirt tracks later and Mapsme had directed us to Lihula. We were relieved to have got there after an 80k day, most of which was on dirt road and into a headwind. We headed for the quaintest little gallery/tea shop, ordered 2 hot chocolates, a blueberry pavlova and a cup of green tea and relaxed on the couch for a while.
The manager explained that some of the town dated back many hundreds of years and in medieval times, it had been a seaside town but due to either a rise in the land or lowering of the sea level, is now nearly 5km inland despite being only 10 meters above sea level.
We took a half hour to wander the town, which has many ancient buildings including, a church dating from 1243, ruins of a castle from the same era, a mansion and much more. We decided to cook dinner and pitch our tent on what is best described as the castle green at the top end of town. This location, next to a medieval tower, not only gave us a magnificent backdrop of the mansion, castle ruins and an amphitheater for musical events, it gave us uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside. Once the odd local or two had dispersed at around 8pm, we had this amazing area in the evening sunshine all to ourselves…Lucky indeed.Day 12 Lihola – Ermistu Jarv lake (Estonia)
We woke up well rested after our luxurious castle green camp location. Quickly packed up our tent ⛺️ as we didn’t want to be spotted by any early walkers or workers and ate breakfast overlooking the amphitheater and castle ruins (not bad really for a freebie!).
We set off fed and watered (the skies were clear and little to no wind around) towards Varbla (a little town which should take us back onto the Eurovelo 10.
Cycling along the dirt/compacted roads was relatively pleasant, winding through beautiful countryside. We stopped regularly to double and treble check Mapsme, making sure we were heading in the right direction. Still feeling a little wounded from yesterday’s unnecessary diversion.
We thought we were heading to a large bridge with some attractions but it turned out that it didn’t exist. We did however pass some quaint looking churches and buildings along the way. Before we knew it we had reached Varbla town. We stopped to take a quick snap of a Christmas tree
and then decided that as it was 12pm and are stomachs were rumbling, we’d have an early lunch. It also gave us the opportunity to dry the tent fly. We got a little creative with our lunch and had crackers, peanut butter and banana chips. Very delicious!
We had 25km left and were feeling good. We crossed onto the “Romantic coastal route” and were pleased to see a Eurovelo 10 sign. We kept going until reaching Tostamaa (our target for the day). Cycling 60km and finishing by 2pm, we were pretty chuffed with ourselves.
We stopped at the nearest cafe and ordered juices/beers with a added pastry treat. Surfed the net for a while (highlight was adding squirt (Vanessa’s pet toy turtle ? to her mirror stem)) then went on our merry way.
We’d seen on Mapsme that a lake was 2km just out of town and that there was a campsite there too. We followed the signs. Ermistu Jarv lake was incredible. The 9th largest lake in Estonia ! The campsite itself looked fairly new, with showers, kitchen and lots of picnic tables/benches. We paid €10 and pitched our tent. Wondered around the campsite, ate dinner, had a drink (Jon bought a beer , which turned out to be non-alcoholic, bummer!) or two and played cards before bed. A good day had by all.
Day 13 – Ermistu Jarv (lake) to White House Campsite, Uulu (Estonia)
We had left ourselves a little over 40km to cycle before we reached Paarnu (Estonia’s 2nd biggest city and beach ‘hot spot’), which we figured we would reach early afternoon if the weather and roads were kind.
We set off from the beautiful Ermistu lakeside campsite at around 10am, rejoining the Eurovelo on the main road 2km later. The skies were cloudy but it stayed dry.. The wind had dropped but what little there was, was in our favour.
There was little to report for the first 20km, other than the odd windmill and the obligatory ancient kirik (church). By now, despite their impressiveness, even Jon had fatigued at stopping to take photos of each one.
We stopped briefly at a viewing tower in the forest overlooking Lindi raba (bog), shortly before taking a scheduled detour from the Eurovelo recommended sealed main road (which was becoming rather busy with traffic), approx. 1km down a dirt track, to the quieter and more picturesque coastal road, for the remainder of the ride into Parnu.
On this short dirt track the excitement level rose very quickly when we encountered the first 2 unchained and unfenced dogs of our European journey. Vanessa cycled at twice her usual speed as they ran after her barking loudly (although they were pretty small dogs).
The coastal road was a good choice (for the first 10km) delivering quaint properties and charming hamlets with beautiful gardens.
We spotted the perfect campsite overlooking the sea and wished it were later in the day so that we could stop there. We also noticed a very badly parked sports car!
Unfortunately the second half of the coastal road was dirt and not the best surface, which meant a bumpy ride, where we had to concentrate on the road and less savouring the scenery…but at least it was flat and any breeze was with us.
At around 1pm we arrived at an area next to the beach, with a golf course, woodland trails, a viewing platform and a kids tree top adventure park. It also had picnic tables which were perfect for a spot of lunch. Whilst eating we noticed an informatory sign.
Once fed, we jumped back on the bikes and rejoined the Eurovelo into Parnu, stopping at a supermarket to stock up on food for the next 3 days cycling.
We arrived in the city centre at around 3.30pm, by which time the sun had come out, and found a cafe in the pedestrianised centre for a cup of tea, before popping in to tourist info to bag any maps of the Baltic states they had going.
We figured we could cover another 15km or so before setting up camp for the night, set off again on the Eurovelo, which took us through along the beachfront promenade, where we discovered a multitude of sunbathing Estonians, despite the weather struggling to a maximum of 18c..bbbrrrr!
After 5km or so on quiet sealed roads we rejoined the main road, busy with traffic as people returned home after their weekend at the beach (it was Sunday evening) and rode single file for a few km, before tiring of not being able to hear each other talk. We opted for a detour for the last 5km before our chosen campsite in Uulu.
Turning down the side road we spotted some signs and quickly realised we had stumbled upon a summer theme park called ‘Lottemaa’ complete with giant popcorn and miniature village.
Fortunately it was nearly 7pm and the theme park was deserted (other than cleaners) so we snapped a photo or two and moved on.
Twenty minutes later, after some scenic forest roads and the odd wrong turn, we crossed the main road and located our campsite in the village of Uulu, where we parted with the princely sum of €7, pitched our tent, grabbed a shower and cooked the finest meal imaginable…yum!
Day 14 White house campsite – Zvejrieku parks Latvia (free campground)
Heavens poured overnight and luckily for us by morning the skies had cleared. We set about with our regular routine, including drying out the tent fly before heading off on our merry way. Latvia here we come!!
The Eurovelo 10 was routed for the busy highway and after cycling briefly on it the previous day, we decided against this and planned an alternate cycle route. This turned out to be the right decision. The first two thirds of the road was sealed and meandered through countryside, passing well looked after houses and some impressive historic churches. The remainder of the cycle was on dirt track but relatively easy, bar the odd muddy patch here and there.
Crossing the main highway, we knew we could rejoin the Eurovelo 10 on some minor roads. We continued cycling for a further hour or so. Passing a watch tower, a few museums and a town called ‘Krapi’ with a Krapi campsite. This amused Jon immensely!
This section also seemed to have several other cycle tourers, however people don’t seem to want to stop to chat. In Patagonia you would never pass up an opportunity to chat and exchange information with someone going in the opposite direction. Anyway, we both kind of miss this comeradary .
We spotted a shelter and ate lunch, feeling quite relaxed as we only had 9km left until we were in ‘Ikla’ Estonia’s border village to Latvia, and having already covered 40km we felt good.
Cycling towards Latvia, we spotted several free camping spots (which were very tempting but we wanted to at least camp the night in a new country). We stopped briefly to snap a photo of a wooden truck and then cycled on until reaching ‘Ikla’ (a border town in Estonia). Crossing the border consisted only of a Latvian sign, two flags and several maps. Very low key. We snapped some photos then headed into town for a cup of tea and biscuits .
The last section was on a major busy highway but luckily for us a large hard shoulder was available to ride on. We cycled the last remaining 10km before reaching ‘Millera Campsite, enquired about the cost to camp (€14 for two people to pitch a tent). We decided to check out another marked camping place on our map, which was only a dew hundred metres down the road. Jon cycled off to check it out first. On his return, he was pleased that he had made the effort as the alternative camp spot was free, has a camp fire pit, picnic tables and a beaches a few hundred metres away.Excellent spot!!
We cycled off and set up camp as soon as we arrived. Ate dinner and strolled down to the beach watching some impressive clouds roll passed us. All in all, a great leisurely day 🙂