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Tour "Around The Baltic Sea" report - Report 4; 25/7/06 – 29/7/06 (Saaremaa & Hiiumaa) (2006)
Robert Laing (Szkocki Bob)

The last report ended with the group crossing by ferry from Ventspils in Latvia to the island of Saaremaa in Estonia, our seventh country visited so far. The ferry crossing included another amber throwing ceremony into the sea to add to those held in every country so far.

Weather on the islands has been changeable. Brilliant blue skies continue but alternates with showers and squalls and the wind seems to blow from every direction.

The roads on the islands are a complete contrast to those on the mainland. Here there is very little traffic and what traffic there is passes very wide and carefully on the asphalt roads. However there are lots of gravel roads with large clouds of dust every time a car passes. And the surface is often very rutted like cycling over corrugated sheeting with the result that some bikes are beginning to fall apart. This is keeping Peter very busy; who does his best to repair them but some need the bicycle shop.

On our first night in Estonia we had a visit from Rein Epic who is Mr Cycleway of Estonia. Rein has been involved in all aspects of organising the cycle network in Estonia and gave us a talk about the route and the conditions we might expect. This was followed by a DVD about cycling in Estonia which in turn was followed by a sausage and potato BBQ with the customary BAV (Beer And Vodka). Rein also distributed free copies of a very comprehensive booklet of cycle routes with maps and useful info about what to see and facilities available.

Our second day on Saaremaa was a rest day – time exchange useful hints and tips like how to wash clothes BalticCycle style. Take one waterproof pannier. Put in some soap powder. Hold pannier under shower and half fill with hot water. Add dirty clothes. Fasten pannier then shake vigorously like washing machine action (or put pannier back on bike and ride over some rough roads). Open pannier and pound clothes by hand. Empty then rinse or repeat depending on how dirty the clothes were. Result = reasonably clean clothes compared to the usual cold water rinse.

Other ideas discussed at this session were to tuck the loops into your laces to avoid them getting caught in the chain wheel. Cassy from Australia seemed to find this particularly useful.

My contribution was – never hang your clothes on a pine tree to dry. The resultant resin leakage has so far proved impossible to remove. Any hints and tips on how to remove please send to szkocki.bob@btinternet.com.

The rest day was also an opportunity to do some sight-seeing including Kaali – a very large hole in the ground made by a meteorite crashing to earth several thousand years ago. Or you can subscribe to the conspiracy theory that it was caused by a Soviet missile going astray when this was a “closed” island!

Highlight of our time on Saaremaa was probably our stay at Panga. A walk along the seashore under the cliffs involved a bit abseiling and most people were settling down for a quiet night watching the sun set over the sea and cliffs. All was peaceful until Yannick arrived. The bar was due to close and it was looking like a quiet night by BC standards. Then that cunning devil Yannick pulled a master-stroke by turning up the music and asking the lady owner to dance. Suddenly we had a bar extension to 11.30, later extended to midnight. It must have been a good party because even I was up dancing and singing – even if it was just a football supporters’ chant!

Next day we woke to showers and squalls and it was waterproofs on for everyone on the way to the ferry to Hiiumaa – the next island – even quieter and more peaceful than Saaremaa. Highlight of our time on Hiiumaa was a visit to Kopu lighthouse which coincided with an outdoor Mozart concert. So I was able to listen to Mozart 100m up at the top of the lighthouse with a grandstand view of the concert and surrounding countryside.

Still to come: ferry to Haapsalu on the mainland then Tallin.