Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Day 1 – Wednesday 29 July

Lithuanian border to Lake Svente
32km; 7 hours 30 minutes
Weather warm then showers

I feel wrecked but it is so good to have one day's walking completed. I am staying in a cottage 100m from the lake. There is a glimpse of the water through the trees. The property is on the neck of peninsula which juts out into the lake.
Without GPS, I took a couple of shortcuts which nearly proved disastrous. My rule last year was: don't trust the large scale topographical maps unless the feature was also shown on the car touring maps. Roads had a tendency to run out; and that happened twice today as I was on the home stretch. The first time I walked a km or so through paddocks and found my way. The second time, I ignored a private property sign as it seemed to me the overgrown track was where it was marked on the map. We had a shower of rain, after previously quite hot weather, and this made the undergrowth wet. The track deteriorated even further but I persevered as the option of going back would have added many kms. I could see I was close and so it turned out. So, no more short cuts, unless I'm feeling vaguely confident I will get through!
Inese arrived at 7:20 this morning. We spoke, mainly in Latvian, for about 30 minutes. I hope Inese can make something of it. She can always speak to Anita. I enjoyed talking with her and gave her my card. There should be an article in Latgales Laiks next week.
I then caught a cab to the border. That sounds easy but it had its moments. I showed the driver my map and asked for a quote [as I been instructed to do]. The driver stopped by another cab and consulted a colleague. He also looked at the map. Then he went back to his own cab to get his glasses and had another look. I don't think he could help my driver, as it seemed rather in desperation that he suggested 10 lati (around AUD25). I thought that was more than reasonable and gave him 15 on arrival.
My driver, Dimitri I found out later, had worked in England for a year, so we settled into a chat about what I was doing, his family, etc. It came as quite a shock to find out later he had not understood much at all about my plans.
We stopped at the border. I was surprised that there was quite a large set up. I took Dimitri's photo with the guard house in the background. Soon, two border control officers were outside asking us questions, in Russian. Dimitri seemed to be disavowing all connection with me.
The conversation then turned to my intentions. The Latvian guard picked up quickly that the Lithuanian border was my starting point for a walk across Latvia to the Estonian border. He explained to his colleague and Dimitri. When the penny dropped, Dimitri told me I was 'crazy' and off he drove, also with a business card. Perhaps he will now read this.
Journalist Inese asked me this morning [I think], aren't you worried about criminals? I have been of course, but I didn't need any confirmation of my fears. So far so good. I have not seen too many people – perhaps 50 cars all day, say five bicycles and two girls on a wagon pulled by a horse. Unfortunately, I couldn't get my camera to operate quickly enough; not that they passed very quickly.
I am sharing the cottage with a family, though they haven't come back yet. I think I will try and make my dinner before they do, in case I put them off their food.
And then an early night. I have a worrying sore left heel. Tomorrow is a shorter day although the next will be a marathon [in fact almost 42km].
I am having trouble getting an internet connection. The alternative is to break the e-mail up into a few dozen text messages. I will leave it till after dinner.
Whilst eating dinner [which wasn't too bad], my fellow house guests arrived home – Jana, Olafs and their two boys, Andris and Imants. We have had a very pleasant conversation, mainly in English, which in their case was quite good and better than my Latvian.
They are on holiday, travelling by car, but seem to have also done some serious trekking [carrying boats?] in Siberia. I hope we have a further chance to chat though I have set a 7:30 departure time for the morning to try and avoid what seem to be the inevitable late afternoon showers.
Demene Catholic church, by a lake


  1. I can just imagine you walking determinedly through private property bush and paddocks with a conviction that you've made the right decision to do something unconventional... next time stick to tracks that wont put you in danger of meeting bandits, please!

    Great to hear that you already have a new foot ailment to update people on so early in your trek. Remember, change your socks every day and don't be afraid of Leukosilk (you can never use too much). And if possible, can you please put up some photos of yourself?

    I see that your third night is spent not 10km from Livani. Any chance of a folk get together with Kristine or Edgars?

    I'm catching up with Lija Berzina in a bit to hand over the CD with two of your 'Walk across Latvia' slide shows. Hopefully they're the right ones to help you put together your presentation for this year - anyone reading this who is interested in re-living last year's experience is more than welcome to attend a breakfast lecture at the Hilton Hotel on August 23 (details at no. 46).

    Chinese food and Lepel await, so for now, adieu.


  2. PS. When did you buy the scanner? I've finally gotten around to registering it and I can't find a receipt or anything to tell me when you bought it. Paliga!

  3. Good luck Graham. Nice to read Your blog posts again. If You continue like this - they most certainly will have to be put together as a book or something. Or an article in National Geographic :-). Anyway - keep on walking. And as promissed I will try to join You very soon. Janis