Munči to Zasa
41km [105km]; 8 hours 10 minutes
Weather fine [just]
A long hard slog today – about 5km into the forest, then 5km of pleasant forest, over 20km along dead straight wide forest roads and 10km out of the forest. One stretch of road was 12km without a bend. The rain held off until the last ten minutes. I should have left 20 minutes earlier, but there was Asterija's guest book to complete and I did fill out the local tourist authority's questionnaire.
Today, I just put my head down – stopped in Dviete after 3km to do some shopping and take a photo of the local church, though can't say if it is catholic or orthodox. Two stops in the forest for a quick drink and bite to eat – about 10-15 minutes each time. I bought three bananas today – very ripe but energy plus.
There were km markers near to Zasa and I was able to check my speed – just over 6kph, so I have picked up my speed. Another reason for the increased pace was the almost constant swarms of march flies which I attempted to out-walk, without success. They attack silently and you generally only become aware of them because of the sting. I had to protect myself and I am sorry to report that there were many casualties. Fortunately they do not squash messily.
The road surfaces were not too bad – moist compacted sand so my feet have not suffered too much. These sorts of days still have their moments, though just getting through is the main task.
Only one conversation – Andris was riding his bike through the forest. He stopped to say hello and to tell me that he had been bird watching and taking photos. He showed me his binoculars, camera and map. I took his photo. I hope you see some today – my attempts to send them through have not yet been successful.
I have just been locked into the house for the night by Inese [the caretaker]. It is a quite large old manor house. I am in sole occupation for the night [for 3 lati or about AUD 7.50] with breakfast an extra lats.
Inese will come back in the morning to unlock and provide breakfast at 7am. Tomorrow is a lighter walking day – probably less than 30km and similar to today – into the forest, long straight boring road though the forest and the walk into town. Jēkabpils is one of the 10 largest towns in Latvia. I am staying at a health resort in the centre of town – the accommodation is apparently a sideline, and I will be able to eat out.
The biggest challenge tomorrow will be to survive my media commitments – two area newspapers [Ilze from Brīvā Daugava and Māra from Jaunais Vēstnesis. However, Lāsma from the local TV station, Vidus Daugava, wants to intercept me whilst walking into town for some action shots. I have refused to do radio interviews though – it seems too immediate with no opportunity to edit at least a few passable comments from the interviews.
Why am I doing this? I'm not really sure. In part because I know that I will be treated gently and also because I feel a degree of responsibility. I hope that at least a few people might derive some degree of fuzzy feeling that a non-Latvian is making a serious attempt to get to know their land. I have gained immeasurably from my involvement in Latvian culture and this is a small gesture in return.
Finally, I need to produce some interesting new material for a talk I am giving on 23 August, two days after we arrive back. The talk will be at a champagne breakfast at the Hilton Hotel and will be illustrated by yet another slideshow, hopefully with television footage.
The breakfast is a fundraiser for the 53rd Latvian Arts Festival to be held in Melbourne over six days at the end of December 2010. Anita is the Festival organiser and it is the main focus of Anita's trip to Latvia – organising guests.
So, the breakfast – I will be speaking in English [apart from the TV interviews]; come along and support a very good cause.
Finally, I heard the sad news that Ivars Dragūns has died. He will be sadly missed. He made a very considerable contribution to Latvian life in Melbourne. Ivars's son Markus is a friend of Jāna's and we are thinking of him.