Tomorrow afternoon, I leave by train for Daugavpils (Latvia's second largest city). I will stay the night there and on Wednesday morning catch a taxi to the Lithuanian border where I will commence the walk. The start point will be the most southern point in Latvia and is about 3kms from where the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus meet. Coincidentally, last year's walk started near the meeting point of the borders of Latvia, Russia and Belarus - one of the most interesting places I visited.
Today, I had three tasks - to test my communications system, to book accomodation and to buy a few items including some food. Anita and I visited Juris Beņķis in Riga this morning. Last year, Juris posted all the blog entries and has agreed to undertake the task again this year. I will write the text on my mobile phone (computer) and email it with photos to Juris who then will do an edit and post it on the blog. Everything worked well in our test run today.
We visited the outdoor gear shop at No 17 Miera Street. We were served by a young guy who had been in Melbourne 15 years ago with a Latvian youth choir. I bought some prepared bushwalking meals for those nights when I will need to self cater. Last year, I went hungry on a few occasions and I found it difficult to keep walking on inadequate food.
This afternoon, Gunta arranged all my accomodation, with about 20 phone calls. Tomorrow night I will stay at the Hotel L in Daugavpils. The starting price was 60 euros for a single room. I was then offered a room with "a wall outside the window" for 20 lati. Gunta then said I was from Australia and suddenly I had a room with a view over the park on the 5th floor.
The accomodation on the walk covers the whole range of possibilities. On the first night of the walk, I will stay in a house on a 'lake island'. It certainly sounds exotic. Gunta negotiated my breakfasts - porridge and eggs, rather the the usual pork and pork. Each night is fixed, including one night at Gunta's country place near Zaube (the only overlap with last year's east-west walk), and the next night at Cēsis with Juris and Selga. Last year, when we started phoning the accomodation places, we found that a few could not be contacted and I needed to rearrange part of the route.
I have a collection of maps - the smaller scale road maps on which I planned the route in Melbourne a couple of months ago and 15 large scale topographical maps (1:50,000) which I have bought over the last few days. I have tried to avoid all highway walking. There are a few kms on bitumen roads, but very little. There is quite a lot of forest walking and, on the second day I will be following the River Daugava for most of the day.
It has all come together fairly easily. The experience from last year has helped considerably. However, my daily distances are very ambitious. Measuring from the larger scale maps, I have found that I had underestimated the distances to a significant degree. Most days will be 2-5 kms longer. The total distance will be more like 380 than 350 kms. That is an average of 34.5 kms each day with one day, from Zaube to Cēsis being about 45-50 kms.
One limiting factor is that I have planned the route so I can walk through Mazsalaca on the last night before reaching the Estonian border, and then returning (hopefully by car) to Mazsalaca the next night as well. Lija is at a European Latvian Summer camp for 2 weeks at Mazsalaca and the night I finish the walk coincides with Lija's last night celebrations at the camp (to which parents are invited). Last year I also visited Lija, at her camp at Līčupe. I was able to make a detour of 20 kms or so from my east-west route to attend the last night celebrations.
I will pack in the morning and buy a little more food. The train leaves at 5pm.