Mujāni [near Kocēni] to Mazsalaca
49km [354km]; 10 hours 10 minutes
An incredibly hard day. I left at 07:25. The sun was up but it was a crisp morning. The lake looked magnificent as I came out of the house. The first 25km to Matīsi was very pleasant walking. This surprised me as I had anticipated straight-forward road walking and there were distance markers every kilometre; which can be a little distressing if they do not exactly flash by. The road however narrowed and traversed attractive farmland and occasional forest. It was also extremely quiet.
I arrived at Matīsi at lunchtime. I had been planning to have a substantial meal to give me energy for the next stage. In the centre of town, I asked a young woman with mauve hair, whether there was a kafējnica in the town. She at first said no but then recollected that there was a kafējnica at the Hotel Matīsi. I asked if it was far. She was doubtful and I asked if it was one km away. She said no, only 200m and gave me directions.
In fact, after walking 500m to the hotel and 500m back again after finding the hotel closed down, I had walked a further kilometre and was no further advanced. I then examined the two small shops. I settled on a tin of Rīgas Šprotes [Riga Sprats – like sardines] with some black bread to eat with them. Did they work? We will never know, as although I made it to Mazsalaca, I felt completely wrecked in the process.
Just outside Matīsi, I had a choice – walk beside a bitumen road for 19km or follow more minor roads for 21km. I chose the minor roads and the two extra km [or so I thought]. The first 10km were great with a quiet narrow road traversing some very rich farmland – at one stage grass and clover on one side of the road and a weed-free crop of wheat on the other side.
When I reached the main road near Braslava, I expected the signpost would say 11km to Mazsalaca – instead it said 14km, and the road was constructed of dusty gravel and 3-4cm diameter stones. It is the worst combination – the gravel builds up in places and is like walking in soft sand. Also the stones penetrate even the thickest boot sole and it is very easy to roll on the large stones.
I just put my head down and tried to keep to the left side of the gravel, where often graders have scraped a flat surface which is better to walk on. There were kilometre distance markers and I timed myself between them at 5 1/2 and 6 kph.
Anita got a lift to Mazsalaca from Riga and came a little way to meet me. Anita had expected me to walk from our hotel to the school where Lija is staying – but the further two kilometres were way beyond me.
We waited for Atis, Matīss and Kristīne [the Swedish contingent] who were in Latvia for a long weekend at their place in Limbaži. [Anita had taken Jāna to Atis' wedding in Stockholm when Jāna was only 6- or 8-weeks old]. After dinner, Atis drove Anita to visit Lija. At dinner, we met Madara and her family from Saldus. Madara was at EVS with Lija last year and afterwards Lija had gone to stay with Madara and had attended the first day of school on 1 September. In the unpleasant section between Braslava and Mazsalaca, Madara's dad had offered me a lift – it was very tempting!
At Ruta's request, we took a photo of Pernavas iela 12 where Rolands Šķoba [now of Melbourne and Ruta's and Gunta's father] used to live. It is about 100m down the road from the hotel where we are staying.
Tomorrow is the last day of walking – about 30km to the Estonian border. Over the last two days I have developed a blister in the same spot as last year – on the inside of the heel, though this time on the left foot. I am sorry there is only one day left to talk about it, rather than the weeks of discussion we had last year. I will photograph it for posterity. But it will not stop me now.