Saturday, 1 August 2009

Day 4 – Saturday 1 August

Zasa to Jēkabpils
30km [135km]; 6 hours 40 minutes
Weather fine, then shower

The television and newspaper interviews are done. Lāsma phoned me just as I was emerging from the forest and as the rain started to pelt down. I could have given her a grid reference but that wouldn't have helped. I told her I was 30 minutes from Freedom Road. Eventually we met up – Lāsma, her daughter Kate, a camera operator [female] and driver [male]. From our telephone conversation it was obvious that Lāsma's English was excellent. Nevertheless I opted to be interviewed in Latvian. It was mercifully short though we chatted off air for quite a while. Then it was time for a series of walk-by shots – camera set up ahead on the side of the road as I walked purposefully towards it, car driving just ahead and to the side of me with camera-person shooting out the window, etc. Lāsma will send me the web-site address to access the final version.
I reached the hotel soon after – basically a pool, spas and saunas with five rooms in a separate part of the building. The room is good. Had time for a shower before I received calls from Ilze and Māra. They both spoke very quickly and although I made arrangements with each of them, I wasn't exactly sure what they were.
About half an hour later, there was a loud banging on my door. I was quite perturbed but what could I do but open it. It was the receptionist who said there was a woman waiting for me downstairs. It was Māra and a colleague. We sat in the reception area and started talking.
The first question was the hard one – Why? I had rehearsed a few answers – I like walking, I want to see Latvia, my wife and our daughters are Latvian and ... that's when I started to fizzle out, but Ilze phoned and asked me where I was. I was trying to answer that question when she appeared.
So the inquisition continued – with both barrels. Neither Māra nor Ilze had [or used] more than a couple of words of English, but they seemed happy enough by the end. Then it was photo time. Or a chance for the hosts to get a free plug – we went poolside. Māra will return in the morning for a photo of me leaving.
I have just finished dinner. I had crossed back over the Daugava looking for an eating house. I wasn't successful, but did find a church to photograph. I came back over the river and after enquiring at the supermarket, I was directed to the restaurant/bar over Riga Street. I ordered soup. One had cream in the description so I chose the other. Bad choice. When it arrived I knew that mauve = beetroot, my least favourite food. But I had no option – and I ate it all up. Chicken shashlik to follow but not a patch on the Tex-Mex meal last year at Iecava.
I was the only diner for a while – though there seemed to be plenty of activity in the bar downstairs. A couple came in later and the young woman greeted me warmly, which surprised me as it seemed she knew me. Later, I got into a conversation with her: I had not realised that they were the couple that had been shown to their room at the same time as I had been. She was from Liepāja, whereas I was in a state of exhaustion.
I did actually do some walking today and a couple of navigation errors cost me about 40 minutes. The first time I missed a turnoff but realised 400m later when I struck the main road. The second time I turned off too soon and, after following a reasonable track for about 50m, it deteriorated badly. I struggled on through wet waist-high grass and black boggy marshland. Eventually I did turn back – after far too long though.
I blame my water bottles. I filled both with water from bottles I had bought last night. However the thread on the plastic top must have worn. It is no longer watertight and water kept dripping down the back of my pants. I tried everything – even wrapping the bottle in a plastic bag. I thought of tipping out some water, but found I had screwed the lid on so tightly [to stop it leaking] that now it wouldn't undo. All this made for a sluggish start, but once I hit the long straight forest roads I picked up a bit of speed.
Tomorrow should be fairly relaxed, though I must decide whether to walk beside the main bitumen road or follow a meandering sequence of minor roads and tracks. I have a leaning but will not reveal it till tomorrow!

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