Monday, 3 August 2009

Day 6 – Monday 3 August

Mežezers to Ērgļi
31km [192km]; 6 hours 30 minutes
Weather fine

Dinner-time at Ērgļi. I arrived at 13:45 having left Mežezers at 07:15. No one was stirring and I had to use the fire escape to get out. It was a magical morning, sunny but crisp. Last night I talked with the manager[?], Imants, about the short cut across the top of the lake to join up with the Plaviņas to Ērgļi road.
The short cut was perfect – and Imants' description gave me the confidence to keep going. A couple of km of shady forest track. Imants and I talked of other things as well. In English – most younger Latvians have learnt at school.

Imants is a snowboard instructor having gained his skills on the Dāmu Paradīze run, which Mark will remember from Gaiziņkalns. Imants has snowboarded in a large number of countries including America and Austria, but also Georgia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania. I am sure that any of those places would have more appeal than Mežezers. Though perhaps with a covering of snow it would be different – a deep covering.

I have had my second Frikadeļu soup of the day – I had one when I arrived. A traditional broth with vegetables, barley and mini meatballs. Followed tonight by fried fish and chips, though I was hoping for real potatoes. I was asked, but I just nodded. I have had very attentive service – I am the only customer. I drew the line at the television. It was turned on very loudly behind me and tuned to the BBC news. When it was suggested that I turn around and watch it while I eat, I had to insist that I disliked television at all times – it was then turned off. I thought also that I might hear some unpleasant sports news – though I am sure Juris [born in northern England before traveling to Oak Park, Victoria to marry Selga and coming to live with their two daughters in independent Latvia over 10 years ago] will tell me.
I have finished off with fruit and ice cream – bright orange in colour and with an unrecognisable taste. I was asked about breakfast. I said I didn't eat meat so we have settled on an omelette which will be ideal, though I will have to wait till 8am which will mean a late start.
I went for a walk around Ērgļi this afternoon. Saw the very flash new hotel I could have stayed at, but this way I am confident that some Latvians will benefit from my tourist lati [the local currency]. I also went to the cemetery and saw the grave of Rūdolfs Blaumanis [very famous Latvian writer and playwright]. The cemeteries are invariably beautiful parks with mature trees, the graves lovingly tended. So the photo of the Ērgļi cemetery is for you Christina.
Thank you for all who have written. Juris has apparently solved the problem which has made it difficult to log a comment on the blog.
Jāna [again], Dan, Mark, Jānis [who I am still hoping will walk with me], Fran [always an enthusiastic supporter], Des [who I had hoped might be provoked by the mention of Steven Carroll], Ruta [whose request will be acted upon], my Mežaparks neighbour Eva whom I last saw at the Melbourne Recital Centre playing first violin with Kremerata Baltica, Ian [the fix-it man wanting to do work stuff] and Susan, like me married into the Latvian world, with Pēteris [whose Latvian School geography class 'sponsored' my walk across Latvia last year]. And Clare who is in Vancouver and has just completed the GWT [Great West Track]. She sent me the link to her photos, which are great, though when after 10 minutes I was still on day 2, I thought I was in for a long viewing. But day 3 was the finish. And Michelle who is in Saudi Arabia, and sent a very newsy letter and will be interested to hear that Gunārs and Ilze are in Latvia at the moment. And Sue, my occasional rogaining partner, and wife of Colin who completed the Australian Alps Walking Track with me in 2005. Clare, Michelle and Sue & Colin [and Christina &Chris] were most of the very select, surprise 60th birthday party Anita organised for me two years ago. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone.
Today, once I hit the Ērgļi road it was 28km straight on. The first half was bitumen though the verges were OK to walk on and the traffic infrequent – at times 10-15 minutes between cars. The road was later gravel – the loose white dusty gravel which is hard to walk on as it shifts under your feet. And the dust; on one occasion after a logging truck passed it took 20-30 seconds for the dust to clear.
Tomorrow I will stay with Gunta at her place near Zaube and replenish my maps and other necessities. I will pass through Līčupe [where Lija had her Summer Camp last year and I called by on my walk for her last night concert – this year she is at Mazsalaca and I will attend her last night concert immediately after finishing the walk on the Estonian border about 30km north of Mazsalaca].
So tomorrow, from Līčupe to Zaube will be the only overlap with the walk last year. I hope to walk along the now-closed railway line from Ērgļi to Taurupe. This afternoon I had a look at the start of the track near the old Ērgļi station – it seems quite overgrown. I hope it is better further on. There is always the road but it is longer and I have been looking forward to the train tracks.
I try not to think too much about the day after. The walk to Cēsis from Zaube will be about 45-50km. It will be the thought of finishing up at Selga's and Juris' place that will keep me going – into the night if necessary. But let's not worry beyond tomorrow for the moment.


  1. As Graham is avoiding main roads, he is finding the gaps in Latvia's mobile network coverage - hence photos are slow in coming. I add them as they arrive, so do look over earlier posts to see additional pix.
    Just going out to pick the beetroot for Graham's Cēsis meal:-)

  2. Hi Graeme!

    Have enjoyed reading all your daily reports. Interesting that you are reading Steven Carroll's books - Mara and I read all 3 last year. Also this year his recent one 'The Lost Life' set in England of the 1930s.
    All the best for your long walk to Cēsis and give our regards to Selga and Juris!

    Arnis & Māra Siksna

  3. Congratulations on such a wonderful effort.
    I have enjoyed reading your blog and seeing the pictures. It must be a truly amazing experience for you.
    I was once given a definition of "Courage" as being "the strength to do that which is difficult".
    I find your walk both courageous and inspiring.
    Good luck with the remainder of your journey.

    Con Salpic

  4. Everyone is eating frikadelu zupa! Chef Ali Leitmanis and Cook Jeti made about 20L on Saturday for my 'Mulled Wine and Latvian Dine' night and the result was lip smacking. There might still be left overs when you get back in 3 weeks. Brita Padoms' komm morgen vider were devoured.

    While I'm sitting in a uni lecture learning about men and masculinity (can you perform a sex change on a baby boy and condition him to think he is a girl? - is gender biologically determined or is a culturally constructed) you're sleeping and preparing for your last few days of walking. I wish I could join you on this last stretch through Zaube, Cesis, Mazsalaca and up to Estonia. Chill out on Gunta's veranda drinking home grown tea, stroll around Cesis with Selga and join in the festivities of Lija's last night at EVS.

    By the way, found out Lija is in bed with an incredibly high fever - swine flu? I got the inside info when I spoke to Linite this morning (the audzinataji were still up celebrating her birthday).

    And about that dreaded day of walking to Cesis... enjoy the challenge. I know you're getting a kick out of a seriously huge day of walking and anyway, there aren't many days left. What's the point if you can do something impossible? Before you know it, you'll be kicking back in Mezparks reading the last Steven Carroll novel.

    Labi cau X

  5. Hi Graham, I'm enjoying reading your accounts again. I am considering the possibility of meeting you at Koceni on Thursday as it is the nearest place to my house near Limbazi. Would this be OK, and if so what time do you expect to be there?

  6. Hi Graeme! Following your blog is good fun, keep up the good work! I will spend the weekend in Limbazi (escaping from deforestation and habitat destruction, soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses), water management problems, overhunting, overfishing, effects of introduced species on native species, overpopulation and increased per-capita impact of people), arriving there Friday afternoon together with Matiss and Kristine. Would be fantastic to see you! Will try to contact Anita as I suspect she is in Latvia as well.
    All the very best, Atis

  7. Wot - walking again!!! Not enough kms last year - need to add more! Next you'll be circumnavigating Latvia's borders! Sounds like you're in good shape - no blisters yet? Best wishes for the rest of the journey. Compared to last year 350+kms is just a stroll in the park/field/forest/town...
    Linda Ozers and Janis Cecins

  8. Ati - here I am! Just around the corner - in Mežaparks. Would be great to see you and the children. (Is Matīss still glued to his Oz surfboard?)

    I'm planning a conjugal visit tomorrow night at Cēsis, and Mazsalaca on Friday. Either of those suit?

    And Džon, I still can't believe that we met - and in such unusual circumstances - local produce-tasting at the ELJA50 conference at Pernigele. Your delicious apple and lingonberry wines, together with Andris Berķis'exceptionally tasty honey, are waiting for a special occasion for sharing! (You can ring Graham on 2863 8731. He will be delighted to finally meet you!)

    ...dear Jānīt, Lija is on the mend - turned out to be tonsilitis. Isn't that great! EVS parent and nurse, Paulīne, again this year proved her wonderful nature (and professional competence) in caringly nursing Lija through the night, and this morning through medical assistance, to set her on the road to good health.
    Wish I could have been at your party! Sounds like a hoot - and very tasty to boot. Maybe your team could repeat the banquet for a KD fundraiser! (Sorry, couldn't help myself...)

    And finally I get to speak to you, my dear pacer - just got a call from the Cēsu regional newspaper "Druva". Agita Salmiņa is poised to speak with you tomorrow afternoon. She will call Selga to get your eta some time tomorrow afternoon. Great that you will finally have a walking companion. Apparently his father does not yet know that he's wagging work tomorrow. sshhhh. (Take care when estimating your arrival time. With Jānis at your side you may need to calculate at the average speed of 10kph!)
    One sleep to go :)a

  9. Hi Judge! It must feel great to be over halfway 'up' Latvia! It should have well and truly taken your mind off work! Sounds like you're meeting lots of interesting people. The photos are great too! Looking forward to seeing more when you get back!

    Also glad to hear you've managed to take some reading material with you. Did you have a chance to look at Ruth Rendell? Looking forward to hearing what you think!

    I saw Pip on Friday and she is busy and tired but they are coping quite well, I think, and amazingly the commercial jurisdiction is surviving without us!!

    I'm busy studying for my contracts (hard contracts!) exam on Friday so had better get back to it! But I've thoroughly enjoyed reading the blog so far - looking forward to the next installment!

    Good luck!

  10. Hi Judge and Anita,

    Its me, Matiss, writing and I must say the walk seems great! As Atis wrote we will be in Limbazi this Friday and would love to see you!!! Atis, Kristine and I will spend two days there before returning down to Riga and finally back home on Monday. Atis has a latvian number which is 26513732 and a swedish on + 46 705 496 483. Talk to you when we're in Latvia! Speaking of the board its nothing to be glued on to because it still is in LA due to shipping difficulties.

    I have to ask you if you got my email from LA or the one I sent when back home? I know for sure that one was sent to Janas email, the other one Im not sure about! Looking forward to see all of you again!


    (Hi as well to Jana and Finshy)

  11. Hei do, Matīss!
    Great to hear from you! If you don't manage to intercept Graham at Kocēni, (as winemaker extraordinaire, Džons Brauns from Limbaži is contemplating) looks like we will have to try for a catch-up in Rīga before you fly out.

    And no, we didn't receive your emails, but we heard through Jāna that you had arrived home safely.

    Dear fellow blog-readers, let me share with you a heart-stopping moment, in fact two, that occured during my conversations with Graham today. The first occured as he was walking along a road - he told me he would break the conversation for about 30 seconds while he covered the phone to protect it from the dust cloud that passing vehicles stir up. I heard the truck pass and then nothing. For about a minute, or 10, it seemed. I felt truly ill as I tried not to picture the worst. The relief on hearing 'I think I might leave the road now..' cannot be described. Totally irrational I know, but that is the effect of the tyranny of the distant walker! The second moment of near heart attack was when Graham described his arrival at Zaube. He had made good time, but said it took him a couple of hours to cover the last 100m from the gate to the house. I pictured, I don't know what - Graham injured to the point where his legs would not carry him, dragging his weight on his arms, pulling himself along the track, inching across the narrow bridge and up the curved driveway, slumping in an exhausted heap in the entrance porch to Gunta's house. But no. Nothing like it! He decided to drop in on a couple who live in the neighbouring property. They immediately offered him a feast of freshly baked pastries accompanied by milk fresh from its source [When I asked whether Astra had recognised him (as Graham had met Astra and Uldis only briefly, and some time ago), he replied, 'Who else would arrive on foot wearing a back pacķ'?]
    AND I have just heard from the Bērziņi clan that Graham's tv interview from Jēkabpils was broadcast on the news channel. Gotta see if I can track it down! Bye!