16.07.2013 - 24.07.2013
Before I go on, firstly sorry that last week's blog/email didn't eventuate. I had good intentions, but ended up feeling rather drained after the World Champs week finished (excitement of watching the relay, then a night of partying, then a day long train trip with a bunch of hungover Aussies, plus the slightly lost feeling associated with having finished something that has been on your mind for ages!) Now everything is good again, Lachlan (my partner), Emily and Duncan (Darwin friends) and Zara (my partner for the 24hr Rogaine World Champs in Russia) arrived in Helsinki a week ago, shortly after the World Orienteering Champs finished. Together we had a brief poke around Helsinki, including taking the ferry to the close by island fortress of Suomelinna (massive granite walls with stone tunnels with small windows and slits for the armies to fire things out of at approaching ships) and explored an open aired museum of old Finnish houses (wooden, the oldest being log cabin style, often with decorative carving on eaves, gables, doors and balconies), on a forested island connected to the mainland by a short walking causeway. The forest raspberries were just ripening, growing like weeds at the foot of the big slabs of granite rock, and on the edges of sunny paths...very tasty!
From Helsinki we caught the ferry (a 2 hr trip) south across the Baltic to Estonia's capital of Tallinn. Tallinn is famous for it's World Heritage listed Medieval Old Town region. There are many 'Old Towns' in Europe - within each city, the Old Town is the suburb with the earliest city buildings, typically with a strong stone wall built around the area to keep it secure from invaders, with city gates where everyone had to pass through. Tallinn's Old Town is enclosed by ten metre high walls of grey slate like stone with towers at strategic corners. The towers have red terracotta tiles on their conical roofs, looking every bit like they belong in a fairly tale. Within the town, the streets are narrow and cobble stoned, the houses painted in pale pinks, yellows, greys and blues with white window sills, built together as a row to form tall faces with no gap between the buildings, with doorsteps right on the foot path.
From Tallinn we took a bus south to South Eastern Estonia, hiring a car in a town called Tartu, so that we could drive ourselves around to various places to practise our navigational skills in the forest. All of us are competing in Russia, this coming weekend, at the World Rogaining Championships. The purpose of the training was to help us familiarize ourselves with how the forest will be, including how easy it will be to cross marshes, run through forest that is dense, deal with the distraction of abundant mosquitoes, and just in general, become more used to the kind of courses we might get in the competition. One of the areas that we went to (used for the World Rogaining Championships in 2008) is supposed to be known for its beaver dams, but we didn't see any....there were a gazillion ripe blueberries though...as distracting as the abundant mosquitoes!
We have sampled a variety of accommodations, ranging from small and basic dingyish rooms in a workers' hostel in Tallinn, to a home stay with an Estonian woman in a tiny hamlet of houses in the far south-eastern corner of Estonia, near the Russian border. Here the food on the table was delicious, with three quarters of it coming from the extensive garden - overflowing with ripening gooseberries, currents (red & black), raspberries, tomatoes, peas, beans, potatoes, kohl rabi, swedes, carrots, beetroots, rhubarb, cucumbers, sweetcorn, strawberries, red stalked silver beet....and I know I've missed heaps of things. The mince meat in the spaghetti was 'small deer' and pig, from the forest....everything truly tasted amazing, and we could have all eaten forever!
Now we are in Riga, which is the capital of Latvia (another of the old Baltic states of the Soviet Union). We drove in to Latvia from Estonia yesterday, staying near Cesis last night, where we braved camping. It was a trial run for fitting the two couples in to their space-saving one person tents and Zara in to her newly purchased ten Euro tent from the supermarket in Estonia. Lachlan and I fit ok in ours, so long as we roll over at the same time! Here in Riga we dropped off our hire car today - Lachlan did a great job of dealing with pushy drivers and 'no left turn' signs, getting us in to the car hire place with five minutes to spare, and tomorrow we get on a bus which will take us to Russia. We do the 24 hour championships from noon on Friday until noon on Saturday, and then we are off to St Petersburg until the middle of next week.
I hope everything is good back home in Aus. I heard it tried to snow on Mt Lofty last Saturday, and winter rainfall is above average. Very nice! And it sounds like Darwin is getting dribs & drabs of dry season weather...only a bit jealous. Here it seems like cloudy and about to rain one moment, then sunny an hour later, with temperatures around twenty in the day and eighteen or so at night.
That's all for now, big hugs,