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Day 1 & 2 – Latvia

Since setting off for my trip back to Belgium, me and Timmy have been well underway for two days in Latvia.

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Since we picked the cheapest cabin option on the boat, we shared a 4-berth cabin. There was one guy who had left his huge knife on the table, but we were assuming/hoping there would not be a fourth. The boat was a bit boring so we went to bed early.
So the fourth guy then turns up somewhere at 2am, really drunk, turns on all the lights and starts talking loudly to us and shaking our hands. He then leaves, forgetting to turn the lights off again, only to show back up an hour later and going to sleep underneath his mattress, with the lights on. I didn’t really feel properly rested the next morning.

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We got off the boat and did about 30km of asphalt to get out of Riga. Just before the gravel we came past what I’d hoped would be a cool abandoned hospital. It was huge, but unfortunately we were too late and they were tearing it down, they were working right then and there.

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We hit the gravel soon after that. We ran into our first obstacle also; a marathon being run right where we needed to go. I saw we could take a small trail around the course, but that turned out very small and tricky at times; loose sand is just a huge challenge to me.

DSC00143DSC00144The trail above I got stuck on at one point, my rear wheel just dug in and Timmy had to push me back out. The extra weight of the bike is just making it much harder. Last time I was in Latvia I had 1 bag, now I have 4 on my bike…

DSC00148Typical secondary roads in Latvia are often gravel, but it’s a bit trickier to ride since there’s a lot of dust and there are these small ruts (from cars and trucks) in the road that the bike resists slightly when crossing, making it feel like your bike behaves very “floaty”.

DSC00149And then we had our first problem. The GPS was just being impossible: the touch screen was registering random presses and became uncontrollable. I took it apart for the sixth time (did it before at home), but I couldn’t fix it anymore, the touchscreen just doesn’t work at all anymore. We then spent 3 or 4 hours finding a replacement unit. I ended up with a car GPS that does support our custom routs, but is not waterproof, does not have a proper mount for my bike, and tends to flip out a bit when we ride small roads like this. It’s doable, but rain might be a problem…

We just took the main roads to our final destination; Irbene Radioteleskops, northern Europe’s biggest radar dish, a remnant from Soviet times. There were some abandoned buildings attached to the site, were crew and families would have stayed in Soviet times. The whole place was secret and restricted access: we passed the old guardhouse on the way in.

DSC00171Apparently they only put the dish back on in June this year. When the Russians left Latvia, they were forced to abandon all their secret bases (they wanted to keep it but the Latvians said no). They tried to destroy this site, which was used to spy on NATO communications, by driving spikes through lines, cutting cables and pouring acid into equipment. Right now they are still restoring and fixing it for astronomy purposes.

It was getting dark and we camped on a small trail next to the road, we didn’t want to waste time. While looking, I drove through what I thought was a bush, but turned out to be rusty barbed wire from the old Soviet fence! Luckily my tires survived fine…

DSC00178Just before we wanted to go to bed, some (quite possibly drunk) Latvian youngsters arrived to go to the telescope, I guess they just wanted to hang out there. They left after a while and then we could sleep in peace.

The next day we set off after packing and things went a bit smoother. The GPS is acting very strange by often refusing to charge off my motorcycle’s USB socket (it goes into “PC-connection mode”), but we managed to follow most of the route. We often see ruins along the road, the typical Soviet collective farm is almost a common sight here.

DSC00202We managed to hit Skrunda-1, a big ghost town. I’ll make a separate post for this at some point, it was very cool, you could spend a whole day there if you wanted.

Now we’re in a strange hostel in Vainode; 40 rooms and we’re the only guests, but it’s nice having a shower and doing some laundry after 2 days of sweating on the trails!

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