David and Camilla Taylor's slow bicycle ride through the Baltic lands

Four Days in Saaremaa

map of route

Wednesday 6th August from Ventspils to Salme

We set the alarm for 05h30 this morning so as not to miss the ferry sailing. When we awoke the room was completely dark although it was light outside as Viktor had closed the shutters to the street outside last night. It was a cold gloomy morning with dark clouds but no rain. We hurredly made our own breakfast in the small kitchen. Viktor banged on the door at 06h00 as he was going to work and his wife came down in her dressing gown to see us off as we were packing our bags onto the bikes. The 2km. ride in the early morning along the wide traffic free waterfront was a real pleasure.

The large vehicle ferry was almost empty. We rode aboard and parked our bikes against the starboard side of the vehicle deck. I put on a light lashing just in case. There were fewer than 20 passengers on a ferry capable of carrying 400 to 600. It took four hours for the crossing to Montu. I suppose that a fast ferry on that route would be useless in winter because of sea ice. We spoke to a couple of bicycle tourists from Spain and saw them several times later again. We rode the bitumen road north to Salme with frequent stops in the quiet forested land. There is very little motor traffic. We overshot the guesthouse at first by a couple of km. because all the signs were facing the wrong way. However this resulted in us getting a good look at the shallow, rather scungy seashore. We did a self catered evening meal in the room and made tea using our little portable immersion heater but the local water tastes distinctly dodgy.

Thursday 7th August from Sorve Matkamaje to Loode Talu

We stopped in Salme for half an hour to buy ground coffee and to scrounge a sewing needle to mend the tool satchell. We rode on the straight gravel road to Lümanda with very little traffic. When we stopped for a break in a side track because both sides of the road are thickly forested we were able to pick wild blackberries, raspberries, and one strawberry. We took a photo of berries similar to red currants but on a bush that we did not recognise. Passing an interesting looking factory we stopped and I had a conversation with the owner who speaks excellent English. It was a huge old soviet style concrete building. No more than half a dozen employees were busy making prefabricated log houses. Every house was made to order and to the builder's design. Each and every log is milled and cut to size complete with the necessary halving joints and the chamfers to door and window rebates. All the buildings are preassembled in the factory to check fit and then bundled up in forklift sized loads to go in a shipping container. Another department was manufacturing the window frames and fitting the sealed double glazing panels. They were using very mature pine logs, commonly 300 mm. diameter but some as much as 450mm.

One unusual roadsign that we saw today warned of an 8% hill ahead. It was warning of a hill for all of 400 metres length - up! Perhaps it was intended as a warning for bicycles to change gear. On the other side of the hill there was a similar sign but the length of the hill up in that case was a mere 200 metres (16 metres rise). It shows how unusual hills are there. We stopped for lunch in a clearing adjacent to the churchyard in Kihelkonna. Continuing to our overnight booking in Loode Talu the road was bitumen for half the distance and the turn off well signed. It started to drizzle as we negotiated the gravel track over the last three km.

Friday 8th August Kuralase to Kuressaare

Valdo fetched very good spring water for breakfast and to fill the bike bottles. No sign this morning of the surly wife or kids. We departed at 09h15 and were glad of our compass to confirm that we were going on the right direction. We rode a gravel road to Vere which is just a jetty with a naval patrol boat and a private catamaran lying alongside. Fortunately the road is well screened by trees for 90% of the time as the wind was very strong and gave C. cause for complaint. We came across two tractors today mowing the verges with a cylinder mower on an hydraulic arm. Despite the grass being only 50mm. after cutting it is still possible to pick red currants from the short plants growing in the grass! We rode only two 5km. stretches of dirt road today but the surface was well maintained and very reasonable. otherwise we rode all on bitumen with a crosswind or headwind and in the afternoon increasingly heavy traffic. Shortly before reaching Karla we stopped at the side of lake Karajarv where I had a swim. We were again disgusted at the way rubbish is scattered around beauty spots throughout Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Small waves were formed by the shallow beach gradient and strong wind. The bottom was slippery small stones. We rode through the centre of Kuressaare, took photos of the castle and found our accommodation at Helena Villa

Saturday 9th August Kuressaare to Leisi

Departed Helena Villa at 08h55. We missed the turning to the city centre and had to return from the harbour. We visited the Information bureau. There was no bike information but we were directed to a bank open on Saturday where we changed money. It was about 10h00 before we left town along a superb bitumen bike path for the forst 5km and later a quite reasonable bitumen shoulder lane but withnoisy traffic. We remained on the route 10 until the turn-off to Kojala, the quiet route to Kaali Meteorite crater. Reaching Kaali the first priority was a good cup of coffee in a recently built stone and shingle tourist pub. Stalls line the road selling turned dolomite stuff or hand carved wooden items to busloads of tourists. The piddling little crater is disappointing. The firewood stacks behind the tourist office are much more interesting. Off again to the northwest into the headwind for several kilometres to join the road 79 to Leisi. This road is quieter than the road No. 10 on which we started out from Kuressaare. It is mostly forested sheltering us from the wind which although not as strong as yesterday was nevertheless unpleasant as we crossed open spaces. We had drizzle or light rain for about one hour. For one break we stopped at a river crossing where we picked blackberries and ate our sandwiches. The river is marked on the map as Love J which reminded us of our daughter Jovana. Then of course we stopped at the famous Angla windmills, no longer working but surrounded by busloads of tourists. We arrived at Leisi and the girl in the tourist office phoned Kuus Tuba for us and gave us directions to where we found it just around the corner.

Sorve Matkamaje Loode Talu Helena Villa Kuus Tuba