Day 7: Kaisma - Rapla - Tallinn

The first thing I remember reacting to this morning was the quiet noises of Matthew (@ArcticCycler) getting out of his tent, then a short pause followed by a loud "WOW!". I felt, however, that I did not want to get up at 5 in the morning, so I stayed in my sleeping bag and rolled over. A little before 6, the lack of snoring coming from my tent made it apparent to Matt that I was no longer asleep. He soon urged me to get up and take in what I quickly realised was an absolutely stunning morning, complete with a rolling layer of mist on the lake.

In no rush what so ever to leave, we took time to enjoy the view and eat our breakfast. After reaching the main road again we kept the pace slow, allowing our legs an equally gentle start to the day.

Nearly halfway to Tallinn we entered the town of Rapla, where we ended up having an extended lunch by the little stream running through town. We didn't let the fact that we were underneath the droning AC fans behind the mall detract from our enjoyment of this almost luxurious picnic consisting of bread, cheese, yoghurt, strawberries, cherries, juice and other goodies.

After Rapla the road slowly became busier and busier as we started to get closer to Tallinn. Having stuffed our stomachs with way too much food during lunch, our bikes were also moving slowly at this point. Still outside the outer ring road Matt noticed that we were no longer on the recommended route he had pieced together by reading cycling forums. Near the village of Tagadi we cut across to Kiisa where we found ourselves on excellent bike paths which we would follow all the way into the capital. The new route took us through Saku, past the largest brewery in Estonia, and onwards to Tallinn. 

The busy urban traffic of Tallinn was exciting after the hard shoulder of the highways and quiet country lanes I'd mainly been on for the last week. We made our way to old town to pose for the obligatory "I made it!" photos and the 'necessary' twitter, facebook, (foursquare) and Google+ updates. We were both exceedingly giddy at this point, me having completed my tour and Matt proud of the accomplishment of reaching Tallinn from Eindhoven. Mind you, he's on his way to Nordkapp so I recommend you keep following his blog as well.

Seemingly unable to find a suitable café, we headed over to Matt's friend Ranno's place for a quick pit stop before I continued to the Russalka memorial where I waited a few short minutes for Nele, my Couchsurfing host, to show up.

The day in numbers: 111.76 km, 5 h 49 min 24 sec, 19.19 km/h avg, 38.1 km/h max.
Tour total: 700.13 km.

Day 6: Kinksi - Pärnu - Kaisma

The local youth of Kinksi continued their beer and BBQ party into the wee hours, but I still slept well and woke up fairy early. By then I was alone on the külaplats, making my morning routine faster than any previous day. This helped me get an early start and with the weather being cloudy, the cool, oxygen rich air meant I was soon trucking south towards Pärnu at a steady pace.

My only proper stop on my 60 km sprint to Pärnu came in Aruvälja where I enjoyed 2nd breakfast on a bench outside the village grocery store. 10 km later I had to unclip my shoes from the pedals again as roadworks brought traffic to a standstill for a while.

Once in Pärnu I stopped at the main library where I took the opportunity to give the battery of my phone a boost while waiting to hear from Matthew (@ArcticCycler, arctic-cycler.com). I had tweeted him the night before when I noticed he was also heading for Pärnu and would be there around the same time as me. During the hour I spent at the library I almost fell asleep on the chair I was sitting in. Sleeping less than 6h most nights of my tour was starting to take its toll on me.

With my phone battery having enough juice to last the rest of the day, I made my way in the general direction of the beach. I soon received a tweet from Matthew. He was going to Steffani pizza, together with Raimo, an Estonian roadie he'd cycled with since crossing the border from Latvia. Pizzas ordered, Matt and I soon started comparing notes and discussing the road ahead. It immediately became apparent that not only were we both heading to Tallinn, our schedules and planned routes were nearly identical.

Having made the obvious decision to share the road from Pärnu to Tallinn, Matt and I followed Raimo to Hawaii Express, a bike shop where we borrowed a track pump to get our tyres up to nominal pressure. Raimo then proceeded to guide us out of the city to where route 5, which would take us the first 35 km north, started.

For the final camping night of my tour, we endured the 6 km gravel road to Kaisma Suurjärve. After the külaplats in Kinksi, this was the place I had the least advance information about. I had chosen the place purely for its location (100 km south of Tallinn) and even chose to call to confirm there would be fresh water and showers before passing the last shop along the way.

There was a shower as well as fresh water. The shower was adjacent a modern sauna with space for 10-15 people. There was also a well equipped kitchenette, a proper toilet as well as a large lounge complete with leather couches, a stereo and a 50" flat screen TV. The man who came around to hand us the key was also keen to tell us we'd be more than welcome to sleep inside the lodge should it happen to rain that night. The price for all this you ask? 5 euro, for both of us.

Today in numbers: 126.93 km, 6 h 5 min 59 sec, 20.81 km/h avg, 33.2 km/h max.
Tour total: 588.37 km.


Day 5: Kuressaare - Muhu - Kinksi

I got up at a decent hour but somehow my morning routine took a bit longer than necessary, so I was only on the bike a little before 10. Knowing that the ferry from Muhu to the mainland runs every 30-35 minutes and that I'd only have well under 20 km to go once I'd crossed I decided to go for a two stop strategy.

This was also necessitated by the fact that the temperature was close to 25°C and rising already in the morning. Before leaving Kuressaare behind I stopped at the Auriga mall and found a sporting goods shop where I picked up a new pair of cycling gloves. Having also restocked my food supply, I soldiered on to Valjala where a lengthy food and drink stop was on order.

My second stop of the day was in Orissaare for which I had to make a little detour. I'm glad I did, as the sea breeze in the marina was the only respite from the scorching heat I had all day. Immediately after getting back to the main road towards Kuivastu I found myself on the Väikese väina tamm, the causeway joining the islands of Saaremaa and Muhumaa. Here I also enjoyed a bit of a cooling effect from the wind, but being from the side it also made cycling the narrow causeway a little tougher. Once across it was a further 14 km or so to the harbour in Kuivastu. While I truly enjoyed the flat landscape of the Estonian islands, making cycling very easy, it also robs you of an effortless roll down to the dock which you get on most islands in the Turku archipelago.

The ferries, there are two shuttling between Kuivastu and Virtsu, are quite new and proudly boast "Made in Saaremaa" on the bow and aft, visible as you drive off. The staff in the small café on board, though, were not allowed to fill up my bottles with drinking water. I instead stopped at a bar in Virtsu for an ice tea (not the Long Island variety, mind you) and also to find that the water I already had would be more than enough to last until I'd reach the campsite.

With less than 10 km to go I stopped to check for my turn to Voose from a roadside map. It was then that I discovered a potential campsite even closer to the crossroads where I would turn towards Pärnu in the morning. I quickly decided to head for the tiny village of Kinksi instead.

Less of a campsite and more of a village park or fairground, the Kinksi Külaplats initially seemed only moderately better than camping wild. My first impressions were, however, very deceiving as I was able to get electricity for my phone, fresh water (and a bag of homegrown cucumbers!) from the farm only 150 m up the road. The local boys were also at the külaplats, swimming in the pond, drinking beer and blaring music from their car. This was clearly the local pastime, so I decided to swap my lycras for my swimming trunks and joined in.

The day in numbers: 96.66 km, 5 h 1 min 5 sec, 19.26 km/h, 25.8 km/h max.
Tour total: 461.44 km.


Day 4: Sõru - Kihelkonna - Kuressaare

Today I had to get up on time as the first ferry of the day was at 8.15 and the next one would only be at 12. Thankfully it was only a few hundred metres from the sauna raft to the ferry. After I'd boarded and bought my ticket in the café I walked out on deck where I was soon asked where I was from. The question came from Aadu, a farmer from the village of Viira on Saaremaa who had been on Hiiumaa to visit his girlfriend.

Our chat lasted for the rest of the hour long ferry ride and resulted in me being invited to visit Aadu's farm. This would mean another detour for me but the promise of fresh strawberries and potatoes coupled with the fact that it was still early gave me no option but to accept. Well there I was given a short tour of the farm, including a tractor count. Aadu's mother served me potatoes, salad and a piece of well cooked sheep's ribs. Well fed and with water bottles filled from the well I found my back towards the main road heading west along the north shore of Saaremaa.

Along the way I was offered many choices of shortcuts across the island and my destination for the day, Kuressaare. Although the heat was tough to deal with, diluted grape juice helped me stay the course and continue all the way to Kihelkonna, the westernmost point of my planned route. That is, after I decided that the visit to the farm in the morning meant I could allow myself to skip Lümanda and start heading towards Kuressaare. Once I reached the main town of Saaremaa I let my GPS guide me to Piibelehe B&B and camping where I had to sit in the the shade for a while before being able to muster the strength to take a shower. Once I had the tent up I figured it was time to go into the centre to see if I could find a restaurant. As I activated the GPS again a couple of motorhomers, also heading into town on bikes, reacted to the fact the turn by turn directions blaring from my phone were in Finnish. Being countymen in a foreign land we joined forces and made our way to the fortress and a terrace bar that had come highly recommended. Quite understandably so as the service was great, the prices agreeable and the view of the fortress splendid.

With none of us really wanting to eat fish, we got on our bikes again after only one drink each. It didn't take us very long to stumble upon Vinoteek Prelude where the menfolk went for the wild boar while the lady chose the beef. The wine suggestions won support around the table and the desserts were also really good. Feeling quite pleased with how the evening had turned out, we cycled back to the campsite to call it a night.

The day in numbers: 117.88 km, 6 h 7 min 47 sec, 19.23 km/h avg, 30.8 km/h max.
Tour total: 364.78 km.