Leaving Berciems, I aimed for the town of Dundaga, where an old colleague of mine lives on a small farm in early retirement. He had kindly invited me, and I was cycling the 65 km to his home through coastal pine forests and the fields and pastures of the northern Courland region of Latvia.
Waking up and having an unimpeded view of the sea is pretty special, and I still thanked the nice Latvian grandmother for her generosity to let me camp in her backyard by the sea. Consequently, when I pushed my bike out of her yard onto the street, I waved goodbye to the house where she lived in, because I was certain that she had been watching me from her kitchen table all morning. She probably wondered as well, what that odd man was doing with his tent and other equipment all morning, because it usually takes me about 90 minutes with breakfast to clear a site. Yeah I know, but mornings are not my strong forte and I need time to clear my thought processes and to get going.
Once on the road, I was cycling again through the endless coastal pine forests. The sun was shining, it was relatively warm, once the ice-cold wind didn’t reach you, and again the smell of pine was captivating. Occasionally taking a break and going into the dunes to watch the birdlife was a great way to break up the cycling routine.
For lunch I had some smoked fish and here I must declare my undying love for smoked fish. Everywhere along the coast you can buy smoked fish on stands along the road. Eel, mackerel, rainbow trout, salmon, turbots and flounders are the main species I could identify, but other fish were smoked as well, and I had no idea what they actually were. At one stand I bought a piece of smoked rainbow trout marinated in garlic and an eel-shaped fish which tasted heavenly and was very fatty. I cannot be sure, but I think it was a sort of lamprey. I sat on a bench of a bus stop and devoured this delicious fish. If I would be living here, my fish consumption would certainly exceed that of meat.
Turning away from the coastal highway I was immediately greeted by the first gravel road I experienced in Latvia. It was an experience, which I would like to avoid in the future. Going for about 16 km on gravel roads is a slow affair, but in this particular case, the speed was further reduced by the washboard texture of the street surface. In addition, the cars driving by were doing that at incredible speeds. The were passing me at 80-100 km an hour and every time I was showered in a cloud of dust and grit, which was thrown up by the speeding cars. I felt miserable having constantly grit in my teeth and dust on me, while at the same time my tooth fillings were shaking loose by the constant cycling over the washboards and street pebbles the size of baby fists.
Luckily, my former colleague’s farm appeared soon, and I saw with absolute joy and anticipation a sauna building and a small pond. I predicted that the evening would be saved. My former colleague made a sensational dish of deer sausages and fried potatoes, we talked about the “good old times” and the sauna was heated up and I went to sweat and take a dip in the ice-cold water. A perfect evening with an old friend.