Tuesday 22 August
Much of the Baltic states is in flat land where water accumulates. There are a number of wetlands or bogs throughout the states and the tourist information made them look fascinating.
I found a web site offering a wilderness adventure in the Soomaa National Park which included a bog walk. That looked fun, so we booked it. Soomaa National Park was about a 40km from Pärnu and is the largest intact peat bog system in Europe’s preserved as wilderness.
Our guide was Kasper. He talked a lot and we learned some interesting things about Estonia.
He was eleven when the Soviet Union collapsed, and he remembers standing in queues to get bread and normal commodities that were not readily available. In his opinion the first ten years afterwards was chaotic. A motor mechanic who had the skills and could get the parts could become a millionaire overnight. This period separated those who could get and sell and those ‘left behind’. During the following ten years there was more consolidation. Governments were getting their act together and normality took over.
Kasper studied marketing but with a design focus. He worked for a small company and was frustrated by the lack of creativity. He then studied to become an electrician and got experience in Germany but when the financial crisis struck he walked away from it.
It was then he became interested in the land and conservation.
We started our walk through grassy field so that made the shoes wet. We were warned that our pants would be wet to the knees. They soon dried. Then we walked through a forest. That made our shoes muddy. Kasper stopped to point out various berries that are edible. All the time we were carrying our bog shoes.
Finally it was time to attach our bog shoes and start the bog walk. They look like elongated racquets and take some getting used to. Do not cross one foot over another!
There were seven tourists and our guide tramping through wet bogs. The idea was to follow the guide and stay out of the very wet and very sticky bits. Lisa, our German companion, got a little stuck but we managed to stayed upright.
The bog is fragile, taking hundreds of year to accumulate the peat. When the Spring floods inundate the land, sometimes by as much as a metre a day, this inundation is often called the ‘fifth season’. When we made our visit the level of water was relatively low and we could find our way through the bog.
There was a pond with platforms to swim from. The water was clear and very fresh to taste. At this point it was time to remove the bog shoes and walk normally along the gravel paths
We came to a lookout, which gave us a wonderful view over the bog we had just been through.
The walk continued into a forest and then to a river where we had some typical Estonian potato porridge. Yes, Bruce ate lunch!
The day finished with a 5km canoe journey. We hadn’t canoed before, so we had a learning experience there. How do you get out of situation where you are jammed between a log and the banks of the river?
We were stiff and tired that evening, but what an adventure!