ONIONS, WHISKEY AND BIKES – 210 MOOSE ALONGSIDE ESTONIA

Route: Tartu – Kauksi – Letipea – Loksa – Tallinn

So this was the first big bikepacking trip for me and Roland – before we had done only day long round trips with our bikes. We started off from Tallinn and took a train ride to Tartu and arrived there at night. In the morning we filled our tummies with some good food for the first half day and tried to get out from Tartu. Once we did, we felt great and the real biketrip had begun. We headed towards lake Peipus via gravel roads and a lot of asphalt. I have to say that almost all of our roads in Estonia are really nice to ride by bike – singletracks, gravel roads and asphalt roads, everything. Our first stop (ice cream and leg stretching) was in Varnja – we had arrived to the biglakealmostlikeasea lake Peipus! We started to just ride alongside the lake towards north on the Onion Road which in estonian is called “Sibulatee”. The road goes through little villages, called Onion Villages. I guess you cannot find such place anywhere because here meet three different cultures – the old russian traditions, baltic-german manors (Alatskivi castle) and old estonian peasant culture. And of course lots of smoked fish and not so surprisingly, onions. When our first night was approaching, we had to make a stop and get some food for dinner and breakfast – so we got some traditional smoked fish and made a shop-stop in a village called Mustvee. Then we headed off to find a place where to stay for our first night. For some time it seemed it actually wasn’t such an easy task and after maybe 40 km (we called our kilometres moose and this was 20 moose for us) of trying to find a good camping place, we arrived near Kauksi. And, oh what a place it was! Despite quite many other campers (it still was July which is the warmest and sunniest month in Estonia), that place just rocked! We put our tent up and went straight for a dip in lake Peipus. The sky was toned in sunset and the moon was already up there, the water was warm and we had done our first day – 140 km (70 moose). Also we had a nice campfire with smoked fish, good sausages and of course our lovely friend for the trip, Jim Beam Honey whiskey.

On the second day we headed away from lake Peipus and headed towards north – the Baltic sea. We started from Kauksi and headed towards Tudulinna, the road was surprisingly fun with its going ups and downs and we were already thinking that that’s the best way a day could start. But, after some kilometers, for our luck, the heavier part of our trip had begun. From some point the roads just went straight on and on and there was nothing to see but fields and forest and no more going up and down and even no curved roads, just straight ahead. With wind. And with flaming sun. So we rode many many kilometers (or moose), my butt was hurting, I was hungry and I felt that the wind was never going to go away and we were never going to get to our first bigger stop in Kiviõli. Roland was already panicking and worried that I’ll give up and maybe I’ll never want to go on a biking trip ever again. But then, finally, we arrived to Kiviõli and after a rather gruesome customer service experience in some kind of weird burrito kiosk, we had lunch and met a birdwatcher with whom we had an enlightening conversation about pigeons, whereafter we headed out from Kiviõli. After some long gravel roads and seeing the sea which was a big relief, we stopped for dinner and breakfast stuff in Aseri. We planned to stay the night somewhere near Letipea. On our road there we saw Kalvi manor, made some wrong turns and rode some singletrack in the forest and found out how many private areas there actually are near the coast, limiting us tourists of finding a campsite. Again, it was already evening, we were quite tired, Roland had two plastic bags packed with food on his bike and even he was a bit too much exhausted from a harsh day of riding, not to mention trying to find a normal campsite for us. But we tried to stay positive and when the sunset had already begun, we finally arrived in top of Letipea near the biggest boulder in Estonia which is called Ehalkivi. Sadly we didn’t see the boulder itself because the reed was very high but there was a small spot of sand in midst of the reed which was perfect for us, it was again a very nice place to end the day.

The third day we headed towards Kunda and turned our bikes towards Lahemaa National Park. Finally we got to enjoy the elevations and descents between the forest where the road turned up and down, it was a good break from yesterday which was on flat straights with lots of wind. We made our lunch break in Võsu (this little village is packed with tourists in the summer). After we had our chicken pasta, we headed to Loksa which was our pit stop for food and drinks and started looking for a camping spot. As for this day, it wasn’t as hard as the two before and luckily we followed the singletrack roads in the forest towards the coast and found this epic beach place under Loksa village. There were no campers nor other hikers, only some locals who were walking their dogs on the seaside. And this spot was the most amazing from all the places where we had been – the pines, the sand and a nice place for a campfire. Okay, it was a bit cold to go swimming and the water did not seem to be healthy to say the least (the Loksa’s harbour was also near), so we just ate, drank our whiskey, made stupid pictures and watched the sunset. As this was our last camping spot for our trip, it was really epic.

Day number four – this was the last day and we were heading to our last stop, Tallinn. We started from Loksa and went through the little villages on the road and some fields and forests. Actually from all the days this was the day where we rode non-stop without doing any sightseeing and so on. As we had ridden a long way from Tartu and we were so close to Tallinn, we just went full on biking and wanted to arrive Tallinn as fast as we could. After Ülgase (there are actually very interesting caves there but this time we didn’t have time to visit them) we knew that it was only a little bit more and we would be in Tallinn. Well this “a little bit more” actually went on for a while, because we had to get through Maardu and Muuga and even when we arrived on the border of Tallinn, we had to ride more than half the city to get home. On the journey home we were smart enough to get Tallinn’s best pizzas and just glide home. And finally, we were there – we were home! I actually coudn’t believe the moment when I realized that we had done about 420 km altogether (that makes 210 moose in our measurements) and came from Tartu and lake Peipus to Tallinn. We were tired but fucking happy and the feeling was epic! Our first bikepacking trip was over and on the next day we were already thinking what would be the next big trip ahead us.

Karin, Roland (Yellow Kneed Moose)

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