Hello bike tour blog followers, this is Jacob typing. I joined the group a few days ago in Palanga. What follows is an account of my first few days cycling with the bike tour.
After the stress of hauling a bike across Europe finding three scruffy looking cyclists stood by some trees in Palanga was a joy and the question ‘shall we cycle’ only had one answer.
We cycled northwards along a bike path heading to the Latvian border. The path teemed with holiday goers on rented bikes or rolling skates. The absence of cars and presence of sun made it nice cycling. For many of us coffee was a pressing concern. A stop was made at a cafe. The thirsted-for coffee was drunk, beetroot soup was eaten and the other cyclists joined, pulling out various containers of the night befores’ food.
Many people who I had met on the tour the previous year were cycling again. I spent the rest of the days cycle catching up and enjoying the fleeting bits of sun hitting my arms through the pine trees.
In the evening we found a spot to wild camp next to the beach. It was on the land side of a dune in amongst pine trees. The food team decided on risotto and salad. The next three hours were spent feeding wet bits of pine wood in to the rocket stove hoping for the sound of boiling water. Miraculously we had food! And it tasted good. That night I slept contentedly to the sound of waves, torrential rain, and the wind.
The next day was the cycle to Liepaja – approximately 45 km across the border. The bike paths dissipated and we had to cycle on a dull ‘A’ road. Every five minutes seemed to be an hour. It rained and the wind blew in the wrong direction. The day improved upon coming across a village called Bernati which Bernard, a bike tour participant, posed under for a photo.
As we came into Liepaja things brightened – apples and plums were found by the side of the road. We cycled on following Liepaja’s one way system past wooden buildings and boarded up houses to the dockland area where we found the project we were to be staying at – Radi Vidi Pats. The name of the project roughly translates as ‘create an environment for yourself’.
The environment that had been created was one of crazy-disfigured bikes that can move in unnatural ways, overlooked by an imposing white washed building. The basement was a workshop, the other floors couldn’t be used. Out the back was a yard full of piles of scrap, ‘freak’ bikes and a fire place made of welded together cogs. We slept together in the projects garage. The floor was hard, people snored and I seemed to be personally victimized by mosquitoes.
We stayed two days. We explored the city, fixed bikes, built a compost and improved the projects’ sink. Some of us drank beer and sung around the fire til late. I recall a mixed reaction from our Latvian hosts to a cover version of Britney Spear’s Toxic.
The highlight of our time in Liepaja for me was a day trip to Karosta, an old Russian Military base that was abandoned and in places blown up during the Bolshevik revolution. We visited an orthodox church in the center. Before going in we had to rid ourselves of all evil thoughts and indecorous clothes. After visiting the church we stood on its steps criticizing organized religion. We headed to the coast and found bunkers that had been built to defend the coast from the dangerous Swedes. They were blown up, split down the middle and half in the sea. The sun was hot and we were dirty. We stripped off and ran into the sea, it was surprisingly warm. The current was strong and we had to jump to avoid being slapped in the face by waves. None of us had towels so we sat on the top of a bunker drying in the wind and the sun. Two of us thought that jogging naked along the beach might aid the drying process. I am unsure whether it did but at least it gave a pair of dog walkers something to avoid looking at.
Lukas will tell you some more about the Radi Vidi Pats project. It was not so clear how their daily life looks like because they were almost on holidays when we arrived. They just postponed it for a few days for us. As far as I understood it, their bike department called Radi Velo Pats wants to create more attention for cycling with these crazy freakbikes they build. And it works, a night-ride that they introduced is now organized by itself. The Boltik Baik Festival that they organize every year becomes more popular. There, people come and build these crazy bikes which are in the end ridden on a parade through the town. They have a huge collection of almost any kind of bikeparts. In their so called catacombs there are piles of frames, rims, racks, handlebars, seats, pedals, well everything a bicycle contains. You defenetly need some kind of light down there, but then if you dig deep enough you will find lots of interresting things! I managed to build a replacement for the broken trailer-attachment in the workshop.
Other things they do are instruments out of trash and some kind of food supply from local farmers. We did not see so much about that, though.