Estonia Trip Report - Easter 2013 - Frozen Seas, Rivers and Lakes

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Dec 5, 2011
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United Kingdom
In the late summer of 2012 I was looking for a trip destination when Jaan of this parish posted in the introductions forum. He included lots of background about Estonia and is flora and fauna. Immediately after reading this my mind was set that Estonia would be the location of my first overseas trip.
I found flights from Easyjet for £120 and car hire was arranged at the same time via addcar for a similar amount. Winter tyres were provided and are excellent.

Originally I had intended a solo trip but the more I thought about it the less comfortable it felt. I really didn’t think I had enough cold weather experience so I was delighted when tepee and jacko1066 decided to join up.

We set off down to Gatwick on Tuesday 26th March and had an overnight near the airport.

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Out for a quick feed at the hungry horse

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Steve very kindly presented us with maxped note pouches, a hobo line and a custom made badge to mark the trip

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A quick taxi transfer early on 27th saw no dramas.

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Easyjet let me off the 0.9 kg in weight my bag was over and there were no issues with security. I was carrying flasks, lighters, fishing tackle, kettle, billy can and nothing was challenged. I was particularly surprised both lighters were handed back to me when I offered them up.

We arrived at the airport and had to walk offsite to get the car which was a bit of a PITA but we kept our trollies and pushed them over to the compound. We were given a golf estate and to my absolute happiness, it was automatic and all the controls were in the same place as my VW so all good.
We next headed off to the large shopping complex near the airport to stock up on a bit of kit (meths, ccf mat and bear spray in my case). The bear spray was 15 euro and was never needed. Sods law dictates if we didn’t have it…..

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The local meths was 4 euro a litre and a roll mat was had for 5 euro. We stocked up on food and decided to have a kitty for group evening meals and buy our own rats separate. We went for lots of fresh meat and veg with the idea of having a large stew in the group pot each night. Prices are comparable with home but smokes are much cheaper at 3 euro

Food secure we headed to Laheema

Lahemaa National Park covers 725 km² including 250 km² of sea The name Lahemaa originates from the most thoroughly studied and visited part of the North Estonian coast where four large peninsulas Juminda, Pärispea, Käsmu and Vergi are separated from each other by four bays Kolga, Hara, Eru and Käsmu. Lahemaa translates roughly as land of bays.

We opted to get right to the heart of the park on day one. The journey was not without issue. Firstly I had misunderstood the speed limit. It is indeed 110 kph in the summer but its only 90 in the winter. Suddenly my mirrors were full of flashing lights and I was in the back of the rozzers car in a flash. I cant say enough how polite the policeman and his partner were. They were all smiles and seemed to have sympathy for my plight which I think was why I got 80 euro fine rather than the max available to him of 400 euro. No pictures of this :D

So we tootled along at 90 and finally made it towards Pukkekari on the Parispea Peninsular. As we got close the road narrowed and muppet here managed to put his wheels off the road. The car wasn’t going anywhere without some intervention with a snow shovel and some spruce bows. I don’t have pics of this either :D

We finally arrived and got out for a recce. The Baltic was frozen still and the sun was beginning to set

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The snow was well over a foot in the forest and going was hard when walking in and about

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Deadmen were the order of the day for the tipi and me and Steve crashed in together on the first night

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We settled down and got some much needed food inside us

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Note the bottle of Vodka which saw two sips taken in days 1-5. Alcohol was a waste of money really until day five but more later..

Temperatures were expected to drop to -10. I slept in my -20 bag with just my merino base and was toastie all night. I forgot to get the Ibutton out of my gizmo bag but it showed -6 in the tent even though packed in a mesh bag. I think petes thermometer showed -9 and my freezer version -10
Day two dawned and first order of the day was to get camp set up properly. Pete dug out the fire pit while I got a tripod / bipod together and Steve chopped wood

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We took in 15l of water from the supermarket but as soon as this was finished it was on to melting snow. I was really glad to have my group Milbank made for me by Bilmo of this parish. It worked a treat mate to get rid of all the crud prior to being treated in the filter.

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I had some very nice hotdogs with a carpet wrap for lunch

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All washed down with a brew. The eagle kettle was a great performer on a fire and on a meths stove.

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After lunch we headed off to walk the cape peninsular. I have to say this was the first time id ever seen the sea frozen and I found it completely magical. The photos just don’t convey the contrast in light.

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We played a little ice golf which was great fun

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When we got past the middle part of the spit the view started to open out and it was clear there were a few animals about

Swans feeding in the clear area of water

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Pete then spotted what he thought was a seal pup but I couldn’t see it and thought he was mistaking a swan signet. Then I clocked it too. I was really glad of my 20x zoom and managed to get a couple of good clear pics

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We opted not to go any further down the peninsular as we didn’t want to spook the pups
We walked back taking in a few more views

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The trees on the raised section were covered in bear sign

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We enjoyed a cracking pork and cider stew for tea and then turned in ready to move on to Nommeveski the next day.

Temperature on second night was -8.5

Thoughts for me so far. I was struggling in the deep snow. Just walking up the hill to the wood store and back was a real effort. Id done a lot of walking in preparation but found tramping through snow to really sap energy. My feet were also giving me trouble as my sorel pac boots were rubbing my heels. I applied some iodine dressings and taped them up with kenesthesic tape which seemed to keep them comfortable. My bivvy boots were becoming my greatest bit of kit. After walking the peninsular my felt inners were damp and it was great to be able to change into warm dry footware. My inners were not wool but this made them easy to dry on a stick by the fire. My back was also aching. Still, an early night on the second night saw me pretty refreshed ready for the next site.

Ready to pack out on Friday morning

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We headed in to Loksa and found a shop. We dedided we would buy water to cut down on snow melting which is a laborious task and also picked up a few bits. I full fat bottle of coke and some crisps went down very well

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A bit further down the road we came across a builders merchants and knowing we had a bit of a trail to negotiate at Nommeveski, Pete came up with a plan to make some tobbogans.
The drive to Nommeveski took us through some stunning country roads that were reminiscent of a winter rally stage

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On arrival we got out and had a bit of a recce. The river Valogogi (White River) was mostly frozen aprart from some rapids

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We didn’t want to risk the car down a steep hill covered in ice so walked all the gear down the hill and then setup the Boggans to haul in

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The trail was up and down but the boggans coped pretty well with the terrain.

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Up the last hill we were presented with this view

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A wood store was also nearby which was well stocked with split dry birch and pine.

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Fire on and a brew was first order of the day. I lit the fire with copious amounts of old mans beard which was bone dry and took a spark really well.

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Spot of lunch on. Rice for me and sausage and eggs for Pete. Think Steve had cheese sandwiches

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For dinner we started out with some wild boar chops. These turned out to be mostly spinal cord but the meat that we did get off them was very flavoursome.

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Pete’s man flu was really starting to kick in now and he set out on a mission to try a few herbal remedies. First up was pine needle tea which he gargled.

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He also embarked on an epic garlic eating fest. I have never seen anyone consume so much garlic :D

I settled into the Lavvu shelter for the night and the temp was – 6.5 overnight. I really enjoyed the open fronted bivvy shelter. It was very easy to square away gear. After a good nights sleep I was really looking forward to meeting Jann and Mihkel. Me and Steve headed back to the car to get some provisions.

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We saw a huge ants nest under a tree

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And took a few pics of the river valley

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I was really starting to get in the zone today. I felt well rested and really enjoyed the walk

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Lots of old mans beard

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Barni bear and moose sausage. Breakfast of champions

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We set off back to camp over the bridge

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Deep snow off the beaten track

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Back at camp it was time for the throne room to be used. You just cant beat taking a dump with the door open. What a view

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Sausage and pasta for lunch

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Table cleared down and decorations added. The graveyard candles we bought at the supermarket were great and I bought back a few for use at meets

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Later in the afternoon Jaan and his Cousin Mihkel arrived and we went for a walk down the trail. The trail runs pretty much from the north of Estonia all the way to the southern border with Latvia. We only sampled a little of it though

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Beaver Sign by the riverside

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Pete getting down low for a look see. The banks were very steep. Much more so than was possible to detect on google maps

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On the trail

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Testing the ice

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The ice was pretty thick and Jaan and Pete went for a walk

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Back at camp we settled down and chatted. Jaan and Mihkel had bought some blood vorst and Estonian beers so we sat and talked about all manner of stuff from the Russian occupation to Estonian swear words :D

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It was fantastic to meet the guy who had provided us with such a huge amount of help planning the trip. The blood vorst was superb roasted over the fire. Good food, good beer and excellent company, it doesn’t get much better.

I cant thank you enough Jaan for all your help and hope I can repay your generosity and kindness some time in the future.

Sadly Jaan couldn’t stay too late so we knocked up a quick stew and turned in for the night ready to move on again

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Roast sock anyone

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Temperature overnight hit -7

My thoughts on Nommeveski

For me this was the golden two days of the trip. Staying in the lavvu and meeting up with Jaan made it really special. I was acclimatising to the temperatures and my back pain was much better. The riverside location was stunning and I felt really at home here. Its definitely made me want to do more bivvy camps rather than being stuck inside a tent. I felt really close to the environment.

Next day we were up early and on the road headed for Oandu. We stopped off in Vosu for some provisions

My turn to haul out

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We got to Oandu in good time and got camp set up. I was determined to use the Lavvu stove as id carried it all this way. It really worked well but was overkill for the temps. I found that wood prep for a personal stove was too much like hard work when you are already preparing wood for a communal fire so with hindsight and the temps we saw id have left it home.

Oandu has a large nature centre but it was closed. There was however a well which we drew water from. Id never done this before so it was an enjoyable experience. I don’t have a pic of the well but the other guys do.

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Flame on

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The fire pit

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View inside my Lav

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Steve on the axe

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Yep it’s a stick

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Cleaning the griddle with a top fire

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View of the lake/river valley

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Ribs for lunch which were superb

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We found some chagga on a birch in camp

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Love this picture

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Two tents

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In the afternoon we set off for a walk in the forest. Walking up the road to the trail head we saw some interesting fungus

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A hybrid spruce

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We had to break trail in the woods and the snow was deep. How about this for trees sharing space

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Some huge brackets

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Lots of tracks

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The forest was old growth rather than plantation and it was beautiful to walk in amongst it

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Came across these metal rings in a tree and still none the wiser what they are for

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Lots of hoof

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Pete was on a mission to find chagga

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Serious deadfall hung up on the tree nextdoor

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Boys on the trail

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Finally Pete spotted some chagga

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And started trying some climbing techniques

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The chagga was too far out of reach in the end so we followed a small creek back to the road

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Another view into camp

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Brew on

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Stew on

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We settled in for the night but it was to be a lot warmer. Overnight we only saw -2.5. This made my -20 bag a bit ineffective and I woke up having sweated profusely and condensation was frozen all over my bag. Hung out to dry in the morning sun soon put things right.

We had all bought alcohol at the supermarket and with the threat of severe cold lifted enjoyed a late night and a few drinks.

The second day was spent mooching around camp and drying gear in the warm sunshine

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My ankle was still sore but I kept it clean and dressed and it held up well

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Sat taking in the view a few deer pooped out of the woods onto the ice and we went into stalking mode. Pete went left and the deer dropped back into the wood. As he moved further round they shot back out. I was really glad of my zoom again and they stopped band in the middle of the lake and posed for photos

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Steve stayed in the Lavvu first night but vacated on the second day after the wind came round into his face

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I enjoyed some time sat on here soaking up the warming rays

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It was a stunning view

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Pete taking it in

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Pete then discovered a large lodge but it was to late in the day to move all our gear

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Everywhere I go woodpeckers seem to wake me. Oandu was no exception

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Pete found some bulrush and used it to light the fire with birch bark

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Brewing up on the evernew dx stove which proved an excellent tool for its poultry 80g in weight

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The graveyard candles were brilliant

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Cleared down and ready to roll

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On the way to the airport we drove into a big clearing

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Car dropped off the last view of the airport

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My last picture of Estonia was of the ice roads going to the islands on the West coast. Look out for them on top gear in the next series as they had just finished filming there.

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What did I Learn?

I really enjoyed the trip. It met my expectations in spades. My gear performed really well. I was particularly impressed with my helsport bivvy boots, woolpower ulfrotte tops and aldi merino base layers. I took m90 mits which were not used and buffalo pile mits which were again unused. My OR wool mix gloves from sports direct were warm enough down to -10 and gave me enough dexterity to tie knots and enough fire protection to handle cooking duties too. The bilmo millbank is a great bit of group kit and although not ultralight it was a stunning bit of kit to have. My D2 neck knife saw the most use and the attached ferro rod was great for relighting the fire dogs in the morning or igniting old mans beard. Probably my most important bit of kit was a well stocked first aid kit. My feet needed a lot of pampering and mending. The iodine dressings, kenesthesic tape and foot powder really did save the day for me and allowed me to function and keep my wounds clean. Snow brush was also essential and im glad I took one. The one think I needed but didn’t have was a lightweight windproof layer like a snow smock or paramo smock. I ended up carrying my m90 jacket on walks and they are heavy and bulky. I had to take it though as it was needed when we stopped to keep the wind out of my wool layers. My bushlite candle lantern also performed well. The internal reflector cast a lot of light and I woke in the night at Nommeveski thinking someone was shining a torch on me :D.

The country

Estonia is simply stunning. Being able to enjoy a costal location as well as riverside and lake side within a small drive of each other gave a really diverse feel to the trip. People were very friendly and most spoke excellent English. We got by with a few words of Estonian but it is a difficult language. Prices for food drink etc are similar to home and much cheaper than scandanavia.

My travel companions

Choosing who to travel with is often the most difficult decision and can make or break the trip. I was fortunate to go with two guys who really made it a pleasure. I think Steve and I would be the first to admit that having Pete there was a godsend. He is so clued in and switched on to the environment and just makes everything look so easy. His work ethic is immense and he just ploughs headlong into everything. When he contracted manflu he still got on with it and I have to say id travel to the ends of the earth with him in a flash.

Steve’s enthusiasm was also a blessing and he always gave me a lift when I was feeling the pace. His healing hands sorted my aching back a treat too. To share a week in the most wonderful of settings with these two guys will live with me for a long time.

Things I learned

By far the biggest lesson I learned is that stuff just takes a long time when its cold. I found that doing a bit and resting a bit was the way forward. Avoiding sweating was key to maintaining core temperature as well as staying well hydrated and eating well. My appetite disappeared and I had to force food down me. I lost half a stone in the week.

Fitness was definitely an issue for me. Although id done lots of walking nothing prepared me for how tiring walking in deep snow would be. Not having a chair made my back ache. This was compounded on days where we we taking down camp and setting up at a new location. Ultimately my weight was probably the one thing I should have worked harder on. I did enjoy the walking though and I did most of the things I wanted to do so mission accomplished.

Personal admin is key and I had to work really hard at it to keep my gear in good condition and leave enough spare time for group tasks. For the most part I succeeded in keeping my kit squared away and just having my brew kit and snacks to hand.

We ate really well. Most evenings were a big vat of stew laced with lots of veg and spuds and plenty of herbs and spices. Dried sausage was a great calorie packed snack and chocolate chip cookies went down well too. I tried to drink coffee in the day and hot chocolate in the evenings but soon adapted this when Pete was drinking choffee. From that point on most coffees got a big heaped spoon of chocolate added.

Having a car made life easy as we could afford to carry fresh food and water when needed.

Getting home

I fell through the door at 10pm Wednesday night. Demolished pie and chips, got my bag out to air, had a shower and went to bed. It felt weird being in a bed and I had all the windows wide open. My throat has struggled to adjust to warm air and im very hoarse. My wife and daughter were still away when I got back and I didn’t enjoy coming back to an empty house. They are home now and absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder. Im actually looking forward to some time away from thinking about the trip and gear and bushcraft in general.

Questions raised

The mind naturally starts to think about where and what next for overseas trips. I found down to -10 was fairly easy to cope with. We had great weather with just one overcast day at Nommeveski where it snowed a little. At this moment im not sure where I want to take it next. I had always thought of the trip as a stepping stone to much lower temps but im not really sure that’s what I want to do at the moment. I will go away and work on my fitness and weight and see where I am in 6 months time. There is certainly a lot more of Estonia to see with 4 more national parks to explore.

Best bits

Walking the cape at Pukkekari was stunning. Seeing the frozen bays will live with me for a very long time and finding seal pups there was wonderful.

Nommeveski was my favourite campsite. Staying in the Lavvu was amazing and finally meeting up with Jaan made my trip complete. I left there with a real warmth in my heart and a better understanding of the history of the country and just how bad things had been only a few decades previously.

Walking in the forest at Oandu with no marked trail was a big thrill too and the wildlife there was great.

Finally spending time with Pete and Steve. No matter how beautiful the surroundings and how amazing the experiences, if you don’t have someone to share them with its not complete.

Thank you gentlemen you made an amazing place all the more better.

If anyone would like info on Estonia then do feel free to get in touch and ill help in any way I can.

Thanks for reading
 
Last edited:

Mesquite

Anyone for sailing?
Mar 5, 2008
24,644
1,100
59
~Hemel Hempstead~
Paul... that was a superb write up. I thoroughly enjoyed it reading it and seeing all the pics.

Thanks for sharing what looks to have been a fantastic trip :)
 

copper_head

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Feb 22, 2006
4,261
1
Hull
Brilliant write up and pics, great to see the end result after following your kit list thread.

Looks like an amazing place :D.
 

Outdoordude

Native
Mar 6, 2012
1,099
1
Kent
Hi paul
That was a great write up. Id love to do something of the same nature when i learn to drive. I hope you dont mind me asking but which one is you. :)
Sat taking in the view a few deer pooped out of the woods onto the ice and we went into stalking mode.
LOL :)
For you next trip you could head somewhere like sweden, norway or finland. The Fjal is meant to be great! (northern lights and all that!) :)
Those chimnea things at each campsite looked great. Those graveyard lamps look good also.


Thanks agai
 

Shewie

Mod
Mod
Dec 15, 2005
24,259
21
45
Yorkshire
Good stuff lads, what beautiful countryside

So glad you got good weather for your trip, although maybe not as cold as some were hoping for :)

Great write up and pics Paul, I'm going to have another read right now.
 

Teepee

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 15, 2010
4,115
4
Northamptonshire
Fantastic stuff mate! goodjob

I had a great time out there, only curtailed very slightly by the man flu I got on the flight over.

Brilliant company and an epic country.

Estonia surpassed all my expectations and really holds a candle to Norway, Finland and Sweden that I've travelled quite largely. I'd go again in a flash-an inspired choice for a destination.


TR to follow from me.
 

jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Ah, mr thrills, mate you have seriously set the bar high now for trip reports!!

How the hell am I meant to follow that??
Lol!!

Seriously though, stunning report pal!! You have summed up the whole trip superbly!!

And your right, that little camera of yours takes excellent pics!!

I better get thinking and writing lol!!
 

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