Friday, 12 September 2008

We're in Estonia - land of lakes

We're here. Heather and I flew into Tallin, the main city, yesterday (Thursday) morning. We are an hour ahead of SA in time.

We were up at 3am on Thursday morning to catch our flight from London to Tallin; it is a 2h30 flight. We flew over Estonia's two large islands (west of the continent) on our approach to Tallin. Uneven coastline with thin beaches on some of the bays. For the most part the land just appears to gently slope into the Baltic sea.

According to a tourist pamphlet, this North-western part of Estonia is still rising (post- ice age continental lift) at an average of 2-3mm per year. This territory was under water. So my assessment of the land just sloping into the sea was spot on; looks more like a lake shore than a coast.

On the plane we saw a dude with a compass clipped on to the front of his backpack's shoulder strap. At customs I asked whether he was here for the Rogaine. Affirmative. Turns out his name is Liam and he raced with the Aus/Kiwi team 4TC at Bull last month. There were a number of other Rogaine people on the flight.

From the airport we caught a bus to the nearby bus station and were on the Tallin-Tartu bus 15-minutes later. It is 190km between the two cities and the trip was pleasant. The straight road is bordered by forest, farmland and meadows. Little in the way of houses of structures or towns. Although towns are marked on the map, they must be a bit off the main road.

As for the land... flat as a pancake. The heighest point in Estonia is a small "mountain" at 318m above sealevel. It is also the heighest point in all the Baltic countries. There's very little to see in the way of vertical topography - just trees. Something like the FreeState, only flatter. I now understand how the greatest vertical difference between the heighest and lowest places in the race is only 80m.

As precipitation exceeds evaporations, lakes, marshes and mires dominate the landscape. We have no doubt that we'll have wet feet from start to finish.

We spent the late afternoon walking around Tartu, which is a university town. Our hotel, Hotel Pallas, is perfectly located. It's 300m from the bus station, right next to a rather plush mall and everything is within walking distance.

The pesky UK airport people confiscated my tent pegs so that was our first mission. We found a pack and then hit a grocery store for race munchies.

I love shopping in foreign places where I can't read food labels. We did pretty well, stocking up with snacks and ingredients to make wholesome roll fillings. We also found a few odd things to try, like the sweetie-looking 'bar' we found in the dairy refrigerator. It is a bit like a chocolate coated cream cheese something.

Yesterday evening we went walking. Sunset is only just before 8pm, so it is light till late (sunrise is around 06h30). We headed for St Peter's, an old church across the river where there are terracotta statues. Place was closed, we may try again today as we've got time to kill. Our walk was a long one so we only got back at 20h30. Dinner was Italian - risotto for me and pizza for Heather. After such a long day and all the travelling, we crashed big time last night.

We've just had breakfast and will go play in town today before we catch the event bus at 5pm for the event venue, which is about 100km from here.

As for the weather... very overcast and friggin' cold. Forecast is for clear skies over the weekend. Pre-race I'd read the event info which said temperatures are mild at this time of year at between 15-20 during the day. What I always forget is that 15 is a nippy Joburg winter's day. So for these people it is mild. For us it is winter. Hahahahaha. We walked around with fleeces and rain jackets yesterday afternoon. We've decided on beanies, Buff, gloves, fleeces and jackets for today.

The building are, of course, warm; so people wear normal clothes and t-shirts. Then they're commuting between buildings even they look cold.

Heather and I are camping at the event tonight and Sunday night (post-race). We've both got two sleeping bags and thermarest matresses and thermal clothing. We're hoping that it won't be too cold out there. The chilly conditions should be fine for running as we've got the right kind of gear for it. Rain is something we definitely do not want.

Time to go walkies. Have a good day folks.

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