Thursday, 12 August 2010

Gauja National Park

Gauja National Park known as Latvia’s Switzerland, is best known for its Devonian sandstone scenery and its winding river the Gauja. Most parts being relatively inaccessible by train we headed for Sigulda, the biggest tourist hotspot.

This time we knew where the station was, but hadn’t left early enough and cut it pretty fine. Sigulda was full of tourist buses although mysteriously there weren’t many tourists walking around. The cable car ride over the Gauja was not as scenic as we had hoped. We’ve been spoiled by frequent visits to the real Switzerland. The lookout points didn’t offer much of a view either due to the tree cover. At the bottom of about 360 steps we came to some of the orange caves and their cold waters, which we would have liked to have drunk had we had the water purification tablets with us. A man was washing in the stream and as soon as enough tourists had gathered assumed position in the cave and played music on his recorder. When the tourists had disappeared he sat down and waited for the next influx.

After we’d refuelled on water and a peanut butter fudge like substance with a bat on its wrapper we adventured into the less trodden territories of the riverside ‘cycle path’. Mosquitoes were surrounding us and this time we squirted ourselves with ‘Mosi Guard’, a genuinely effective formula against these northern rascals. We heard lots of birds and lizards scurrying away, seeing them wasn’t as successful. There was a dead mole and some dead shrews. On the other side of the river the path became more overgrown. We scrambled over beaver felled trees, ditches and gullies, and across extremely rickety bridges. The best way to tackle these was to walk across with legs wide apart in a constipated like manner, avoiding the middle of the rotten planks. Most of the way the path didn’t appear to be a path and we bashed our way through the undergrowth. We must have missed the turn off but met up with where we wanted to be in the end. After walking the 389 steps back up the valley we realised we should have gone to the caves at the bottom. This look out point actually had a good view of the national park and almost deserved its name which was something along the lines of ‘Paradise Lookout’.

A train was waiting at the station but we needed water and ran into the first shop we could find. There was water and a fine discovery, carton drinks with a long nosed dog called Lotte on them (our dog is called Lottie). We left Riga the following day, just as the heavens opened and the rains began to fall.

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