Armed with a free map of the Baltics and a free Baltic guide book (both kindly donated to us in Sweden), for once we were well informed tourists. We could drop obscure historical facts into conversation as if we were highbrow intellectuals, and navigate with the sonar efficiency of a bat. Or so we thought. We were in Parnu, on the west coast of Estonia, looking for a place to sleep for the night. (Ok, I know, you thought we were die-hard wild campers. Well, it was cold, damn cold ok. Leave us alone man!)
As we cycled around referring to our ten year old guide book we soon realised that all of the cheap hostels had vanished. Only fancy pants new condo buildings beside fancy pants spa, health and wellness centres. We pedalled away dejectedly into the traffic of the dark night feeling sorry for ourselves. As we turned down a dark side-street we realised we were being tailed. The hum of the engine edged towards us. Oh shit, the Estonian Mafia… maybe the people warning us of the Baltics were right after all. Headlights blazed into our backs, the car chugged to a standstill beside us, the window rolled down. A man in a low slung beret peered towards us.
Enter serendipity to audience applause. After learning of our trip the kind man drove us to a friend’s B&B where we slept in an old cottage for the equivalent of 5 Euro.
The almost Soviet era map also failed upon closer inspection. The train tracks from Parnu to Riga, shown so promisingly on our map, were long out of operation. We were left with three choices. A) a big ass detour B) a date with the main coastal highway or C) reconstruct the railway tracks and hire a train for the day. Feeling kinda lucky we chose the second suitor… the coastal highway, which we had been specifically told to stay off.
It started off fine and dandy, the flow of trucks were widespread enough to give us some breathing space. But before long the traffic intensified, trucks were whizzing by in both directions, and we had to dive off the road edge every 20 seconds or so to maintain some feeling of safety. We were about to detour from the main road when, you guessed it…
Enter serendipity to audience applause and canned laughter. A truck with Romanian number plates pulls into a layby directly in front of us. A timid wild dog approaches the truck, and we watch as the truck driver feeds him scraps of bread. Hmmm… what a nice guy. Maybe we should try to hitch a ride. An hour later we were unloading our bikes from the back of the truck at the edge of Riga. We had covered the same kilometres in one hour that would have taken us a day of cycling. We waved the truck driver goodbye, the music crescendoes, and so ends another chapter in the Sagas of Serendipity.