The Old Woman Who Wouldn't Shut-Up: Riga to Barabele. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

September 16, 2013

The Old Woman Who Wouldn't Shut-Up: Riga to Barabele.

YOUR LEGS WILL GET COLD, said the manageress of the hostel, looking down at my shorts. "The weather is cold today" she added. "Yes I know" I replied, "but my legs will be warm cycling."

She was right. It wasn't a day for short slieves; instead I was wearing my warm fleece, as the sky when I went out on the street was a dirty grey, and it was breezy with a big drop in tempeture since last week.

I cycled along the main pedestrianized street through the Old Town, towards the river. Having checked the map, navigation would then be a matter of crossing over the bridge, then turning left along the embankment and follow that road south.

It was easy, though it was risky getting across the junction on the south side of the bridge and onto the cycle-path; then there was a second big roundabout-junction where the cycle-path came to an end, and I'd to dash across the exits in brief gaps in the traffic.

I then was passing a Statoil petrol station. Scandinavian companies are everywhere in the Baltic States. In the former region, the petrol station was the place to find alcohol to fuel the Trangia stove, so I thought, maybe I'd fine the same here. But of course, in the shop, all the labels on the various bottles were in the three Baltic languages plus Russian, and there was nothing which looked remotely like alcohol.

Further on, there was a builders-supple-superstore. Inside, I made my way past the aisles of screws and nails, the tools, the electrical to the paint-section, and got to a shelf of transparent half litre bottles of clear liquid. The label on one caught my eye. "Piiridus". Had to be spirits, so I took it.

The one that I want. Fuel for my alcohol stove.
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The cycle-path soon came to an end and there was just less than half a metre's shoulder onwards to ride upon, but the traffic was well behaved, keeping to the speed limit, and as it was a four-lane divided highway, they gave me plenty of space on passing. Then I took a turnoff onto a secondary road, which was narrow and although there were fewer cars, those that were went flat out, often swiping pass, in the small space between me and an oncoming car. Perhaps, unlike the highway, there is no speed-cameras, I thought. Then up ahead I saw a car pulled-over; and when I got as far, saw two motor-cycles ahead of the car, then two cops; one had a sheet of paper in his hand and was explaining the rules to the driver, I suppose.

I reached Baldome, a village with a lot of park, and as it was around one o'clock, it was time to stop. I wheeled the bike in off the road over to a paved circle underneath birch trees with park-benches around the outside. I leaned the bike against one and before taking out my shopping from the day before, I took out the Trangia stove and set it up, then unscrewed the cap of the bottle of Piiritus and put it to my nose to smell. It smelt just like methanol. I didn't need to use the stove to test it but I did. It burned as normal.

Then just as I'd extinguished the flame, an old woman with a walking stick came lurching along the path towards me. I think she'd seen me long before I'd seen her as she shouted out jovially, a greeting, I can only think; it didn't sound like she'd come to insult me while I couldn't make out a word she said. She leant on her stick and began talking away like a tweetering bird, pausing only for a split second now and again to laugh. All I could do was smile in agreement, nod and say yeah and wonder what she's saying. Couldn't she see I didn't understand. Then she paused from her continuous chatter and took a step or two along. Good she's going. But no, she stopped and continued talking rapidly and laughing. Using the stick, she pointed to the leaves on the ground, and I now heard the word problem, or the Latvian equivalent in her speech. I think she might've been referring to young people today; lazy young people, don't clear the leaves, and maybe laughing at what they do do. She took another step forward. She's going this time for sure. She's got to be tired by now, on her feet so long and where does she get the energy. No, she turned and leant on her stick and continued talking for what seemed another five minutes which was on top of the near tem minutes she'd been standing having this one-sided amusing conversation with me.

Eventually she left, so I could enjoy lunch in peace.

I felt cold sitting by the time I got moving again and the rain was holding off nicely, even though it looked like it would rain soon.

The road onwards for the rest of the afternoon was quieter and meandered through a mix of woodland and farmland with plenty of interesting distractions as I took more photos than usual.

Walking home from school.
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A rider-less bike.
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This road looks the same as the road in Santa Cruz (Department) in eastern Bolivia Is on in July 2010, on the way to Salta (Argentina)
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A road junction.
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In Iceland, the sign when the asphalt (paved road) came to an end and the gravel road began was "ENDAR MALBAEK". In South America when the smooth surface ends, the equivalent sign is "A 200m FIN PAVEMENTO" Here, it's a triangle with humps.
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A John Deere drawing a load of potatoes.
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It could do with a new roof.
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Where have you been all my life?
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A Latin enclave perhaps.
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I saw you cycling pass the church gates.
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Village shop.
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Don't leave me now. I am only going to that forest ahead to camp for the night Barabele.
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In the forest beyond the sign, before putting up the tent. Notice the improvised stand.
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Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 5,969 km (3,707 miles)

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