July 26, 2012
Our way out of Latvia was planned around an excursion to a national park where we read you could see native animals including elk and bear in large, natural bush pens. A red squirrel was featured in the park’s advertising so Graham was definitely keen.
Unfortunately the reality didn’t quite meet the promise. We understood the animals were “rescue” cases, brought to the park for rehabilitation. But the animals we saw were sad and didn’t look like they were getting much husbandry.
The lone(ly) squirrel was running madly from one side of his small cage to the other, clinging to a nut. The bear had apparently escaped three times. And the elk had large red sores on their legs. They looked such gentle creatures.
A huge owl with an injured leg was wandering the trails, stalked by a couple of staff with a landing net. It flew off, still majestic, to sit in a nearby tree. Graham was keen to get a photo. Make a noise like a mouse, get its attention, he said. Tch, tch, tch. The owl swiveled its head and fixed me with its glare. I have never felt so much like prey.
The road into the park had been relatively straightforward. We’re not quite sure what happened on the way out. Maybe it was because we had the gps set to avoid u-turns. Or maybe it just has a sense of humour. Because it was definitely set to avoid dirt roads.
Almost two hours later we still hadn’t found the tar. Or we’d found patches, our spirits lifting only to discover the tar lasted just until the end of the village. Or the gps would instruct us to turn off a perfectly good stretch of pavement … onto gravel.
We found corrugations, sand, bull dust and of course cars speeding in the opposite direction.
Graham felt like he was in outback Australia again, but wished he was on his KTM or at least had a new rear tyre. Knowing you’re 16,000 km from home, in a place where you can’t speak the language, brings a whole new perspective to accident avoidance.
We also found a quaint, hand-operated ferry … the extremely relaxed ferryman guiding what was basically a timber raft across the river. It cost us 2 lats … we didn’t pay till we got to the other side.