Early morning sun filters through the ghost-like outlines of the white silver birch trees and chases away the nightime chill. The songbirds' dawn chorus is added to by the primeval call of the cranes in the nearby ploughed field, by the drumming in the trees above of a woodpecker and by the gentle gargle of black grouse at their lek somewhere close by. Soon another sound is added as Bart sparks up our noisy stove to make hot coffee which we sip in the cosiness of the test. Our overnight camp is packed up and we cycle back along a rough forest trail to yesterday's dirt road. So begins a day of cycling in Latvia.
We had no idea what to expect from this obscure little country but it's given us rolling countryside covered with wild forests and dotted with charming villages. It's thrown up a few surprises. The main roads we've chosen have often turned out to be dirt roads, slow and sandy in places. We've encountered our first little hills of the trip and the charming old Latvian town of Cesis. And, compared to Lithuania which had a slighlty depressed air, Latvia feels vibrant and upbeat.
In the daytime the sun has shone and at times its been quite hot. But it's fair to say that at night and in the mornings, it's Baltic.
More photos on flickr - click the link.
Daylight - 15 hours, 33 mins
Distance - 1345 miles
Days - 20
Route - crossed into Latvia north of Birzai and cycled through its hilly region to the old city of Cesis and onto to Valmiera. Slower progress due to icy cold starts and dirt roads.