Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hitchhiking competition, Day 4

We woke up very early, in order to make it to the first ferry across back to the mainland. We set off towards the harbor - which was considerably further than we initially thought and as such, we ended up actually running in order to catch it. But we did, and then enjoyed the well-deserved cup of coffee on the ferry.

We also ran across the same pair of our competitors we met on the Saaremaa ferry. Since all of us were still fairly tired, we mostly sat in silence. Before docking, I managed to find us a ride to the next crossroads. The driver (who worked in biofuels) dropped us to the crossing towards Lihula. 

We found another hitchhiker there before us. We greeted her and then walked past her and settled a bit further. We had to wait for quite a while. 

We were eventually picked up by a group of  Czech tourists. They were in a hurry to get to the Saaremaa ferry, but nevertheless took us to one of the points - a Bishop's fort from the medieval times in Koluvere.

They told us they had been to Kunda the day before, and told us what it meant in Czech. Supposedly, it was a popular tourist attraction for Czechs for that reason.

They put us off near the gas station where the road led from Lihula back to Pärnu - crossroads where we had been just the day before. Since we had skipped breakfast and the traffic was slow, I went inside to get a hot dog for T., and quite soon after she had finished it, we were picked up and driven all the way to central Pärnu.

Our next destination was reachable by public inner city transport, so we bought bus tickets and then had  hamburger while waiting. Bus came soon enough and we got on board.

We had no clue where to get off, but T. asked a few locals in the bus and they helped gladly. From the  stop it was still about a kilometers walk in the hot sun to get to our destination - a fish ladder for the Sindy dam, next to the fishery.

On arriving, we found another pair ahead of us just ready to leave... and then when climbing to the ladder itself to take a picture, found a local TV celebrity (Vladislav Koržets) interviewing the head of the fishery. Inconsiderate as we were, we just walked through their background to get what we came for.

We then took a bus back to the edge of Pärnu, heading south. There was another couple there already, so we again walked past them and started hitchiking. They were picked up in a matter of 15 minutes but we were not so lucky. Cars kept whizzing by, not giving us the slightest attention. Eventually, another couple showed up and settled behind us - and then got picked up before we did. After 3 days on the road, emotions were soaring and that made us furious. Thankfully, we were also picked up soon after.

The driver drove us only a few kilometers, though. He explained that he used to hitchhike a lot and made a promise that when he got a car, he would always pick up other hitchhikers when he saw them. That said, he said he had now driven for 5+ years but despite that we were the first he had picked up in the period.

After he dropped us off, we again had to wait a while. Eventually, we were picked up by the same car that had first picked up the people behind us (thus making us mad). Nevertheless, since he was now giving us a ride, and actually took us past the couple he had picked up before, we calmed down consierably. He took us to about halfway where we needed, where the road turned towards Viljandi.

There was a 7 km stretch of road repairs in the direction we were heading, which made hitchhiking there near impossible. We therefore had to walk past all of it, to a small truck stop, by which time we were near dying of thirst (or at least it felt like it). We restocked on our water supplies and then put our thumbs up again.

We got picked up by a van with a trailer full of bicycles, and in getting in we found one hitchhiker already waiting for us there, who was on her way to Riga. They dropped us off next to the settlement where we needed to go.

Due to the imprecision of the map in specifying where the checkpoint was, we took the scenic route to the monument, walking 3 km where 1 would have sufficed, being pretty exhausted from the heat by the end.

We now had to find our way out of the settlement. After walking into a dead end and deciding not to listen to a drunk man walking by, we saw a car coming and asked for a ride out of town. The lady was nice enough to take us to the highway, again next to the gas station.

We now had two options -  try the main highway or go for the more direct side route. Since the local lady said that the direct route was also used often enough, we opted for that, and were indeed picked up by a car heading for Viljandi.

We were now heading for the finish line at 90 km/h, hoping to gather one more checkpoint that was practically on the way. The driver was indeed nice enough to take the 200-m detour to stop off at the Allikukivi caves (which really weren't much to look at, despite what T. remmembered from her youth), and we still arrived in Viljandi with ample time to spare.

In the end, we got the 4-th place, with just 0.5 pt separating us from the third and 1.5 pts from the second place. By that time we had been in around 50 cars and driven around 1500 km. We were dead tired, but quite content with 4 days of very active vacationing.

Addendum: After the award ceremony, we decided to head back to Pärnu. As all the buses had already left, we decided to try hitchhiking again. This time we failed, however, as there was practically no traffic heading towards Pärnu. Eventually we decided to set up the tent on the field by the side of the road, just a few km from Viljandi. We were both very dissapointed with the turn of events, but morning coffee in the bus station the next day mostly cleared that out.

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