Latvia, Midsummers!

Latvia. Home again.

Time to farewell Russia. It has been quite an amazing journey. And I highly rate both Lake Baikal, Lake Teletskoe (shame we didn’t get to explore the Altai Mountains a bit more), Moscow and Saint Petersburg. So time to do what we do best, catch another train. This train, or at least our carriage, was a different class to previous, Obshiy, which is one lower than Platzkart. This means that a bench seat is allocated to 3 people, and the bed above is a first in best slept arrangement. Of course that wasn’t us. So the 2 of us had to sleep sitting up. Worst night on a train ever! I highly recommend avoiding that class if you plan on travelling Russia or anywhere near.

We arrived in Riga and caught a local train out to Skulte. From there it was a 3 km hike with all of our bags to Dasha’s parents dacha (summer house), to make the big surprise for Mama’s birthday. After the excitement settled down, it was a couple of relaxing days enjoying sunshine in the backyard or at the beach. I think the hardest decision I had to make was what to drink next!

Off to midsummer’s camp, where it all began. Yes, 3 years ago, Dasha and I met at Baiba’s camp with 100 couch surfers drinking beer, eating cheese, jumping fires and searching for the flower of a fern which only flowers on the shortest night of the year. Well, this year we were back to the same camp to do it all again. All was going well, with traditional dancing (which was absolutely hilarious and fun), jewellery making for the boys, chocolate/coffee/honey massages, saunas and swimming and of course beer drinking.

Traditional Latvians

On the second day, I went off with Elf boy and his little brother to collect the firewood. These Latvians really know how to stack a bonfire. It’s a full on balancing act to make the longest pieces point as high into the air as possible in almost a tee-pee type arrangement, unlike the traditional Australian way we all know of “just chuck ‘er on mate.” As the fire burnt down somewhat it was time for the jumping to begin. I think I may have been the first, followed in third place by Dasha. And this is when tragedy struck! Who would have thought jumping a fire after drinking could ever go wrong? Certainly the unsympathetic doctors a little later. The jump was fine… it was the landing that was the problem. As she collapsed to the ground there was a few quiet chuckles of “haha, she fell over,” but as she stayed on the ground we realised it was a little more serious. Dasha has actually broken this leg twice before. Seeing the swelling that came up instantly I thought it was broken for sure. An ambulance was only going to take us to the local hospital, where they could apparently do very little anyway, so Baiba’s dad offered to drive us to a hospital in Riga. My mind was on a single focus – get Dasha to a hospital – which was slightly tricky because she didn’t want to go. Didn’t take too much convincing though. Julie, on the other hand, was much smarter and packed an overnight bag for Dasha. Baiba’s dad dropped us off at the hospital, where I assumed we would spend the night. They took an x-ray, which cost about 10 bucks, told her it wasn’t broken, to stay off it for a week or two and sent us on our way. The problem, we now realised, was that in the panic to get to the hospital, we hadn’t got the keys for the house out of our tent. Being midsummer’s, it was very likely that no one would be home. We jumped in a cab to home, yelled from the street to the window above (this is the most commonly used intercom system) and sure enough the house was empty. So back in the taxi to try to find a hostel at 3.30 in the morning. Surprisingly, we were lucky. The first place I walked into a woman answered the door bell and had a private room for us to stay in. When she saw that I had to carry Dasha she was sympathetic enough to ignore the check out times the next day. I had to catch a bus back out to Baiba’s, pack up our tent and most  importantly come back with the keys. Ended up hitch hiking back to Riga while waiting for the infrequent bus service. The journey took me about 5 hours, while Dasha was lying in pain in the hostel by herself, unable to move. This pain was to last a whole lot longer than our friendly doctor had suggested. Very frustrating times for Dasha. She was unable to do all of the things she had planned to do whilst in Riga – Walking/cycling around the beautiful city, salsa dancing, disco dancing, swimming. What’s the best thing for Curly to do? Run away!

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