I’ve always wanted to go hiking with overnight camping. So far I’ve only experienced one without the other. In the following I will be recapping my and my brother’s longest hiking experience. 

Forewarning: We were underprepared.

On the 6th of May me and my 13-yo brother set off to a boggy northeast part of Estonia. We thought at that time we were quite well prepared. I was a bit nervous hoping I could read the map well but otherwise both of us were highly enthusiastic.

We traveled to a place called Kalmeoja by bus. It is a camping site that follows the route of the longest RMK hiking trails in Estonia (Oandu-Ikla, 370km). We got off the bus and set to walk to the place, about a kilometer into the pine forests. Only then did we discover in horror that we had left our tent on the bus. It was Saturday so I could not call the office and just hoped when the bus came back on another round, the tent would still be there. Luckily it went exactly like that and we went back to the camping site for a small rest. After that we located the trail marking and officially started our hike.

It was very exciting and soon enough we saw the landscape change from pines to a more boggy nature. It was at this point we came face to face with a viper on the side of the road. It hissed as it moved away and I was very careful to pass it on the other side of the trail, luckily along with the hissing, the viper’a distance increased enough that my brother dared to go past. The ordinary viper is the only poisonous snake in Estonia.

We came across several obstacles and it was cold enough that I did not regret my rainboots (yet). While my brother had to climb obstacles, I had the luxury to walk right through. We also came across several educational plates on the side of the trail explaining the nature around us. 

Now we had walked around 6km or so. I was not really counting until we would reach our first camping site/checkpoint. Since the landowners had forfeited permission to have a trail through their parts, we had to walk about 4km along the highway. This was one of the most tiring parts because of all the noise and we started to feel the weights of our backpacks along with my feet feeling like boiling (this is where I started to regret my choice of poor footwear and removed them each time we rested).

About 4km later, after a small snack break we were so happy to set on to the forest again. Still, we already felt tired, being the inexperienced hikers we were. But it was no option to go back anymore, we really did not want to walk along the highway again.

4km later, we reached the first camp site, Järvi Pikkjärve. Since the two grilling/fire spots were taken but one group was finishing up, we decided to just lay on the grass and enjoy the view. The first thing I did was remove my rainboots and step into the cold water to give my feet some relief. I did not put them back on until we left.

I managed to start our first camp fire with brother’s help. I considered it a huge win, so we boiled the water and made some soup before continuing after one and a half hour rest. We met a few hikers there who were delightfully friendly.

Our hike continued to the type of bog we estonians call raba. It is pretty much devoid from animals. It also has purely drinkable water, and I had researched about the water sources on the trail just in case. The first picture of the following shows the place where I drank water with vigour and we had some along with a bottle. The water was absolutely transparent and clear. And delicious if you could call water that.

The bog was also the part where we realized the weather forecast had been very off with predicting a rainy weather. The high sun did not do well for us. But we continued until we got to the next camping place, Paukjärve. It was 6PM by then (9 hours since starting) and we had 4km to go before our destination. It probably would have been wise to camp there but we knew we had 18km for the next day, and 22 if we camped here. Brother’s motivation was going down visibly. 

After 2 and a half hours (because we got confused by the red and neon green markings and went back with a GPS which directed us to the dirt road meant for cars) we finally arrived. Both me and him had been on edge because of the wrong turn before, him being absolutely exhausted and I was worried about the sun going down.

My brother’s spirits were pretty much lost by the time we arrived. I set up the tent and he went about opening the sleeping bags and taking out the blankets.

 I tried to start the fire but it was futile due to the humidity. I was a bit reluctant, but I went to ask help from a neighbouring group of campers and even though for them it took time as well, they helped us and were super friendly. We were glad with bro, grilling sausages for dinner. It was enough for me but he was used to way more food. Despite that he still said we should keep more for tomorrow.

We went to sleep in all our layers and blankets. Only a few hours later I woke up shivering. Apparently our sleeping bags were not enough and even the layers didn’t help. I heard my brother say he hadn’t slept. It took a bit of readjusting and waiting until I understood nothing is really going to help. So at about 3AM I told him lets open our sleeping bags to use as double blankets. We were finally warm and able to sleep.

We got about 4 hours of sleep, waking up to a moose strolling around our camping site. We snoozed as we waited until it left and then came out, finding clear evidence of tacky moose fur which we went to show our neighbours after packing up. They had a fire started and had invited us the day prior.

Having saved food, we made ourselves noodles and after that, soup to go. We found out the neighbours had the same destination as we did, Aegviidu, about 18km with no camp sites on the way. Finding the way, me and brother set out early about 9AM after informing our parents everything is absolutely okay. We climbed a lot of hills and even some stairs as we navigated between many small lakes. It was honestly beautiful despite our legs initially protesting in the morning. 

Once we got to a desert-like lavender(?) field with the scorching sun, we felt we should have taken more water with us or used less for boiling. We were well eaten and drank water periodically yet it was still difficult. Both of our feet hurt and mine were developing blisters. 

The hikers from the morning caught up with us and we went a few kilometers with them, before their pace proved to be too fast for us and we fell back. The first half, about 10km went in quite high spirits and surprisingly easily. Throughout hiking, my brother’s backpack/rucksack broke at various seams which we found a bit hilarious given we were increasingly challenged by the trail as well.

After those 10km, the 4km after were more difficult but we had motivation and snack breaks. Yet at the last 4km, our water supplies ended and removing my rainboots was pretty much painful. We figured out the red dots were markings for walking and neon green ones for bicycle trails. The more you know! Even if belatedly.

By the time we got to the town Aegviidu, our end point, we were relieved but every meter counted by then, given my feet were severely in blisters. That meant even thirsty, I did not wish to sidetrack one step and nor did bro. We got there at 4.30PM and went straight on the train and home.

Once we rested on the train and took off our footwear, we were reluctant to get up or put them back on. We agreed the hike had been a bit of too much for us. But we made it! And that made us happy. While I gained my high spirits quickly, the ability to walk – not waddle like a duck, took two days longer for me. 

By now we both are ready to go again since our mother really wanted to join us on the same trail for June! I’ve already gotten proper cold resistant sleeping bags for us (Estonian summer, amirite), now only proper backpacks/rucksacks and definitely appropriate footwear! Also we will be better prepared with our rations and supplies.

So cheers and seeya in June on the camping front!

-Ann

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