from Värska to Lõunalaagri

After hearing that all eating places in Värska closed either five or seven o’clock, Kalle arrives with pizza, sandwiches, chocolate and wine.
As promised, the balcony is with lake view. We have our dinner there, discussing regional problems, African style sunset as background. In the morning we leave a spider and half a bottle of wine to the cleaners.
First I have to go to Podmotsa that today is the end of the road and end of Estonian Republic but was once a big and important local place. There’s smell of common lilac and over the lake one can see Kulja church and bathing Russian boys. I consume yesterday’s emergency sandwich.
Back in Värska I have coffee in the museum. Just because I could not do it last time when I was here but had to eat an ice-cream on a wet bench in the gas station. I recognize the bench.
Next challenge is to cross a piece of Russia. Actually it’s two pieces. At the start of the first warning sign I spot a boarder guard patrol car in the bush and double-check if it is allowed to go through with a bicycle. Yes, one can go with bicycle until Saatse. The place is called Saatse “boot“ where for some reason the road crosses over Russian territory for 700-800 meters. The first part of Russia is so short that I don’t even understand when it’s over. Suddenly there’s Lutepää village. The real „boot“ is marked on both ends. The forest is the same as on our side and birds sing the same way. A fence is on the Russian side of the road. My feet cannot touch Russian ground.
Since the „boot“ has created so much excitement I just have to visit Saatse village. A bit further away is Setomaa museum. A lady comes to switch on the lights for me, turns on the movies, watches those then with me and comments who is dead and who is still alive. When she was young then girls used to go to Petseri monastery and look at the bell-ringers for these were handsome young men. People still often go to Petseri and border area inhabitants have special visas for that. The lady shows me on the map with some bitterness that „most of our land is now on the other side“. She means Setomaa, country of the Seto people whose historic land is now divided between Estonia and Russia. On the second floor works the manager of the museum and we chat long about local life. Neither me nor she has an answer to the question how to keep small villages alive but native village is very important to Seto people.
Piusa river does not let me across otherwise than cycling back to Kundruse. On the way I can make a small shortcut on a nice road by Saabolda village. After the bridge boarder guards drive back and forth creating a lot of dust. Nasty soft gravel road.
I step in to Soap-Jüri as I promised the last time I was here. The shopkeeper is actually Silver, Jüri or George was his grandfather. He seems to remember me and tells me stories about hikers. I take a few pieces of soap and get some for free. And I get candy. I ask about water situation at the campsite where I’m heading and he says that the farm across the road is supposed to have the cleanest water. I could ask there. On the yard of the farm with the cleanest water is a kind elderly man who just sent his mother to sauna. Don’t I want to go as well? I thank him, take water and cycle on towards Lõunalaagri (Southern camp).
Out of nostalgia I opt for the RMK hiking trail through the forest. This means a lot of struggle in the sand and bouncing over roots but the roadside is beautiful and quiet. Mosquitos in the forest. Cockoo predicts me many more travel kilometers. Silver said that the lake by the campsite is dry but there’s a lot of water. Enough to wash myself. Strangely mosquitoes leave me in peace during bathing. Or maybe they’re astonished to see a naked person in the forest.
Tent up, bicycle maintenance and dinner. Sun sets quietly behind the pines. Mosquitoes attack in herds, scratching season has begun. Into birdsong cuts noise from Petseri railway station. Today’s distance 53 km.
from Piirissaar to Värska
from Lõunalaagri to Hino lake

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