During Soviet times this stretch of shoreline was off limit, reserved just for the military as a frontier for the Iron Curtain. Dense forest and endless sand dunes became the perfect location for secret bunkers and watch towers. But the USSR fell, and the soldiers disappeared. Today, our two-day bikepacking adventure follows the beach and forest along this once forbidden coast.
% Unpaved: 85%
Single Track: 5%
Rideable Time: 99%
Total Ascent: 450m (according to Strava )
Highest Point: 33m
The villages were never really re-populated, and nature began claiming back what was hers. The region is now made up of nature reserves and a national park, protecting the vast forests and coastline. The tour follows gravel roads, ex-soviet patrol paths and overgrown sandy lanes through the deep forest exploring what the western coast of Latvia has to offer.
Jonas had been to the Baltics several times before and when he suggested his idea to Björn and I we were sold and book the ferry straight away. The three of us live in Stockholm, Sweden so it was easy for us to get to the port town of Nynäshamn and take the overnight trucker’s boat to Ventspils, Latvia.
As we only had two days to complete our trip we booked a local taxi service to drive us up to the northern most tip of the peninsula, to the village of Kolka and then, cycle back in time for the ferry to Sweden and get to work on Monday morning. The old Christian traditions are strong in Latvia and so it wasn’t possible to arrange a taxi for Sunday even if we had wanted to.
Up in Kolka we just allowed ourselves a short time to top up on last minutes essentials and buy some smoked fish from roadside shack. We headed to the lighthouse at the point and were greeted by strong southernly winds. It became obvious we’d have to fight for ever kilometer back to the port.
The three of us decided to mix the route by switching between the coastline and inner forest tracks. Even coming from Sweden where we have our fair share of woods, we felt these forests were special. We met nobody for hours at a time and enjoy the solitude.
The isolated villages we passed through would normally be quite now felt deserted as the late September moody weather kept any possible visitors away. An abandoned hut provided us with temporary relief from the howling cold winds. We took the opportunity to eat and taste our smoked fish before continuing our journey.
Camping that night at the mouth of the river Irbe was comfortable even if the site just offered a single picnic table and a smelly old outhouse.
If the first day offered us solitude the second offered us adventure. Closer to Ventspils remains of the soviet era became more obvious. From the still-in-use James Bond style secret radar centre to the abandon military instillations scattered through the forest we felt obliged to explore before they finally fall or are dismantled by the Latvian government. We were surprised at how we could just walk up to each building and explore, climb and crawl through the complexes letting our inner child fantasies and imaginations run will. For an afternoon, before we caught our ferry back home, we were explorers and historians of days gone by. And, we loved ever minute of it.
Text and photos by Bikepacking Sweden.