Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspils – Klaipėda

General info

Who am I?
My name is Dainius, and I like to hike.

Freehiking
For me it is about minimal equipment, sleeping under the tarp, and heaving as much flexibility as possible. The trail is optional.

Very comfortable moss just behind the dunes.
Very comfortable moss just behind the dunes

What is this about?
It is about hiking from Ventspils pier to Klaipėda pier in four and a bit days covering 215+ km.

This is how the trail looks like (with some sections straight-lined):

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis – Klaipėda
My gear for the hike

The trail
It is part of the official Baltic Coastal Hiking trail. The site contains all the information you will need to hike it. I have completed the first 9 days part of a route in reverse and 40 km of Lithuanian bit from the border to Klaipėda pier.
Lithuanian part is not yet mapped or marked (trail marking is planned in summer 2021). However, there is not much to do as the trail follows the coastline and only towns with a river forces you to find the nearest bridge. 

Well packed sand coast near Palanga
Well packed sand coast near Palanga

Accommodations and services
There is plenty of accommodations and services near the bigger towns and villages. If you cover significant distances, you could find where to sleep even on the fly during the low season cheap.
This resource contains Google maps link with services mapped and some other useful info about this specific section.

The sand
You will be thinking about the sand more than about your mom. There is hard-packed sand, loose sand with a compressed bit where the waves hit, stony sand or stones and loose sand. Loose sand is the worst, but Lithuania has some bad stony bits that should go to the same circle of hell.

It continually changes in various combinations, so you look for the best part of a beach when hiking shifting from near the sea to the edge of dunes or cliffs. 

Notes

Take trekking poles. They help a lot to propel you forward in loose bits and stabilize you on side slopes and stony bits.
The predominant wind is WSW – so it blows in your face more often when going south. Rob from Fullnorth gave me this information the first night on the trail while chatting. Rob: “Hows the wind? In your face right?” Me: “Yeah”. Rob: “Yeah it does that”.
Head and ear protection. The wind, you know.
Good shoes – you need hiking shoes or trail runners if you plan to cover significant distances. Waterproofness helps, as you tend to find good traction right on where the waves hit the coast, sometimes a bird flies, and you look at it and then ‘Splash! The rogue wave comes’. 
Asymmetry – Due to always being on a slight side slope, your movement, load, and pressure are asymmetrical – so you can get strange blisters and pains. 
Cape Kolka – Consider adding the bit between Ventspils to Cape Kolka. It will add 80 km to your trail, but it is the wildest. Challenging to reach with public transport.

My hike

First evening

I have started in the evening at the Ventspils pear and was greeted by strong heads on a breeze of at least 12m/s. 

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda
Ventspils beach

My plan to do 25 km that day was wishful thinking as the night came in fast and in combination with loose sand, wind and a little rain I was anxious and pushing too hard through a pitch dark beach sweating like I was in a race. Somehow, I cannot learn to ease into it at the beginning.
I have stopped after 16 km. Camped in the woods behind the dunes away from the wind feeling already tired and frustrated with difficult progress.

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda. Night trail with obstacles
Night trail with obstacles

Day 2

Started much more relaxed. Even with a head-on breeze wind going was much smoother. The sand was mostly holding well, and with trekking poles helping to propel forward I was making progress and starting to enjoy it more. Looser sand and stones were tricky but manageable. After 30 km nearing Jūrkalne, I have climbed out from the beach to had a nice dinner in Zaķu krogs. A right pit-stop spot there. After reaching Jūrkalne continued on the beach. Stopping in the old forest on the cliffs near Pāvilosta almost at the pitch dark again. 52+ km easy peasy.

Cliffs south of Jurkalne
Cliffs south of Jurkalne

Day 3

After reaching Pāvilosta and resupply in a shop there, I was again on a well-packed beach feeling like a hiking machine and making significant progress. The wind was blowing more from the sea, and the coast was about to start bending more southwards, so it was finally starting to blow into my ear. After 15 km, I have reached Akmeņraga lighthouse feeling now more like a RELENTLESS HIKING MACHINE. Then the sand decided to show what IT can do to machines when it consists of larger particles in a non-compacted well-aerated form. It can break them… After 15 km of hard pushing just to maintain 5km/h and constant search for traction all over the coast, I was no longer feeling like a machine more like Tom Hanks first day on the beach in Castaway.

Loose sand
Loose sand
Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda
Another loose sand

I needed some serious motivation, so I have decided to crash in a hotel in Liepāja. With that carrot on a stick, I was again happily grinding through the sand thinking about what kind of pica I will have later that evening. After another 10 km, even pica thoughts stopped helping and I had to evacuate from the sand s*** hell and approach Liepāja via road. Walking on the street is excellent. 53+ km. Exhausted. Pica was good.

Day 4

Liepāja beach is good hard-packed sand that continues to cooperate south ways. The bit between Jūrmalciems and Pape is probably the most exotic and wild part of the trail. Mostly excellent/reasonable traction until Pape’s approach. There the sand started to turn on me again. Now heaving the utmost respect for the SAND I have immediately left it alone and turned for a road. I had a thing going for Amber Wind Beach Kafe in Pape right on the bridge I had to cross, but it was closed (Google maps said it was open until 11:59 PM. I have edited it now). Oh well, nothing like couscous and canned pork ass bits. Camped just a couple of kilometers from Lithuanian border with Oil tanker parked some distance offshore illuminating the sea like a moon. 52 km

Day 5

Started my final push at 06:30 in the morning at dawn break. Quickly reached the border with just a little sign informing that I am in Lithuania now. The sand was not cooperating, so I tried the road going parallel to the shore and enjoyed the beautiful morning. At 08:00 Šventoji looked like a post-apocalyptical movie set with old soviet summer cottages peeling off paint and no people or cars in the city centre. I was planning to refill my water and get a sandwich… not here.

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda. Some part of Šventoji been evacuated together with Pripyat…
Some part of Šventoji been evacuated together with Pripyat…
Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda. …and the rest just recently abandoned
…and the rest just recently abandoned

Continued on a nice paved cycling trail until northern part of Palanga where I knew a little shop is just right on this road. It was closed. I finally was able to fill in my water only after reaching Main Street in Palanga. A second public WC had tap water running (the first one had water only for flushing the toilet..). 

Palanga beach was an excellent walk for quite a while. A bit between Nemirseta (Just south of Palanga) and Karklė has a swamp spilling over the clay layer directly into the beach. A fascinating place called Plazė natures preserve. Google maps have a comment on this place “The Germans washed their tanks in the plaza lake”. Good to know.

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda. Coast next to Plazes natures preserve
Coast next to Plazė natures preserve

From Karklė onwards the coast was quite tricky with the stoniest shores around Dutchman’s Cap and soft sand all the way to Klaipėdas’ pier. You can walk using trails above the beach in lovely shaded pine forests, but somehow I wanted to finish this properly. Which I did. 42+km

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda. Both Lithuanians and Latvians seems to be handy with sticks (somewhere close to Klaipėda)
Both Lithuanians and Latvians seems to be handy with sticks (somewhere close to Klaipėda)

And in the end…
It can be a bit frustrating if you try to push too hard through it. 
It can be relaxing as meditation if you let it go and just go easy. 

In some parts of this coast, you might hike 20 kilometres without seeing anyone. You start to feel a bit like a ship in the sea. Meeting someone on those parts, you exchange a look that feels like you are sharing some kind of secret: “Yeah man… I know”. 

Freehiking on a Baltic Coast: Ventspilis - Klaipėda. Latvian Stonehenge – go find it while it’s still there
Latvian Stonehenge – go find it while it’s still there

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