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Trip 32 -- Hiiumaa Walk

Day 3: Käina to Külaküla via Sõru
Monday, June 27, 2022

Today: 58264 steps/45.50 km/28.27 mi/8h 22m
Total: 110723 steps/86.45 km/53.72 mi/15h 54m

I never figured out how to lock my room at the Lõokese Hotell from the inside, so I jammed a heavy chair against it at night -- not that anyone else was in the building, or perhaps because no one else was in the building. I never figured out the lock from the outside, either; a haphazard combination of pokes and turns secured it.

I left the key on the wicker plate by the individual safes at the front, as requested. No other keys were there. I messaged the staff that I was departing; they thanked me. This may have been my strangest hotel stay ever.

I got out an hour earlier today than yesterday, and the difference was significant in temperature and shade. For much of the 18 kilometers toward Emmaste, the next main village to the southwest, the alders and birches and pines protected me from direct sunlight. Four of those kilometers were Jausa, Hiiumaa's longest-stretching village; it was likely originally a fishing village named after the "dividing island" (Jaosaar) that separated the fish stream.

Farther down was the Harju-Rätsepa windmill, one of only around 30 extant of more than 500 that operated at the end of the 19th century. Hiiumaa was the Baltic region with the most windmills, practically one every other farm -- some people advocated for the destruction of some windmills because there wasn't enough wind to power them all!

I could have used some more wind today: Not only would it have tempered the heat, but this was around when the flies started joining me on my journey, and I would have been happier walking alone. At Tilga village, whose name may have come from the old taunting nickname Tilknina ("drippy nose"), the pines took over, the air smelled sweet, and I saw my first clouds on Hiiumaa.

Opposite the Emmaste cemetery I saw two people surveying the trees, or so I thought until the woman, who was wearing an orange vest, motioned for an approaching driver to pull over. The speed traps are alive and well on Hiiumaa: In the early 1990s, Douglas Wells wrote, everyone knew the head traffic officer, but when stopping people he went through the required introductions every time anyway. One day he gave Doug a precise measurement of his speed and asked him if he knew why it was so precise: He had just gotten his first handheld radar gun and was very proud of it. The woman's companion today wielded just such a device.

I thought I might carry on to Sõru harbor for lunch at the waterfront pub, but after yesterday's fiasco, when I saw the Kati Söögituba cafe open above the Emmaste supermarket I figured I'd better dine immediately. Their meatloaf was decent, but more importantly, the bread basket gave me the chance to squeeze the tube of Põltsamaa strong mustard. It's excellent: spicy and smooth and just the right viscosity.

I took a short detour to see the Emmaste church. Doug had a metal detector, or he did until he was forced to keep it locked up in the armory as a result of a day of poking around with a friend and looking for unexploded ordnance. One day someone rushed in to the tourist office and urgently called upon Doug to find a buried clock -- or at least that's what he thought until he learned that "clock" and "bell" are the same in Estonian. They were unsuccessful the first day, but a few months later they tried again and retrieved the Christmas bell that had been hidden during World War II to prevent its being melted down for war supplies. It had been underground for half a century and only by happy circumstance was it not destroyed by nearby construction.

I continued to Sõru along a bike path that opened up to a glorious rural road, with horses, cows, farm buildings, pink flowers, and bright green grass. A teen passed me on his bike once, twice...and then a third time, at which point we laughed.

Sõru was once a Soviet border post. Now there's a maritime museum (closed today, alas) and what's left of the Alar, a three-masted white wooden ship built on Hiiumaa before World War II. Sõru is the launch of ferries to Saaremaa, Estonia's largest island, just to the south.

The pub at Sõru was open, of course, and I didn't mind another short stop for crepes and ice cream. And several cups of water. I'd bought more water and juice in Emmaste; there would be no more opportunities and it was going to be a hot afternoon.

I continued along the unpaved road to Tohvri in the extreme southwest -- the front tip of the left wing of goose-shaped Hiiumaa. This was almost an hour from Sõru, but it was worth it to see two 1930s red-and-white lighthouses and, out of place in the forest, the circular remains of a World War II gun battery.

Google Maps said I needed to retreat almost to Sõru in order to continue north to my lodging in Külaküla, but a couple of paths headed north from Tohvri, one of which, I hoped, would be a shortcut to my destination. One path was overgrown but still navigable, similar to the path I'd taken in Sarve. But it fizzled out after a couple of minutes.

A broader tractor path, with black-dirt tire marks to match, seemed more promising. It was easy to follow and was headed in the right direction. The flies were fierce, though, fiercer than I remember anywhere: a constant buzzing around my face and body. There may have been a bee or two and a few mosquitoes. It was a raucous party.

The track opened up into a clearing, and the bugs went away. A flat, rocky, and grassy land separated me and my destination. This might not have been an official path, but it looked promising, and the satellite view of Google Maps suggested I could loop up and around to the main road. Parallel fences hemmed the track in on both sides, but I could continue.

Until I couldn't. A thin squiggle of a barrier blocked my progress. It would have been easy to crawl under it, but, in the words of my guide at the KGB Museum in Tallinn, I'm sure it would have been "not recommended."

This was a long way to go back -- into the forest, past the bugs and the two lighthouses, almost to Sõru: a half-hour until I could turn and head north toward Külaküla. For a while I ran to make up time and to avoid the bugs. Why were they so attracted to me today? Did they have a taste for sunscreen? It was my first day using it on the island. And where was the famous Hiiu wind, to blow them away?

I turned onto the northbound road and then it was another two and a half hours to my lodging. Any time there was shade, there were flies, bees, and mosquitoes, but mostly flies. It was like a string orchestra practicing its tremolos poorly. Little flies murmuring a constant viola hum, bigger flies bowing off-melody cello strains, both groups drowning out the wimpy mosquito violins. And once in a while a giant bumblebee: The basses have entered! Zoom, zoom!

I turned off the main road, and the insects softened to allow the winds to enter: flutes and piccolos of birds. It was a narrow, placid lane, with houses that looked modern and comfortable and farm buildings that might not last the night. I missed the supermarket hours in nearby Nurste; it would be my tin of moose meat and the remains of my cherry juice from Emmaste.

At last I reached the Airbnb, the second floor of a rustic house surrounded by trees. It was more of an attic, with sloping walls and two single beds. I opened the bathroom door and found a toilet, a sink, and a...that's it. Somehow I had missed the specification of the lack of a shower. I remembered that there was to be no air conditioning, and when making the booking in around April I didn't ponder that detail much. But it was stuffy, and opening the door meant inviting Külaküla's flying wildlife in.

But once my body cooled down from the walk and I determined the correct positioning of my phone to catch a mobile signal, and once I started listening to the birds through a door open just enough to let in air but not enough to make it easy for bugs, I came to appreciate this piece of peace.

The beach was less than a five-minute walk away, and I went out for a sunset stroll. But it became a sunset sprint when I was attacked by voracious mosquitoes. I took a few photos, hurried back, and shut the door. I lay back on the unmade bed -- the host had not bothered to place the sheets, and neither had I -- and felt tickles down my arms, not knowing whether they were sweat or mosquitoes.

I foresee a very early departure tomorrow.

Go on to day 4