Sue and I booked on the trip after Susan and Roy (Connecticut) found it. Ken and Helen (Ottawa) also enrolled. There were 14 others on the trip, together with Andy, the Exodus leader. They surprised us by virtue of all knowing each other from previous trips!
Can you spot everyone in the picture above, which was taken by Jűri, the local ‘fixer’ for Exodus? From L to R: Elly, Martin, Karen, Jenny, Steve, Sam, Stephen, Maureen, Roy, Ken, Phil, Mat, Helen, Sue, Tania, Trevor, Jim, Shane, Andy, Gareth and Susan. (You can click on the pictures for a larger version, which you’ll find anyway in the slideshow.
Sue and I travelled via an impromptu birthday party in Solihull.
The Cambridge Hotel near Gatwick proved a good place to stay and leave the car for a week, before we headed via EasyJet to the Tallink Spa Hotel in Tallinn and attempted a brief ski at Pirita (see ‘On the Piste Again’) before adjourning to a restaurant that in my blog entry I may have incorrectly named ‘The Golden Pig’. Anyway, the food was good and I was glad I chose the chicken in favour of the gigantic pig shanks. This was near the central square, where the Town Hall dates from the 14th Century and is the oldest in the Baltic region. (Tallinn is the capital of Estonia, situated on the Baltic Sea, a short ferry ride from Finland.)
So that was Monday.
We spent Tuesday based in Tallinn, which proved an interesting place to visit. My blog entry for the day is here.
The morning saw us on our skis again – most of us had now managed to get equipment that matched and fitted (yesterday I’d had skis and poles that fitted, and boots that fitted, but the ski bindings weren’t compatible with the boots!). We went to a rather icy area of artificial snow tracks – Nomme, where Sue is pictured with Andy.
Tuesday afternoon’s walking tour of the old city was enjoyable; it would have been more so had we bothered to don our down jackets.
Wednesday (blog entry here) saw us on a bus to Otepää, with a 16 km ski around artificial but enjoyable trails a stone’s throw from our hotel.
On Thursday (blog entry here) we were joined for the morning by a leading Estonian skier, Martti Himma, who demonstrated some warm up exercises and techniques.
The afternoon found four of us who were either crocked or had done enough laps of the 6 km ski circuit, strolling around the perimeter of the ski area, past a lake, a cemetery and a large church, and enjoying a long, lazy break for drinks and cake at Elsa’s tearoom.
Susan and Roy decided to pose on part of the National Geographic Yellow Windows Culture Route.
Friday was Sue’s 50th birthday. We had about an hour’s coach journey to Haanja, where the skiing was limited but good. My blog entry is here.
We spent an enjoyable time on a lake, where Andy captured the ambience in this image.
Saturday was a day off skiing for most of us. It was ‘A Trip to Tartu and a Race’ day.
Several of us bought these Salomon trail shoes for €65, which I’m told was a good price.
In the afternoon, three of our number, Andy, Shane and Sam, had entered a race in which they were to complete two and a half laps of the 6 km loops – 16 km.
Here they are after the race. Their times appear later.
Sunday was ‘Race Day’ for all of us. The elite race started at 9 am, and was the only one in which proper timing splits and age category positions were recorded in the official results.
The Exodus Travels group embraced a lone Canadian elite skier – Karen, who dressed as Superwoman and completed the 34 km race in 2 hours and 4 minutes.
The faster members of our group set off at 11 am. This chicken was faster than any of them.
Roy had to strain every sinew to keep ahead of the injured Susan.
Some of the rest of us took advantage of the free meal offered by the organisers prior to our 2 pm start. The food wasn’t very appetizing.
Whilst Helen and Jim did the short ‘Half Marathon’ two and a half lap route, the rest of us went for the 34 km, five and a half laps option. During the race it started to rain and the tracks got icy, so after four hours the race was stopped for reasons of safety. That meant that Jenny, Karen and Maureen didn’t manage all of the final half lap, but they did over 30 km in the slightly challenging conditions.
Our times are shown below. As the race took place in seven waves over two days, all with different track conditions, the organisers haven’t bothered to provide the normal age category positions and other data for non elite participants, which I think is fair enough – it would be pretty meaningless.
I’ve uploaded quite a few pictures that can be viewed as a slideshow here. If those on the trip let me know if they want any of the images at their full size, I’ll send them on.
Despite the poor snow conditions, this was an excellent trip in the best of company. I think you may see us again. Special thanks to Andy for managing to handle the large group with ease and keeping us well informed as to ‘what happens next’.