Soomaa Rahvuspark

2013/06/05: Three Kayaks and a Canoe
Our hosts Viive, Aivar, Kati and Raul organized an outing with kayaks and canoes to the nearby national park that embraces Estonia’s largest area of bogs, meadows and forests. The outing involved a 10 km paddle downstream, with a side trip on foot into what is one of the largest bogs in Europe. It was fascinating –a memorable day.

It involved logistics that must have taken considerable effort; there were three kayaks, a canoe, a trailer and two vehicles involved, and one car was shuttled forward.

The park is critical habitat for migratory birds, but most of the northward migration is over, so there were not many avians. We were all captivated by the teal coloured insects that darted about, and landed on reeds with wings folded. I had brought my small camera, whereas Chris had wisely left the SLR at home. I took it as a challenge to get some shots of the  bright blue insects, and after getting what I thought were a few good ones, I tucked the camera into my sun hat at my feet. When yet another horse fly sank its teeth into my shoulder, I grabbed the hat to swat it –forgetting that the camera was inside. Splash! The camera was soon in the depths of the muddy river. Sigh. The day was so special, that I decided not to let this incident spoil it.

Part of what drives the ecology of this area is a “fifth season” of flooding, and we stopped to look at markings of recent water levels, to see where traditional Finno-Ugric canoes were carved from a single log, and to follow a board walk though wet forest into one of the bogs.

The only other group we met was a local naturalist guiding a pair of German tourists. They carried plastic snowshoes; these are what are used if you want to leave the board-walk to go bog-shoeing. A later meeting with the naturalist involved an interesting discussion of the various natural processes that drive the formation and development of bogs.

Deep into the bog, we reached a small clear lake. We dove into the cool water from a wooden platform, quickly learning that it was fed by cold springs, and that water temperature varied abruptly from place to place.


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