Siesartis Ež, Labanoras Regional ParkJuly 8 in Lithuania ⋅ 🌧 14 °C
We are once again feeling grateful for the beautiful view out of our windscreen. A branch of the glacial Lake Siesartis begins just 2m in front of where we are parked within a woodland grove. A floating wooden jetty extends onto the water and a sandy slipway for swimmers, small boats and canoes sits to the left. Green reeds line the shore either side of our clearing and the thick forest enveloping the lake gives the feeling that we are the only ones here.
The journey seemed like a long one because there were several hitches along the way. We set off in search of a treetop walk we'd known about for some time, but it was more difficult to get to than expected. The first location the sat nav took us to was an unsurfaced road in the middle of a wheat field a few kilometres away from the site. There was a teeny layby and a possible walking track, but it wasn't a suitable place to leave Martha. A reprogrammed 'Aunty Satia' led us down another narrow, unsurfaced track, this time within a wood. It might have turned out ok if someone hadn't built a house with gated garden in the middle of the road... Faced with this blockage we turned down an even smaller track, realising too late that the surface had changed from porous sandstone grit to slick hardpack mud. The forest closed in a couple of hundred metres ahead of us. There was no way our big van could squeeze between the saplings sprouting up from the sides of the track. We tried reversing but the front tyres are coming to the end of their lives and just spun, while Martha lurched from side to side. Vicky ran on and thankfully found an area of flattened grass the size of the van, at a 90° angle to the track, where it might just be possible to turn. With Will's expertise, four non slip mats placed repeatedly in front of and behind the tyres, a lot of wheel spinning, mud splatting, some elbow grease from Vicky and a pause to disentangle the tandem from the 2 hazel saplings it had become entwined with, we finally managed to turn. Vicky grabbed the mats, now heavily coated with mud and legged it after Martha, yelling at Will not to stop as he hoofed it up the hill and with the momentum, crested the peak to our joint relief.
Vicky was ready to give up trying to find the treetop walk, but Will persisted. It really was a case of third time lucky as we drove past plenty dedicated parking bays alongside the road and pulled into a reasonable size tarmac car park. Phew!
Following the signs, we arrived at the first attraction on the woodland trail; the Puntukas Stone. This huge boulder weighing around 265 tonnes is the 2nd largest stone in Lithuania (but a big deal is made of it because until 1957, it was believed to be the largest). Having lived in the UK for most of our lives and travelled through many mountainous and rocky regions, it seems a little strange to us, that such focus should be placed on a hunk of granite 6.9m x 6.7m but Lithuania is a low lying land whose soil is mostly soft and porus. Thinking about what we've seen over our time here, we can recognise how unusual the stone is. The country's recent pagan past probably has a lot to do with how the stone is revered, indeed, legend portrays it as a pagan shrine and the oaks surrounding it, relics of ancient sacred groves. Legend aside, the boulder is an eratic dumped here during the latest ice age. The images of two Lithuanian pilots were engraved into face of the granite in 1943 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of their death during a transatlantic flight.
Climbing steps up a hillside we came to an office building. We'd looked the ticketing system up online before heading out and it seemed to be the same National and Regional Park scheme with which we'd already purchased an annual family pass for €25. Taking our receipt with us we showed it to the administrator, who seemed more than happy enough to give us two QR coded passes to scan at the turnstiles. The treetop walkway had a metal frame with mesh floor and fencing, allowing you to look down to the forest underneath. At the end we joined the straight sided tower, part way up and scaled the remaining steps to the large, open air platform. This afforded us views of a river and over the tops of trees, from which a light, post rain mist was rising.
As we hadn't paid entry, we bought a couple of scoops of ice cream each from the café back down at ground level and sat sheltering under the canopies while the rain poured down. The experience was well worth our perseverance!
Driving a further 60km we turned down yet another unsurfaced side track lined with trees. We were nervous after the bad experience earlier, but breathed a sigh of relief when the track opened out into a secluded clearing on the edge of Siesartis Lake.
Will had a refreshing swim, diving off the end of the jetty after he had acclimatised, then fished while Vicky sat out until the wind picked up, the temperature dropped to 16°C and the rain blew in. A few people came and went. We spent the first night with German neighbours but were alone for the second.
The following day had predicted rain most of the time but we took advantage of the forecaster's mistake by taking Little Green out to explore the lake in the sunshine. Despite the shoreline appearing undeveloped from our overnight spot, we discovered many individual dwellings, a few campsites and other guest accomodations, all built amongst the trees in harmony with nature. We estimate our round route covered about 7km, paddling along the northern shore, passing a large island then crossing over to the southern bank and returning on the far side of the island. There were many Great Crested Grebes, a few Coots, some Swans and a far off bird of prey soaring on thermals. We pushed our luck and 15 minutes away from the van, got caught in a stormy downpour, which could be seen and heard racing accross the water before it enveloped us.
Setting off in Martha the following morning, Will had a surprise for Vicky. He had found another 'bokštas' or viewing tower with views over Siesartis and a neighbouring lake in Labanoro Regional Park! This design was 36m high and significantly more stable than the privately built tower secured with guy ropes that we visited the other day! Again it was free entry and we felt good knowing we'd made a contribution towards the National and Regional Parks by purchasing a voluntary annual ticket.Read more