Tauragė County

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  • Day1062

    Honey Valley Camping, Nemunas Delta

    May 24, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We've found ourselves a little bit of paradise here at Honey Valley Campsite, just a few hundred metres from the Nemunas River.

    After having spent three idyllic days wild camping at Orija Lake, our cupboards were in need of restocking, so we set off along the country roads towards an Iki supermarket Will had found on the sat nav. The roads were narrow, often with sandy grit augmenting their edges. It was disconcerting when we encountered the ruts made from car and lorry tyres that threw Martha off course, but as the journey wore on we became more used to them.

    Once again the supermarket car park didn't have space for us, so we found street parking nearby. The Iki was a reasonable size, serving numerous mid rise apartment complexes around it. We've been enjoying the good range of organic produce in France, Belgium and Germany of late, but there were very few 'bio' items here. However, there was an amazing cake counter, displaying beautifully crafted gateaux and tortes. The server spoke a little English and kindly halved a sumptuous lemon cream cake, presented with a slice of lemon and pansy flowers. We asked them to teach us how to say 'thank you' (ačiu) which we remembered easily because it sounded like a sneeze (achoo). We usually rely on the DuoLingo languge learning app to pick up words and phrases, but it doesn't cover Lithuanian. Google Translate is useful but it doesn't have speech output for this country, so pronunciation is a problem.

    We'd done our research before arriving and found that like Britain, Lithuania doesn't cater specifically for motorhomes. There aren't dedicated filling and emptying points or low cost stopovers like in many european countries. The price of campsites is also comparable to the UK, with an average of €20pn. We've therefore decided to alternate between wild camping and campsites every 2 or 3 nignts, so we don't break the bank or worry about finding water and emptying points.

    Arriving at Honey Valley campsite (€18pn) we drove up a track lined with tall acacia trees. A small gravel area was bordered by three dark stained flapboard cabins. One roof was covered in photovoltaic panels, one with felt tiles and solar water heating panels and the largest, a two storey construction with balcony, had a beautiful thatched roof.

    We'd looked the site up online so we weren't surprised to see shelves of honey for sale in the small office. As you might expect, from the name, the owners of Honey Valley Campsite keep bees. They introduced us to the different types on sale; two Spring honeys, one harvested just the previous day and the other a week ago, both very runny and light. The forest honey from Autumn was hard, much darker and made from the sticky substance aphids deposit on tree leaves. We could see the pale honey foam around the edges of the jar, showing it wasn't overprocessed (a bit like the blob of cream that used to form at the top of milk bottles). We bought a jar of the freshest Spring and one of forest honey. We had to restrain ourselves from going back and buying more when we sampled them later!

    After registering us for 2 nights, the manager slotted a small Union Jack into a display alongside German, Swiss and Lithuanian flags, before showing us the emptying and filling points, washbasins, small kitchen, shower and toilet blocks. Without the need for electric hookup (thanks to our solar panel) they said we could park anywhere we chose and that Will could fish in any of the four small ponds, although he would need a license for the river. After learning how to say hello in Lithuanian (laba diena), we scouted out the best spot on foot. There weren't alloted bays, just a lovely grassy clearing, dotted with trees - our kinda place! Pipped to the post by another couple in their overland vehicle with roof tent, we settled quite happily into our second favourite loction, between the smallest pond and a wooden picnic table.

    Honey Valley had lots to look at on site; most things were constructed of natural wood, including the thatched outdoor eating areas and a children's playground with a swing bench for grownups. Two small sleeping pods provided minimalist accommodation for those without a van or tent and a pedalo on the largest pond provided entertainment for people staying in the hostel. Campfires were set up, bbqs free to use and communal washing lines strung between trees.

    As well as being a haven for us, Honey Valley was also a haven for wildlife. Thousands of tadpoles wiggled around the edges of two of the ponds and frogs jumped in as we walked by. They were really noisy, their croaking drowned out the birdsong when they really got into it! Butterflies and cockchafer beetles flew above the seedheads sprouting in the grass and Will accidentally scared a mother duck off her nest, layed low in the grass with 7 white eggs. It was so well camouflaged, we wouldn't have known it was there had she not spotted us and flown off.

    While Will fished, Vicky made use of the €3 per cycle washing machine, before we both sat on a picnic bench and tucked into the delicious lemon torte that tasted as good as it looked.

    There didn't appear to be much to do off site, but then we didn't really feel the need to leave, other than to take a stroll down to the
    Nemunas River on our second afternoon. The largest river in Lithuania, it runs most of the way to the coast before breaking up into many smaller watercourses that form the Nemunas Delta, one of the most wildlife rich areas in Lithuania. Just 30km from here, the river meets the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad Oblast and runs between the two countries, forming the border line. We arrived at a sandy beach from where we watched a swan paddling in a backwater. Three little Sandpipers played on the shore and we spotted a Stork flying overhead. We spent a little time strolling along the beach but the undergrowth meant we couldn't go far so we returned to Honey Valley for some indulgent rest and relaxation!
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  • Day1077

    Nemunas River car park

    June 8, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We've found ourselves back at the Nemunas River, close to Honey Valley campsite where we stayed a few weeks ago. We'd planned on sleeping at another stopover but as we drove along the riverbank we saw a number of car parks and decided to set up home by the water instead.

    On route we'd managed to fill our depleted fresh water tank at a Circle K fuel station. Having not used a lot of diesel or LPG, we weren't able to buy much of these fuels to repay them, so we decided to join the many others getting lunch from their takeaway. Will's chicken hotdog was easy to order, Vicky's request for something vegetarian proved more complicated. Google Translate helped out and through her experience of different languages she was able to recognise when they offered her a tuna sandwich. Luckily she'd scouted out the pastry counter beforehand and helped herself to a spinach and feta pasty along with a couple of cinnamon rolls when there was no veggie option at the hot counter.

    Arriving at the Nemunas car park we rolled the awning out to shade the side of the van from the scorching sun. A couple of people were sunbathing on the stony shore, the occasional damselfly flitted by and a small fishing boat made several trips upstream, floating back down with a rod dangling over the side.

    As the temperature rose we waded into the water to keep cool. Despite the fast flow there was a smell to the river and even a bit of scum in places. Sediment meant we couldn't see what was under the surface and Vicky kicked something that cut her foot. We got out shortly after this but Will slipped on the stony bank and cut his thumb. Oh well, not all wild swims are fun and at least we had plenty of water for a shower.

    Later on a family drove by to cool their hot German Shepherd in the river. The heat wave is taking people, including us, by surprise. For the second night in a row we saw lightening and heard thunder but very little rain fell and the temperature remained high. We left all the windows open until midnight when Will got ready for bed. Vicky was woken by panicked expletives and pulling back the bedroom curtain saw a swarm of flies inside the van. As Will had opened the fly screen to close the windows, they'd rushed in. We don't like to use strong chemicals but the Moskill coil came out and did its job. Vicky spent an hour the following morning wiping dead flies off the table, seats and fly screen as well as brushing them off the outside of the van. Hundreds of them had attached themselves to the leeward side with something similar to spider's silk and died without us having anything to do with it. We've never seen anything like it!

    Driving off, we looped back to a nearby castle we'd found on Maps.Me. Raudonės Pilis was built in the 19th century but previous castles have inhabited this site since before the 1500s. Walking through the grounds, we passed by several people in medieval costume and 3 ponies grazing, but saddled up ready to take little ones for a ride. There were also an archery target board, and a sword stuck in the ground. The actors greeted us and we continued on past the small lake to the grey plastered walls and towers topped with orange terracotta tiles.

    The entry price of €2 each was reasonable. A large part of the building is now used as a school but there were some displays showing what the kitchen would have looked like and at the base of one of the round towers, a hole in the floor leading down to the dungeon, in which a white plaster budda seemed to be sitting. We're not sure what that was about! The real attraction for Vicky was chance to climb one of the towers. There was conceptual and photographic art on the walls as we climbed one of the steepest wooden staircases we've encountered in public (the steps in the Dutch windpump we had a private tour of were pretty steep too). The loft space had a conical ceiling and overhanging wooden beams, but set into the terracotta tiles were small windows you could open for views over the surrounding countryside and river, reminding us what a green country Lithuania is.

    Down in the castle courtyard were 3 gazebos with stalls selling dehydrated seed and fruit strips (which we sampled but weren't persuaded to buy), handmade lace and leather adornments, soaps, creams and organic herbs, spices and teas. We chatted with the organic stall holders and got some chamomile. We mentioned how difficult it had been to find organic produce here, but they didn't seem to think it was a problem. Perhaps it isn't if you know where to go, but we don't.

    Just a kilometre or so along the road from Raudonės Castle was a small car park with a hilltop viewpoint, accessed via flights of very new wooden steps. We had a spot of lunch, shut the blinds on the sunny side of the van in an effort to keep it cool, then set off up the steep (but thankfully small) hill. There was a good view stretching along the Nemunas River and its shallow, green valley. A gravel footpath (also newly created) stretched down the other side and into woodland, but the day was too hot to do much walking, so we drove on to our next overnight spot, grateful for Martha's air conditioned cab.
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  • Day15

    Guten Morgen Littauen

    March 9, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    Gestern an der Russischen Grenzen nach 2.5 stunden Warten ohne einen Meter vorwärts zu kommen hatten wir definitiv genug von Russland😅. Darum sind wir in Europa geblieben. Wir hatten eine Stürmische Nacht aber alles in allem gut. Heute gehts ab nach Polen 🇵🇱

  • Day372

    Living a dream

    June 11, 2017 in Lithuania ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Last night's campsite was quaint - the old guy who owned it was constantly on patrol looking after his 2 sets of guests. Still on a power crash after Poland we struggled to get up this morning. It was light until 11 pm and then a thunder storm and burst of rain woke us before our 7 am alarm. The reset process went until 9am when we needed to get up in order to manage our 85 planned kms today.

    Breakfast was last night's pizza remains, eaten standing, simultaneously using the carton as a plate AND a table. We had a leisurely coffee/tea with our very inspiring German Land Crusier camper neighbours enjoying their adventure stories and advice. The conversation kept us occupied in thought all morning and we've decided that such a Land Crusier trip would be a great way to see non-cyclable parts of the world!

    The route for the day was a simple 50km straight on, then take a left for 35km.. pretty much...! Flanking Kaliningrad all the time as we head coastwards. Lithuanian roads lulled us into a false sense of ease for a slick 40km on beautifully smooth asphalt before we turned into a very strong headwind which pretty much halved our average speed. We had to make the decision of "shelter in the forest with mutant mosquitos" (who were biting through a couple of layers of clothes) or "keep riding in a monsoon". After trying the former for 2 minutes we decided the lesser of the two evils was to get soaked through and rode into the rain just like the cliché life mantra about learning to dance in the rain, as a cycle tourist sometimes your butt hurts too much for mosquitos to take a bite, you have to cycle in the rain from time to time. "A free nature experience" as Peter called it. ;)

    Tonight's campsite is something special. You couldn't make this up in a dream;

    It's a house /museum, owned by an old gentleman with a doctor title.
    With a compost toilet. (No flush)
    A well for water and washing.
    The camp space is inbetween rusty farm equipment as part of his exhibits.
    He boiled the kettle for us to mix with well water for a wash = naked washing in the exhibit field using our watering can head shower canister. Very surreal!
    He guided us round the exhibits -printing presses, cinema equipment, Russian cars, huge stone busts of Lenin amongst other unrelated objects such as a corset from Bismark's era and some heavy old russian hair curlers.
    A stork nest, complete with offspring, is just meters from the tent.
    The owner wouldn't accept any money for the camping and said we shouldn't pay as we are tourists. We insisted he took a donation for the museum because such kindness deserves a bit of reciprocity.

    We're now camp cooking in a lovely little covered area (hand built) using a tree stump as a chopping board and cooker table. Its experiences like this that money can't buy and you won't find in a guide book.

    What an amazing day!
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  • Day14

    Mal wieder auf den alten Herrn warten

    June 28, 2019 in Lithuania ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Sein Durst ist nicht zu bändigen.

You might also know this place by the following names:

Tauragė County, Taurage County, Tauragės apskritis

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