Arriving….and leaving the alpaca farm in Estonia
Waking to a dusting of snow on the ground we reluctantly decided to forfeit our planned trip to the coast to view the baby seals and we headed back for the mainland. We may not get to see the baby seals but we were going to work with alpacas.
Kai and Kaya have an alpaca farm in the countryside north of Pärnu. As we approached the farm the little groups of alpacas got very excited and telescoped their necks to take a good look at us. Moving as one, they studied us intently while Mia the beautiful German Shepherd greeted us by bouncing around our feet and Kai and Kaya welcomed us and took us indoors out of the biting cold.
Once the introductions had been completed we went back outside to meet the animals. Alpacas, goats, chickens and sheep would all need caring for and there was a kilometre of fencing that needed erecting because the following week Kai would be travelling to the UK to collect another 3o alpacas.
The alpacas were so funny and so sweet and so very very inquisitive. If there was anything out of the ordinary happening then they had to investigate it. They had the softest thickest coats that Kaya would spin into wool and all had such dear little personalities I knew that I would love working with them. That first evening we settled down over supper and cognac and discussed the plans for the week.
We had found the farm on the Workaway website – both me and S had found volunteer placements through them before so we were fully aware of what to expect. The normal expectation is to work for an average of 24 hours a week in exchange for accomodation and food. In this instance we had a room in the lovely large modern family home. Kaya is Estonian and Kai is from Norway, S is from Finland and I am Welsh but luckily everybody spoke excellent English.
By the following morning the remnants of the flu had caught up with S again and he was destroyed but I was keen to begin working so I set to clearing a bank and a ditch of fallen branches and dead grass. The wind was biting cold and the work quite physical due to working on the slope of the bank but it was satisfying to see the area that I had cleared.
As a treat to myself for my hard work Kai and I went into Pärnu for an evening in a spa. What a wonderful, relaxing and warming experience. There was a swimming pool and jacuzzis, a Finnish sauna and Turkish baths, a hamman and a steam room, a salt sauna, a Japanese bath and a whole array of high pressure massage jets. The salt sauna and the Japanese bath were new to me. You take handfuls of sea salt and scrub your skin before sitting and sweltering in the heat which leaves your skin baby smooth and you simply sit in the Japanese bath – which is an incredibly hot pool of water in which up to 10 people can comfortably sit in a water temperature of 42 degrees.
Returning home to drama number 6 ( maybe I should stop counting these dramas. A drama is an adventure by another name, right?) and there was a bit of a family crisis in Estonia. The long and the short of it was that S and I offered to leave in order to give Kaya and Kai some space, and the next morning we packed our bags and left.
We both loved Estonia but it was time to move on. There is something about the air in Estonia which is crisp and clean and unpolluted. The roads go on and on across the flat landscape with very little traffic on them, windmills are dotted around and swathes of forests of birch, juniper and pines break up the huge fields.
Estonia is a forward-thinking, technologically advanced country (they are the geniuses which invented Skype, and EVERYBODY assumes that it is a basic human right to have access to a decent wifi connection), almost all of the younger generation speak excellent English as well as Estonian and Russian and many people also speak Finnish.
And things get done here. Kai told me that one day the mayor of the town called to visit the alpaca farm and was horrified to find out quite how bumpy and pot-holed the long road out to the area was. The mayor was a firm supporter of any enterprise which could attract tourists and finance to the area and didn’t want people to have a poor impression of Estonia. Within two hours of him leaving the farm, machinery turned up to plane the road surface and fill the holes. No red tape, no haggling. It needed to be done, so it was done.