Listening for the Alien Heartbeat

I board an early morning train to Puka.  No Estonian seems to have heard of it, especially the sceptical lady at the ticket counter.  But it is on the map and I show it to her.

We pass through a deep fog, mist on the windows.  Outside, empty fields, some abandoned; wells with hand pumps.

At Puka the sun is now out, and I get off for what should be a 20km walk to Otepää.  Puka is what is known in fairytales as a hamlet, so big chestnut trees, piles of wood, but no food and nowhere for a traveller to sleep:

Estonia - Road to Otepaa - Puka HamletIt is however very, very green:

Estonia - Road to Otepaa - Puka - fields of greenI walk past huge armies of big fat daffodils, biding their time for when the planet will be theirs:

Estonia - Road to Otepää - fields of daffodilsBy the road are also lots of those “She loves me / She loves me not” flowers.  A handy place for a chap with a harem and decisions to make.

The road on Google maps is a now thin gray line that occasionally disappears.  I pass old farmhouses with stone walls, wooden barns.

Estonia - Road to Otepaa - farmhouseThe road then narrows, the forest closes in.  A riot of birdsong.  I have done 25km of a 20km route, and am nowhere in sight of anything.  Have taken a wrong turn somewhere.  The Google maps satellite appears to be pointed at Mars.  It is hotter than I thought, I have run out of water, and am now very thirsty.

But this is a friendly land.  Five more  kilometres and I meet a man working his fields.  He gives me a deep drink and refills my containers.  But, in the reserved manner of Estonians, shows no curiosity as to why I am in the middle of rural nowhere, walking, and with no water.

Another 6km, and there is a lake on the left, and a lake on the right.  Pines, firs, super green grass.  Nesting storks.  Evening.  Otepää.

Estonia - Otepää - sunset on a street(events 18 May 2013)

20 Responses to “Handy Place for a Harem”

  1. Mark Coorey

    Another gem, your words have saved me the trip.

  2. Victoria

    Green, my favourite colour. Beautiful shots, Michael. Always appreciate seeing what you see, your thoughts and words.

  3. Jessica

    Could it get any more beautiful? Either the words or the photos? I think not.

    The line about “she loves me/she loves me not . . . A handy place for a chap with a harem and decisions to make” made me laugh.

    The poetic starkness of your words pays this country such a service. I love it.

    • alienheartbeat

      Thanks. The “handy place for a chap with a harem…” idea was probably driven by a poorly advised envy.

      The starkness is driven by complaints from a couple of friends that they didn’t have time to read my earlier longer-form posts. So now I try to say what I want to say in as few words as possible, so much of my time is spent removing unnecessary sentences.

      • Jessica

        Poorly advised envy. *chuckle* I never liked playing the “he loves me/he loves me not” game because it never turned out how I wanted. 😛

        I have liked both your long- and short-form posts. The short-form is definitely nice for a reader in a hurry. And I feel the sparsity of your words resonates well with your subject: From what you describe, Estonia is such a simple, unhurried place, largely untouched by the “outside world.” But, that said — in my personal opinion — when you want to write more, write more! Your reader can only benefit from whatever additional insight you have to share… And for me, that won’t mean saving me a trip. Rather, it might mean adding a new “must-see” to my bucket list!

        • alienheartbeat

          Thanks, will keep it in mind. Actually the next thing I am thinking of doing is some video. See if I can sometimes better capture the atmosphere of a place.

          • Arik

            video might be a bit of a cop-out when it’s hard to get it all in the single frame of a picture. so far doesn’t seem like you need be slumming… you are doing quite well 🙂

            • alienheartbeat

              What has given me the idea for video was showing someone one I took within a Madagascan rain-forest. Nothing much to see (just trees) but the sound of the lemurs calling was eerie, and there is no way to convey that without letting others listen to it. Also, once in Sri Lanka, the sound of evening prayers – just can’t be conveyed in images or words.

              So, wait will you hear it. Then, if you still wish to beat me up, well, I will take it like a man 😉

  4. Elsa

    My grandmother lives near Puka ( in Komsi), but thank you for the entry


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