Siim: Expedition Estonia is everything the name implies – adventure, expedition, and an unreal world. What happened in less than two days provides several pages of writing material, but to single out one particular episode would probably be unfair to the other stories. The whole point of this adventure is not only to discover the natural and artificial world around us, but also to discover ourselves. So what will I and my team members really be like when we are tired, hungry and aching?! Does the sleep monster really exist? Is a car park sign in the middle of a deserted swamp relevant (extract from another team’s observations)? Is there a mosquito repellent that actually works? Is my homeland really that beautiful? So many questions, but luckily for us, they are answered by the above-mentioned adventure. Anyway, these unanswered questions about ourselves, or the world, are probably the reason people like us are tormented again and again by the forces of nature, or the expedition organizers (or both). The decision to participate is made easier by the excellent choice of food from Tactical Foodpack and the excellently thought-out locations of the checkpoints by the organizers of Expedition Estonia. So one thing is certain – see you next time!
“Is there a mosquito repellent that actually works?”
Sille: When Rain wrote to ask if I would join the team, the first thought was: “Wow, yes of course!”, but I couldn’t say that right away – as always, good things come to those who wait, and the mind always wants to have its say. Luckily, this time, I didn’t let my mind prevail and got to say yes to the most amazing adventure I’ve ever been on! Expedition Estonia in brief through my eyes:
I’ve always loved the extreme, and the first stage of the ride was full of it: racing in the dark on the tarmac, racing up to my neck in the grass, racing on dusty gravel roads, climbing up steep slopes taking points and then a little tumble at night in a meadow. One of the most incredible moments was definitely the sunrise at the top of the Kiviõli ash hill – wow! Time just flew that first night. Then there was the unbelievable, chilling early morning swim in the Aidu quarry, yet another moment that will be vividly remembered. The following run on a shaley surface was not the most pleasant, but interesting nonetheless. There was also a slight disappointment at the little time penalty, as we had a slightly different understanding of the trajectory of the movement. Absolutely the most exhausting stage for me, as the energy deficit from the night was kicking in and the food didn’t really want to go down. As soon as I got back on the bike, it was back to being happy again. Wandering in the heat in the quarries and endless racing on the dusty gravel roads was also an experience in itself. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but I would probably never do it without any reason.
“We were saved by the cooperation, which was just super, because everyone was already exhausted from the heat, but we still managed to pinpoint our location by a small stream and a lake and decided that we would find these checkpoints, no matter what… And the brown swamp water never tasted so good!”
There was one technical section that was very fun, like an Olympic cross-country race, where there was very little room for error, and you couldn’t stop. The next exchange point was a blessing. But from there on it started to happen… We went into bog no. 1 and while we hadn’t been lost on the track before, even when all four of us used the compasses, we couldn’t find the checkpoints. It was quite a long adventure! And once the first checkpoints were found, it got even harder: the heat, the bugs, the mosquitoes etc, and the lack of energy started to do their work. At some point we were out of the first bog… A few keywords: wood transportation roads, mud, Red Bull, gravel roads, meadow and then came my favourite part of the whole adventure – we went to bog number 2, meaning we went to look for the points that were in the Expedition Estonia sneak peek video, in the bog where there were a lot of bog pools. And well, we got completely lost… I felt completely hopeless, and I thought if we would ever get out of the swamp! We were saved by the cooperation, which was just super, because everyone was already exhausted from the heat, but we still managed to pinpoint our location by a small stream and a lake and decided that we would find these checkpoints, no matter what… And the brown swamp water never tasted so good! When we got to the first point, based on the shapes of the bog pools, it was a super cool feeling, and this part of the bog was made even more special by the amazing sunset. Once out of the swamp, we got some more strenuous work in before reaching the changing area. There were a lot of mosquitoes, and it was getting darker. It was also very painful to run. The run-walk method was adopted and let’s go! It was an exciting adventure in the river with the bats.
I’d rather not comment on the camping part before the canoes at all… Dark zone = nightmare, because it was horror times three for me: no blanket, no mattress, no dry clothes, just a windbreaker and some thermal foil to pull over and an aching body. And it was cold too, plus the unpleasant thoughts of having to put those soaked clothes and socks back on just in a couple of hours. It was 3 o’clock, and I was out of the tent. Cracked a Red Bull and once I got a vest over my wet clothes, it was much warmer! The wonderful sunrise with a swan family and fog on the Narva River was also super! Something to remember! A little disappointment came after the canoe trip, when we found out that we couldn’t go to the swamp again… But it does not matter, the last bike stage and that was it! The final part went fast and even at the finish it felt like the end was too easy! All in all: super, super, super! I’m super happy to have been part of this adventure and with such a great team! Everything worked!
“From the team’s point of view, everything worked out perfectly. Siim, Sille and Kaspar are a super combo to go into battle with. The course was versatile and well-prepared. What can we say, we were ready too!”
Rain: Previous ultras, various “recreational sports challenges”, preparation and the first experience of last year’s Tactical Foodpack Expedition Estonia have toughened me up enough to just go out there and crush this year’s Expedition class race. While preparing for the race, it was known that more practice was needed in forest orienteering, and that more saddle hours needed to be put in on the bike for that. When Tactical Foodpack supported our team, it became a breeze. Just go and do your thing! Great stuff! From the team’s point of view, everything worked out perfectly. Siim, Sille and Kaspar are a super combo to go into battle with. The course was versatile and well-prepared. What can we say, we were ready too! Luckily, the more cycling and canoeing, the easier it is to move. At least for me. A 170 km northern Finland ultra run or a 100 km Greek Olympus trail run killed me more. But still… During the Expedition, we all got our asses kicked at some point. This was known in advance, and we were ready for it. Fortunately, we all had our difficult moments at a different time, so we quickly divided up the roles and supported our suffering teammate to recover. At the team meeting, we estimated our finish time at around 27 h and were confident that we would not stay in the Dark Zone. We were fired up and made no major mistakes (except for reaching the 1st checkpoint at the start of the swamp stage). However, the final time was about 35 h. That’s okay, because the winners also came in about 7 h later, which confirmed that the course was extremely difficult and demanding. Kudos to the organizers! We were able to see places that our eyes and bodies had never seen before! Siim and I are pushing the boundaries of what will break us at some point! Expedition Estonia was a long one, but really enjoyable. It was a great party! Until the next adventures!
Kaspar: “It was a great event! We did it unprepared and without any warm-up. When is the next start?”
2023 race will take place from June 30 to July 2. Race course runs in the area of the ancient counties of Sakala and Nurmekunna, i.e. in central Estonia and is about 230 km long. Route will traverse beautiful untouched forests and bogs as well as exciting cultural landscape and special natural objects. The course must be completed on participants’ own power, without assistance or any motorized aids. The course is divided into stages of trekking, mountain biking and watercraft. Teams have to visit race checkpoints shown on the map, between which the specific route is free to choose. Locations of checkpoints and detailed course instructions will be revealed to participants directly before the expedition. The journey takes racers from established trails to untouched, more difficult terrain (also vast areas without trails), which makes it a real wilderness expedition. Predicted fastest time for non-stop racing is about 20 hours, but the course will be open for 40 hours, so it is possible to complete it more calmly and with rest breaks. Expedition Estonia is a tough challenge. Completing the course itself is one of the most difficult physical and mental challenges that you can set yourself in Estonia. To win, you need to be extra tough, smart and resilient…
Register here: https://expeditionestonia.com/en/home/