Exploring Latvia: Bogshoeing in Kemeri National Park
Rarely have I been in such peaceful surroundings as in the great bogs of Kemeri National Park in Latvia. Surrounded by nothing but stunning natural scenery and silence only broken my crunchy bogshoe-footsteps.
The park covers a protected area of 381 square kilometres, and it’s neighbouring the beach resort of Jurmala on the coast of Latvia, just a short drive west of the Latvian capital of Riga. It is mostly famous for its vast and spectacular bog areas full of minerals and healing mud, and I have previously shared a post about the Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk, which is a wonderful and easily accessible way to experience these bogs. But if you’re looking to get properly into the wild, you gotta strap on a pair of bogshoes and follow a guide from Purvubrideji. That’s what I did during my Latvian bog adventure.
Bogshoes are like snowshoes and they make it possible for you to wander safely through the swamps and bogs of Kemeri without sinking into the deep layers of peat. They do so by distributing your body weight on a larger surface. It might take a bit of getting used to at first, but it’s relatively easy to get going for most people. Just remember that you gotta wear waterproof hiking boots or rubber boots (wellies) to make sure you don’t get your feet wet.
These guys from Purvubrideji are leading people and groups of up to 30 persons into the bogs all around Latvia and they’ve done so for several years now, which gives them valuable experience and knowledge about the different parks and areas. I had the pleasure of following my private guide Kristaps into the Kemeri bog on a sunny autumn day, for absolutely perfect conditions.
Kristaps knew what he was doing and I just followed his trail safely, but the bogs can be dangerous territory if you don’t know your way around. Each year a number of people get lost out here, as it can be very difficult to orientate yourself in these surroundings.
These extraordinary landscapes have developed into the bogs we see today through natural processes over thousands of years. It’s too harsh for many species and plants to survive in these acid conditions, which results in a wide-open landscape broken by small pine trees and dark pools and lakes. I didn’t jump in, but many people choose to do so or these bog-expeditions.
We see wild rosemary, cranberries and blueberries along our tracks, and we spot small carnivorous plants and red fly amanita mushrooms. The area is also popular for several bird species like wood sandpipers, tree pipits and cranes, and Kristaps points out tracks that have possibly been left by a moose. We even see a non-venomous grass snake that is rapidly escaping its unexpected visitors.
The bogshoe-hikes at Kemeri National Park normally last from 2-4 hours and can be guided in Latvian, Russian or English. On this occasion, we walk around 3 hours through this magnificent scenery before we make it back through some forest and back to the van. My legs a bit tense from the unfamiliar movements with the bogshoes but this has been one of my most memorable nature experience.
The guided tours are available all year round and I would highly recommend you not only to visit Latvia but also to experience this beautiful national park and its unique bog areas.
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I was invited to Latvia by Magnetic Latvia and airBaltic, but this article is written from my personal opinion.