We visited three towns within Gauja National Park; Cesis, Ligatne and Sigulda. The sights revolved around the Gauja river, with red cliff walls along the banks and orange coloured caves. The towns were pleasant for strolling around with nice castles, churches and old squares.
It was all ‘nice’ but not blow away nice, so we decided to spice it up a bit and try out the summer bobsleigh track in Sigulda. It was built for the former soviet bobsleigh team, and is now used as a training venue for the Latvian Olympic Team. So it’s a fairly unique experience to be able to try it out as a total amateur.
We got there rather early so wondered around the complex. Two young guys with stone faces (not fans of smiling in the Baltics) headed towards the track with a sort of sledge that was lined with small wheels on either side. They were wearing Lycra leotards, which were ripped all over and had patches on the buttocks. “Holy crap, is that what we’re going to be doing?” One guy got in position, pulled a plastic guard over his helmet and did the typical olympic stance; grabbing onto two poles, pushing himself back and forward, then going down the 1200m long artificial track lying on his back.
Much to our relief a shimmering gold bobsleigh pulled up with 4 big wheels, this is what we were going on, and the Lycra men were on a Luge. Four people fitted inside the bobsleigh with a female pilot at the front; always a little worrying when your trusting someone to steer and brake for you when they have a drifting eye.
We were given a hair net…I think for amusement sake, and a helmet which felt like it was stuffed with concrete. We piled in and a cage was pulled over the top of us. It was pretty slow to begin with and I was starting to think it was a waste of €10. But as we went further down-hill and round some bends we picked up so much speed and were going 80kmh, it was crazy! We defied gravity on the 16 bends and were ploughing sideways around them. The stupid helmet was so heavy that when we took a couple of quick turns my head gave up and just dangled around like a rag doll.
The final section seemed the scariest as we slowed down and went along a tight bend, we were totally sideways, the ground was to my left and I was sure we didn’t have enough speed to keep going without crashing down. It was so much fun though, I’d love to try the winter version on ice, apparently the pro’s go up to 125kmh!
As we walked back to Pablo, Craig asked me to look at his bum and see if it was wet. It was. He sat on a wet seat and was mortified as he got out the back of the bobsleigh with his bum in the air towards the crowd, they would of all thought he’d pissed himself. I was laughing away, “You should probably sniff it and check it’s not piss Craig, you could of actually sat in a someone else’s urine…eww”. He hadn’t.