Ieva from Latvia – GR20 in group with « Hiking in Latvia » travel agency

Hello Ieva, could you please introduce yourself ?

My name is Ieva. I’m from Latvia. I’m a lawyer working for consumer protection agency and openhearted and adventurous lady in my heart. I love nature, hiking, travelling, running, reading books and photography.

Ieva from Latvia on the GR20
Ieva from Latvia on the GR20

What about hiking in your country? Could you advise some hikes to our readers?

I’m very proud to live in one of the greenest countries in the world. Latvia is a hidden gem in Europe because of its nature – forests and a its long seaside line with sandy beaches. The best thing is that our nature is easily accessible for everyone. If you live in our capital – Riga, it takes just 30min to get to the nearest seaside, forest. Although our land is flat (our highest hill Gaizins is just 312m high), we have a plenty of places to explore.

Just a few examples:

For seaside fans: the best one is Baltic coastal trekking which starts in Latvia and ends in Estonia. It is 1200km long in total, the length in Latvia is 580km.

For nature lovers: I suggest to go hiking in the moorland trails, for example in Cenas moorland in Kemeri national park. If you go to Pape national park in the very south west of Latvia, you can see wild horses there.

For long hikes in distant areas: Recently hiking trails of the length of 1836km, which is the total length of Latvian border, were founded.

Could you please tell us about the organisation “Hiking in Latvia” ?

Hiking in Latvia is a small travel agency in Latvia founded by a hiking enthusiast and it is specializing mostly in hiking/adventure trips. They are organising hiking trips all across Europe to show the beauty of the best hiking trails (e.g., King’s trail, Camino de Santiago, Fishermen’s trail, GR20). The best thing about this agency is a personal attitude towards their customers and proficiency. The routes will not be easy to accomplish, but on the other hand isn’t it the best thing that you are able to see the sunrises, sunsets and other spectacular views at the places, where you can’t just go by a car?

Hiking in Latvia group at the GR20 start in Conca
Hiking in Latvia group at the GR20 start in Conca

Concerning about the GR20 : When did you hike there ? Which way ? Within a group ?

I hiked the GR 20 from 2 June – 13 June 2019 (12,5 days). We were a group of 17 hikers from Latvia organized by the travel agency Hiking in Latvia. 12 persons from our group walked all the route. We walked from south to north. We started in Conca and finished in Calenzana.

Corsica - impressive mountains
Corsica – impressive mountains

What was the context for hiking the GR20 ? How did you prepare yourself to this target?

Just a year ago I barely knew what GR20 is, but when I heard/read about it and looked at the pictures, I decided that I need to do it! I decided to walk the GR20 approx. 6 months before the hike.

The preparation for the GR20 is essential. It would be quite challenging to walk the full distance without a proper training. Since I walked the GR20 in June, from January I was running a lot (appox. 30 – 40km per week). I also did some hiking. For example, our group had a training event with backpacks. In April and May I was exercising with a physiotherapist for hiking in mountains which was particularly helpful.

Ieva and the group hiking GR20
Ieva and the group hiking GR20

For food I suggest to eat very well a week before the hike, because you will need a lot of energy! Everyone from our group dropped some kg during the hike.

What equipment did you bring ?

For equipment the quote “less is more” suits very well. Every item should be considered before putting it in a backpack.

My equipment I had with me all the way:

  • Backpack (65l), weight approx. 10 – 12kg (depending on the amount of water and food we brought with us)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camping mattress
  • ½ of a tent which means that I brought the sticks and my tent buddy – the other parts
  • 2 standard refillable water bottles (I didn’t have a container), I tried to make sure I always have at least 1l – 1,5l of water
  • Hiking poles (I can’t imagine hiking the GR20 without them)
  • Hiking boots (one person from of our group did all the way in hiking sandals)
  • 2 pairs of hiking socks (one pair you are wearing the other one you are drying)
  • Thermal underwear for sleeping
  • 1 long sleeved sport short (it will protect from the sun) and 1 short sleeved sport short
  • 1 pair of sports/hiking pants and one pair of shorts
  • Sport underwear (2 pairs)
  • Sport towel
  • Raincoat (which I didn’t use)
  • Toilet paper, wet wipes, some hygiene products, sunscreen
  • Hat, sunglasses
  • Powerbank
  • Headlight
  • Some medicine (pills against fever, disinfectant liquid etc)
  • My old camera (Canon 400D)
  • A bowl, a cup and a spoon
  • Some tea/coffee for breakfast, cereal, nuts, dried fruits, chocolates & food and equipment for lunch and dinner which we shared among the group (for example, pasta, rice, buckwheat, canned food like meat, corn, tomatoes, olives)
  • Some cash, since mostly it is not possible to pay by card

Since we had a support van meeting us every 1-2 days (except the stage from Bivouac de l’Onda to Haut Asco), we did not need to bring all the food and extra clothes with us.

Still snow-covered on some part of the way ?

We were very lucky, because during our hike in June 2019 all the days were sunny. The snow was present only in a few parts (in stages Petra Piana to Manganu ; Ciottulu di Mori to Vallone). I did not have a special equipment for the snow, however it was needed to be very cautious, because where the snow melts, you can slip and fall into the holes (sometimes the holes are under the snow and you will not see them). We saw that a hiker from another group was injured and transported by a helicopter. We warned other hikers not to cross that area.

snow patches on the way from Petra Piana to Manganu
snow patches on the way from Petra Piana to Manganu

You should watch your step in parts covered by snow and avoid stepping outside the trail (you should follow the footsteps of others).

What are your positive feedbacks ?

  • I loved that every day was different with different and impressive views.
  • The weather was super wonderful – sunny almost all the time, not too hot and not too cold.
  • The trail was well marked except in one place where still the old marking was present.
  • Our team was amazing, we were supporting each other so much. It is a rare find to be together with a group of people you barely know and to have such a good connection and such a good laugh together.
  • The people on the trail were so polite and nice, I think I heard so many “bonjours” as never in my life.
  • The trail was amazingly clean, no waste.

Negative feedbacks ?

  • Unfortunately, I got ill with some virus just before the hike and it was quite difficult to do the hike.
  • Cold water in showers when the evening is cold is very challenging 😊

Which was your favourite stage, and your favourite shelter ?

I think every stage and every shelter had its charm. Personally, I loved the most the northern part of the trail, because it was more challenging.

My top 3 favourite stages:

  • Vallone to Haut Asco which was really difficult, because we did 2 stages together that day. However, the beauty of the mountains was spectacular.
  • Carrozzu to Ortu di u Piobbu, because the views from the mountains were amazing despite that it was really exhausting to climb.
rhythm to reach next rock platform - GR20
rhythm to reach next rock platform – GR20
  • Onda to Petra Piana – it was so relaxing to take a pause along the banks of the river and to enjoy its beauty.

My top 3 shelters:

  • Petra Piana – we had a very nice view from our dinner place.
  • Refuge de Manganu – it was like an oasis and the evening with a group was amazing.
  • Haut Asco – it was so nice to reach it after walking 2 stages, our group had an amazing dinner there and one more extra was the sunrise above the clouds – breathtaking.
cloud in the valley - GR20
cloud in the valley – GR20

If you should hike again GR20, what would you change?

There are not so many things I would like to change. I would not take the raincoat with me. I would probably try to stop more to take pictures and would worry less about my hiking capabilities 😊

picture group on GR20
picture group on GR20

Which advices could you share with people whom are think to go for a GR20’s hike?

  • Prepare before you go – physically and mentally, because it will be a challenge for an ordinary person!
  • Take vitamins and try not to fall ill as I did!
  • Prepare that cold coca cola and cold beer will be your most wanted drinks all the way!
  • Take pauses, enjoy the views!
Corsica Mountains
  • Learn some French, it will help you to communicate!
  • Find the best company with whom you can walk and share your emotions!
  • If you are a passionate photographer, take your camera with you, the pictures will be worth the extra weight!
  • Enjoy the trip – it will be amazing!
impressive water pools - Corsica
impressive water pools – Corsica

*some pictures are taken by me, others – by our team members

Thank you so much Ieva for your feedback ! It’s true that some French words are useful to “break the ice” during the evening at refuges, but because the GR20 hikers are really international people, we still find a way to talk English with some people. But some French words do help, that’s true 😊

end of day - bivouac
end of day – bivouac

Let’s come back to your links you have shared in the beginning of your interview. I believe there are so many hikes to discover in Latvia with amazing environment as you describe. See you there, or in Corsica 😉 Take care.

And now, let’s have a look again at the GR20’s video already shared in Liene’s interview few weeks ago. Enjoy !

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