Nature is best enjoyed in its natural vibe: Tartu Observatory's barge trip
In the end of July, the UT Tartu Observatory's interns and employees with their families went on a two-day barge trip, which has evolved to be a traditional summer event for the observatory. The observatory's intern Aditya Savio Paul wrote about the trip as well as the feelings and thoughts it brought up.
No sooner was the traditional barge trip organized by the Tartu Observatory announced that people started to gather their tents and camping equipment to set sail on the waves of Lake Võrtsjärv for the scheduled two days. The journey began with a bus ride from Lodjakoda to the Oiu harbour where the barge awaited.
Looking as something straight out of an era of crafty woodwork, the barge provided aesthetic values thanks to the diligent workmanship and attention to detail, that was essential to face the waters. The barge itself was a self-sufficient construction that housed a cozy sub-dwelling space including a kitchen space and a washroom. The deck supported a sturdy mast with a tarpaulin sail, an overhead platform with ample seating and the steering and motor controls. People from the observatory: interns, employees, and families boarded the barge and it was not long until we got comfortable and started drifting through the estuary into open waters, where we switched from motor drive to open sail.
Riding on the barge, we had our own small ecosystem onboard; people from different disciplines looked forward to a fruitful boat trip. As the barge sailed, the expansive view across seemed to juncture the sky and water with the trees and barns presenting a scenic landscape worthy to be captured.
As the mid-day sun shone overhead, sunscreen and shades provided relief. Having its own small kitchen at convenience, we were served fluke, which was big enough to feed us all. The regular stock of fresh kasemahl (sap of birch tree) kept us hydrated. We had the pleasure of listening to melodies played gracefully on the accordion by one of the passengers. When there wasn’t accordion music, the radio helped to keep the mood up. Riding across the calm waves of the lake, interaction and conversation ranged from questions about academia to jokes, overall keeping us entertained and helping us get to know each other better. Groups engaged themselves in card games while some relaxed on the deck, probably contemplating the meaning of life.
As night approached, the sun had its luminance spread all over the sky with radiating hues of orange, red and yellow, producing an amazing silhouette of the settlements and trees over the horizon. It was soothing for the eyes to watch the sun slowly set, landscaping what lay ahead. As the reflection in the lake twinkled, stars started to appear. The transition was enigmatic and a reminder of our world which has a new experience to share with us every single day.
The fading sunlight brought a completely different view ahead and around. As it started to get darker, the headlamp helped us see everything ahead. While we satiated our hunger with some scrumptious dinner, the barge approached its destination, docking at the shore in mainland Tartu, by the centre for Limnology. Campers put up their tents in the surrounding boscage, while some caught a good night’s rest on the barge deck and sub deck.
The following morning greeted us with early rays of the sun, filtering between the trees and glazing the calm waters, accompanied by a serene breeze. While people took a swim in the early waves of the lake, breakfast was served and tents were rolled up. Then we headed to the lake museum that runs under the Estonian University of Life Sciences Võrtsjärv Study Center. The latter is a prime research centre for aficionados who are interested in studying nature, specifically lake culture, habitat, and the thriving flora and fauna. Situated by the lake and surrounded by dense yet traversable woods, the vicinity provides a perfect blend of natural aesthetics with the opportunity to explore the wilderness.
The museum entrance welcomes its visitors with aquariums which are home to a lake ecosystem. Various species of fish have been kept on display as well as for research purposes to study their habits and essentiality of an aquatic primordial chain. From large catfish to small herrings, the aquatic habitants presented the vast culture which the Estonian lakes and water bodies house. Presentation of tools used in early fishing practices demonstrated the medieval lifestyle of people for whom fishing was the prime economy. A few effigies of birds and otters provided a life-like experience to witness the form and size of the animals that are contributors to the ecosystem as well. The centre on the premises gave us an interactive experience with artificial fishing activities and recreation. A walk through the institute gave us all an assimilated cognizance of the lake ecosystem that flourishes in the natural besiege of Estonia with the ideology of being responsible and protecting what is being destroyed at a dramatic rate, due to malpractices and selfish intentions.
As we sailed back, the afternoon waters seemed familiar, making us think of the relationship between man and nature. Distinctly visible, Tondisaar island acted as a motivation of sustained life that survives even with the surrounding waters continuously jostling its shores.
Sailing in the middle of the waters, the passing time conferred some moments of reflection; particularly of man’s domination over nature, although it is not to be forgotten that we are a part of the habitat and not above it. While it is on us to thrive, comfort, and advance ourselves in nature, it also comes as a responsibility to preserve it because it provides us with food and shelter. The amenities onboard were sufficient to sustain us all for the couple of days during the tour with pleasant skies over us and calm waters beneath us. Yet a more adverse side of nature also exists. That side tends to get rid of all derogatory and it is definitely not wise to challenge it.
Gazing across the horizon, reflections of the gift of the nature presented themselves in the most admirable embodiment. The endowment of life and the vigor to live each day recognizing new rays of hope to keep a positive mindset is vital. It is on us to imbibe these attributes in the sterling, natural guise. With newfound respect for nature, we docked the barge at Oiu harbour, filled with gratitude for a wonderful voyage over Lake Võrtsjärv.
For nature is best enjoyed in its natural vibe