From Potaste to Reku on water
We start the water journey at Potaste. Our boatman Andres lives here, with Põltsamaa river flowing through his garden. It is only a short distance from Laashoone. Walking back across Laashoone bridge we turn left, in past the barrier beside Turvakuuri farm and on to the right, to the end of the path.
Both Turvakuuri and Potaste are locations of former inns: the first had the inn of the Põltsamaa manor, the second inn belonged to Võisiku manor.
The production of potash in Potaste was mainly used by the local glassworks, but was also sold abroad via Riga and St Petersburg.
Near Andres's home we take the boat and the winding picturesque Põltsamaa river carries us along. We keep our eyes wide open in order to savour and remember all this summer beauty. Ears are not idle either as our local guide has many fascinating tales to tell about nature, people and their life here. According to Andres, oak trees were planted by the river as landmarks. The boat is chugging on, nice and quiet, allowing time to observe and listen.
We stop in London (true!) and step ashore under silver willows. During the time of manors there was a rafting office here, now a kingdom for fishermen who make use of the hut on the riverbank. It is very simple, but offers shelter, firewood and other essentials, and is looked after by Andres. After London we carry on downstream.
A short while later Põltsamaa river flows into Pedja river. The bit (4.3 km) between Põltsamaa river estuary and Emajõgi is called Pede. Compared with the twisting anf turning Põltsamaa river, Pede is more straight and wider.
Soon, 300–400 metres from the bank on the left is Naela oak copse. A small hut on the right, followed by another one a bit later.
Our boat has been going for about two hours when we reach Emajõgi river. Here Pede flows into Järvejõgi and water at once turns yellow of Võrtsu sand. Järvejõgi starts in Lake Võrtsjärv, in Jõesuu about seven kilometres away.
The trip along Emajõgi is enhanced by numerous meanders. A meander soon flows left and then turns back to big water. These meanders, popular spawning sites for fish, are nearly all more or less overgrown. The rafters who transported firewood straightened the river during the last century, so they could get through the crucial Võrtsjärv and Tartu waterways more easily.Upstream, the barges had to be dragged along manually.
We can now already see Palupõhja. Time to get off and take a look around. We asked Juhani Pütsepp to write a few lines:
The village in Palupõhja in midstream of Emajõgi river can be associated with the need for firewood. It was first mentioned in 1601. The barges transported firewood along Emajõgi and in spring rafting was added as well. Finally, after the war, logs were taken out of the forest with lorries and tractors. People used to be able to walk along paths on both banks of Emajõgi, which seems quite incredible seeing the widely spread thickets there today. One hundred years ago people pulled barges along while walking on these paths. People were taken across the river on rafts and boats. Back then, Palupõhja was mainly a village for forest labourers. After the war a school operated there too. The village has lost many inhabitants in recent years, although it is still home for three families.
In the early 1990s, Alam-Pedja nature reserve was established around the former bombing range, one of the initiators being Einar Tammur. His dream was to have a place at Palupõhja, where travellers could stay overnight. The Jaagu farm was duly bought and a house was set up for nature school. After Einar’s death his work was carried on by Robert Oetjen from America. He is now the contact person if anyone would want to use the Palupõhja nature school. (Robert’s phone 5039996).
The trip continues towards Reku, the old rafting site. There was a fishery in the Soviet era, the buildings are still standing, and all sorts of summer cottages can be seen on the riverbank.
Our slow journey lasted a little over four hours, three hours constituted time on the boat. Anyone in a hurry can make it much shorter.
In any case we crossed Emajõgi river and learned a great deal. We also got to know a man whose helpful nature, kindness and modesty will not be forgotten in a hurry. We travelled along three rivers, each with a different face. A most enjoyable trip.
There are naturally other boatmen besides Andres, but he is willing to help pilgrims in the future as well. You should of course phone beforehand.
Andres’s phone: +372 5606 7098. A traveller with no desires for luxury is offered accommodation as well. The boat trip is € 50, the boat takes takes 4–5 travellers.