Our first stop on the coach trip was the Ahja Valley. We walked through pine
woods, and looked at the tall sandstone bank on the other side of the
river, full of small holes where kingfishers and swallows nest, and covered
with carved initials in precarious positions. There are also two large caves.
On the way back we stopped at a spring where several people drank - Klaire's
mother Olly explained that the water was pure because it came straight from the
rock. Two cooks had joined us for the rest of the trip, and had laid out
a huge picnic under the trees, including a sort of savoury layer cake full
of seafood, and open sandwiches of steak tartare.
After lunch, we drove on only a short distance and then stopped again to pick
up a guide who was to show us one of the sights of the area. Getting out
and entering the woods we saw a sign with a gigantic picture of an ant.
This part of the forest was a sort of ant sanctuary. The ants'
nests were among the trees, the other side of a small wooden rail that bordered
our path and protected them from us (presumably). The visible parts of the
nests were made from pine needles, though apparently the underground parts
were much bigger, and consisted of tunnels or excavations in the
sand. The ants were busy all over the nests, rearranging the pine needles;
they looked pretty much like the usual sort of ant, small and black, and not
particularly menacing except that there were so many of them. After we'd stared at them
for a while, and they'd continued to ignore us, we went back to the coach
and drove on to the sand caves of Piusa.