I was recommended this activity with the phrase “It’s the most terrifying thing on earth”, and this came from someone with experience of some pretty sketchy situations! I knew immediately I had to do it as if I didn’t I’d just be annoyed with myself. All I knew initially is that the bobsled run was within the vicinity of Riga and after a quick google found various English language websites offering tours to the place for £125 if two of us went (£80 each for 4 people or more), pretty steep but I was determined to go.
After booking and finding out the place was located in Sigulda (A winter resort town an hour or so East from Riga) I was curious to find the place on google maps to get a look at it. When I found it (http://goo.gl/maps/2B93E) I noticed a business link on the map to their Latvian webpage stating a price of only 35LVL (£42.50) each! I emailed them at firstname.lastname@example.org and booked the two of us in (and promptly cancelled the tour with the overpriced alternative!).
The track is only open on the weekends and the train schedule to Sigulda was slightly irregular so figure out all your timings in advance (the track is a simple 10 minute walk from Sigulda rail station). The train cost 1.65LVL (£2) each way per person and the time table can be seen on this website (http://www.ldz.lv/?object_id=861).
Due to the train times we had a few hours to kill in Sigulda and paid a visit to the main Old Castle which was beautiful coated in the snow. It was around this time we noticed some tourist maps around and realised that Sigulda actually looked like a great sport destination with Skiing, Canoeing and Hiking in the area around the river and valley, along with some cave systems you can explore. I will definitely head back at some point.
Once we were at the bobsled track itself the nerves started to kick in. There were plenty of people there, mostly doing a soft padded slow bobsled which can be done for 7LVL and also a few doing the normal bobsled that we’d be doing. We paid up our money and then awkwardly awaited our fate.
The bobsleds arrived in a van, were carried onto the ice and we were given our helmets and ordered to get in. It was pretty cramped which I actually found reassuring! There were little wire handles to grab onto and our driver said to not lean into the turns and to just try and keep our necks and backs stable to prevent any injuries.
Once we were all loaded in some helpers pushed the 4 of us (The driver, my friend and I plus one other tourist) off down the run and my brain started rationalising about how this was going to be totally fine. We descended the first straight and hit the first bend at a fairly low speed and I immediately thought what the hell have I gotten myself into. I’d always thought bobsleds smoothly carved their way round the corners but I very quickly learned they did not. You are thrown from level to 45 degrees instantly, held there for a fraction of a second and then instantly thrown back level. I don’t think I had time to worry about what was happening or to really take it in, I was totally focused on keeping my back and neck stable through the bends as we picked up speed and kept hitting corners harder and faster.
The run lasted under a minute and before I knew it we were onto the braking straight and were getting out. I was having quite an adrenaline rush at this point and I was aware that I hadn’t mentally absorbed what’d just happened and then realised I had no idea in hell of how these guys drive these things. How does a sport like this come to be?
Once another sled had finished we were promptly loaded into a van with them and driven back up to the start to grab our belongings. Even though it was all over so quickly I would whole heartedly recommend this to anyone who thinks they’re up to it.
In my mind this experience defines the word “Intense”.
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