The Pilgrims’ Mass – Santiago de Compostela, Saturday 18 April
Waved off Maggie and Rosie for their bus to Porto, then walked to the Cathedral for the Pilgrims’ Mass which is held every day at midday. All in Spanish, though we understood the warning not to take photos or video, and got the welcome to the many peregrinos and the countries they had commenced from. Splendid singing led by a nun, accompanied by the booming organ made a great atmosphere, though two things couldn’t be done that I would have liked: doing the special entering touching hand thing/place in the portal! [closed for renovation], and the massive incense burner wasn’t set off a-swinging down the aisle [as in the Emilio Estevez film ‘The Way’]. All three of us nodded off during the sermon which was probably taking the Spanish siesta practice a bit too far.
It was a recovery day really – a slow stroll around a few souvenir shops, a cup of coffee in a warm café in the gardens, and purchase of some titbits for tea back at the apartment where some essential work needed doing: catch up on this diary, transfer photos across computers/phones/cameras, answer emails…and pack! The bicycles were put in the Kanga with front wheels off, and handlebars turned, and we think some luggage and people may be able to squeeze in around them.
We shall see. Spain and France here we come.
Last Barry standing – Santiago to Mino driving, Sunday 19 April
After an anxious drive hoping we were going to the correct airport, we dropped Jen off for her flight to Barcelona, doing about 5 laps of the no-parking departure zone to make sure she disappeared through the boarding doors. It was sad to see our last ‘Barry-be-in-It’ leave us. It had been great fun, and great assistance, having people invite themselves along on our holiday. On the positive side [?] it meant Elly and I would get a second whole day to ourselves. Drove to Luxe and an opportunity to see the wild coast of Costa del Morte. Walked out to the lighthouse, did a walking circuit of the point, and marvelled at the two fishermen in a chugging little boat park themselves in a surging spot behind some rocks taking the brunt of the Atlantic rollers. No life-jackets of course – they’d probably been to the same spot most days of their lives. Returned inland 30km to the village of A Silva which we had noticed had been setting up for a festival earlier in the day. Turns out it was the once-a-year nosh-up on mussels, octopus, barbequed ribs and chorizo. All sloshed down with bowls of red wine. The caterers and waiters had done it before; a slick operation under a marquee with about 300 people and the smell of the grill wafting through. Superb. [Though I didn’t like the licorice flavoured spirit added to the coffee quite as much as Elly.]
Not quite sure how good my driving was to Betanxos, but we made it safely in the late afternoon. Looked at the town and for a for bed without success – one over priced hotel – and the town had little appeal despite being written up as trying hard to attract tourists to its historical centre. On to nearby Mino, a summer beach resort town, where we had a win – double hotel room at a low season 41E. Walk along the esplanade with a few locals, and crashed.
Talking with the Boys – Fragas de Eume – 7km walk, Monday 20 April
With Jordy AWOL, Elly and I drove to the nearby Nacional Parc Fragas de Eume. ‘Fragas’ in Spanish means the part of the forest floor where the light is always dappled, usually in ravines and along waterways. The park boasts some of the best remnant north Atlantic Iberian vegetation. Well, only where the temperature gets below 5 degrees, otherwise the upper slopes and warmer bits are riddled with bluegums and acacia.
At our entry point I had a long ‘spanglish’ yarn with three foresters/rangers who said in summary, bluegums aren’t too bad if they’re left to grow out a bit, but felled young for paper pulp they are nutrient and carbon users rather than sinks. And they are a monoculture that the birds don’t like and that kill the understorey. And [naturally] they are a fire hazard. The acacias they liked for their nitrogen-fixing capability.
Following their recommendation for a walking route, we tramped off along a ridge to get the most stunning view of the park, where we munched on our standard sandwich lunch in the warm midday sun. Back to the car, we then went to the fragas areas , entering the Eume River valley from the estuary end at the scenic Pontedeume. At the end of the 10km road there was a walk up to a quaint 9th century restored monastery: just 4 small buildings perched above the river. The architectural renovation must have cost a fortune.
Back to our Mino hotel for a well-deserved feed – lettuce salad with raisins, goats cheese, and prawns, and a flavoursome, eyes-bigger-than-our-stomachs, chips and chicken dish.
Together for the Road Trip – Mino to Oviedo driving, Tuesday 21 April
After many messages through space and even via Billy in Australia, met Jordy at 9.30 at A Coruna railway station, happy but tired after his weekend away. [But had he been hit by a golf ball on his neck?] Missed whatever highlights might be in this big city, and headed north to the Faro [lighthouse] at Capo Estaca de Bares, the northernmost point of Spain -impressive and wild coastline with high cliffs and reefs. Stopped briefly at the picturesque estuary town of Ortigueira, and a free tour of the municipal museum, with its displays of anthropologic history and oddly, a display of scarabs and butterflies of the world. Did you know it was a crucial port in Roman times – on a shipping trade route from Lisbon to London?
The road trip continued for a lunchstop on the beachfront at O Vicedo, where we were subjected to watching a Billy in 50 years time, prancing about in his red budgie smugglers for all to see! Afternoon coffee for the driver, and toilet, at the next recommended must-see town of Ribadeo. Not bad – just needs more money spent on a couple of old buildings in the main square to compete with the best. Got to Oviedo about 7pm, and having a later meeting with our warmshowers apartment host Ken [warmshowers is an organisation of bicycle-touring aficionados who are prepared to host other tourers], we wandered the central streets getting hopelessly lost [ as we did every time after that in Oviedo.] Quite a nice city centre though with a large pedestrian zone, flashy offices and glitzy stores. Ken met us at 9.30pm full of beans, as was his dog. A bit of yarn, and it was once again bedtime.