Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Pace and safety

I realise I feel at home here because the strolling pace of Galicians is pretty slow… maybe this is the acquired pace because of the intense heat. But old and young, solo or couples, they have a leisurely elegant walk which calms everything down. I think at home, everyone is in a rush, looks stressed, pressured.


We have had two days exploring bits of the west coast - the beautiful and famous rias where the sea pushes into the old river valleys to make craggy cliff-bound triangular bays - some are miles long. But they also have glorious stretches of fine sandy beaches, and to walk or drive into these areas is uplifting and inspiring. Even when one of the enormous cloudbursts overtakes you, there are stupendous skies with towering cloud masses, vast veils of rain or mist, dramas played out for nobody's benefit but worth trying to capture in words or photos.  There is hardly anyone about at this time of year, so we have had the cliff-tops and strand walks to ourselves, more or less.  On one beach we watched surfers working their way out and back, and encouraging their children to be brave in the beautiful rolling surf. Further along, a mass of perhaps a thousand gulls of various kinds liked to patrol a central piece of the beach. As we walked towards them, a few hundred rose up and wheeled round us to land just behind us, and then another mass did the same, so that our quiet walk moved them all about 100 yards further along the sand.

We tried to get down into one very new port but were turned back by two handsome young policemen. Security.  Later we looked at the whole place from above, and there appeared to be nothing more deadly or secret than a huge pile of asphalt and some logs. Our viewing place (Cabo Prioriño) is mostly an abandoned military facility, with rows of empty low buildings now covered with graffiti, and surrounded by gorse and these amazing views. At the far end of the headland, there is a smart bird-hide and some information boards, a radar-station made of two counter-balanced portacabin-shaped modules made from brilliant rusty steel, and a lighthouse which is exactly that - a normal-looking house with the maritime light in the top middle bedroom space.  We could see it flashing and dimming from the landward side too.  A free telescope was enticing, but the glass is all bloomed and dim. NBG.

The next headland - Cabo Prior - has a more ordinary-shaped lighthouse, and some spectacular cliffs.

The next day we explored inland a little - the 'green' road was beautiful but unchanging, and the inland towns mostly rather dull from my point of view, though the church at Cambre is very old and lovely - 12th century, and with lots of different fonts, piscinas, stoups etc., and some weathered mouldings on the round arches and capitals. In the absence of good scale maps we rely a lot on the satnav - but it's not always quick enough and doesn’t always marry up with the real roads. We fiddled about trying to get to various bits of the Rio Tambre, and eventually decided on lunch at Negreira, a camino town which offered us a little lunch beside a stream, and some real pilgrims (from Dublin, the US and I think the English Midlands) for company. A little café earlier on in the day, in a hamlet in the middle of nowhere, had nine people in it including a fine baby.

The afternoon took us over to some more cliffs and high moorland tops - absolutely studded with windmills - their triple blades swooshing and shuffling as they swung round in the great wind. There were hundreds of them, in lines, great and small, eating the weather and creating electricity for Spain. Hardly anyone has any kind of solar kit on their houses.  As we marvelled at the windmills, and indeed the rushing wind, we watched another of the great Atlantic rainstorms come sweeping in, a little to the south of us. Down in the fishing port of Muros, which cannot really have changed very much since the Romans were there, all was dry and we strolled around admiring the smart yachts and the traditional wooden fishingboats. As we headed back to Pontedeume, the rains descended on us, smashing onto the roof of the car and the windscreen. Yet the road surface stayed dry and free of spray. We could do with that in England. 

Back at the house, we were treated to yet another monster feast by John, whose delight is to create banquets for guests. We sat in the open, under a tiled roof, watching the darkness come down onto the valley, and the lights of the houses on the other side come on. Dogs bark. We are laughing. Then we have a monster pile of washing up do to do, and I head for my bed. My last night as a 65-year old. He's planning a lunch out tomorrow - more food.  

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