March sunshine and Galician coastlines
We have had the most delightful early spring weather this year so what better than one of our ‘discover Galicia’ road trips. Due to the continued virus situation we decided to forego our usual two day trip for a single, action-packed, contactless tour of Galicia’s wild northwest.
On this occasion we were heading beyond Ortigueira to one of the many peninsulas which make up this ‘pearl of the rias’.
Our first stop was the town of Cariño (above), situated on the northeast side of the peninsula.
The beach at Basteiras had obviously been upgraded for the hordes of tourists. There was a boardwalk across the sand dunes towards the ocean. Mum found this nice and easy going, until we reached the part where the strong winds had blown a heap of soft sand into undulating waves, directly across our path. She gallantly managed as her stick sank into the soft sand. In contrast the beach was firm and dry, and totally deserted. It was a reasonably large beach, stretching some 1000 metres from the jetty on one side to the tree clad mountains on the other but the strong winds decided us against having our picnic lunch here. Sand and quiche just don’t mingle.
Instead we followed the map up towards a viewpoint.
That is, we tried to follow the map. Unfortunately Galician maps leave much to be desired in terms of accuracy. I had two maps I was trying to follow. One showed a road called the Ruta de las Miradores (viewpoint route), the other didn’t, but did show more detail around the town of Cariño. As we circled the town, twice, I wished that Galicia could produce just one decent cartographer.
Eventually we followed the signs for the Cabo Ortegal, the northernmost point of the peninsula with its lighthouse and tiny viewing platform. We didn’t want to go there but hoped there may be a turn off on the way for the road we did want.
The road wound ever higher through pines and planted eucalypts (the scourge of the Galician coast). Eventually we reached the top, having seen one other car the whole way. There was a single wooden bench facing the sea and, way below, the beach we had walked along that very morning.
Up here the wind was strangely non-existent so we three unpacked our picnic and sat companionably on the bench chomping cheese and onion quiche and drinking fizzy drinks.
As we finished our lunch S noticed a large bank of cloud heading our way.
“Better head off then!”
We soon descended into that cloud bank. Unfortunate as the way was still rather curvaceous, though less steep than previously, winding through rocky outcrops and low grazed scrub.
In front we spotted a lone cow in the middle of the road. She stood for a long moment before deciding to let us pass by wandering onto another part of the scrubland. Beyond were a group of horses, shaggy manes and thick coats giving away their year round existence up here in the wilderness.
We were heading for the pilgrim town of San Andrés de Teixido. There is a strange Galician saying that if one doesn’t visit San Andrés during one’s lifetime then you will do so after death, slithering in the manner of a snake or a lizard. Not a fate one might want, so off we went.
San Andrés is a tourist haven in summer, the second most important pilgrimage site in Galicia after Santiago de Compostela. The sign for parking began way out of town, though on that March day we had no problem parking in the bus park, along with another three cars – the only visitors on that beautiful sunny day.
The mist which had coated the tops just beyond the mirador had vanished as quickly as it had appeared and San Andrés, on the opposite coast to Cariño, was once more sunny and calm.
The little 16th century church (photo top) was plastered in thick white between the granite stones as were many of the buildings, giving the little town a distinctly unGalician feel to it. Below was another tiny chapel lit with votive candles and entered by a set of winding stone steps. And below that was the wild Atlantic Ocean. San Andrés is said to sit on the highest cliffs in Europe.
The village itself was obviously set up for tourists with stalls in front of the shops and percebes, the goose barnacles which are a delicacy here, advertised in every window along with local honey and razor clams. Of those tourists we saw one couple with their two dogs.
Not far outside of San Andrés we found another viewpoint. It was marked as the cross of Teixido and was a way-point on the walking route from San Adrián to San Andrés de Teixido and then southwards to the port of Ferrol.
As we wandered towards the tall cross set on a rocky outcrop above, I noticed a memorial plaque against a large granite rock. Having a fascination for all things written, I made my way over. I was intrigued to find the plaque, written in English and Spanish, was a memorial to the English actor Leslie Howard. According the memorial, he died off that coast when the aeroplane he was in was shot down by the Luftwaffe in 1942. He was 50 years old.
Onward to our next stop, my map was actually doing the business until we reached a wide T junction with no signposting.
“Which way?” asked S, who was driving at that point. Me supposedly being the better navigator as I can see the map and don’t get car sick staring down at my lap.
“No idea, this map doesn’t show anything resembling a T junction and certainly not one this big.” I held my finger up in the air and closed my eyes “That way,” I said, pointing right. “Cedeira has to be at the coast.”
Wrong. The way we took soon went from wide, smooth, main road to tiny winding lane through a small village (not on the map) and then up into the hills again.
“I don’t think this is right,” said S. “That’s kilometre three. We started at one so I’m thinking the other way, as markers usually start at the biggest town.”
Logical, and ultimately correct. We turned around and headed on the new wide road to Cedeira. By now it was after five so we parked up and wandered along the neat and tidy promenade keeping the beach to our left. I say beach because the sea was so far out it was almost out of sight from the town, leaving a damp and muddy expanse of sand which reminded me of childhood holidays in Skegness, trying to find the sea whilst avoiding falling in the muddy pools left behind.
With no more problems map-reading, I took over for the drive home. The light was blazing a pink glow across the sky in the east, reflecting the setting sun as I drove. It was also in my eyes each time I turned a corner, blinding me momentarily. Still, the view was glorious and the purple heather shone in its glow. It had been another memorable day of exploration and reminded me just how beautiful this land is and how lucky we are to have made Galicia our home.