August 17, 2018 - 2 comments

Camino de Santiago Pt.2: Spain

The second leg of our pilgrimage adventures.

(Click for the part 1.) Spain welcomed us with warm temperatures and a noticeable cultural change from Portugal. People were louder and more passionate about everything. We stopped for a lunch in the first town, and the restaurant owner couldn't stop talking to us during the whole meal. As his English skills were about the same as our knowledge of Spanish, we didn't get many messages across, but it didn't seem to bother him. Also, the meal portions in Spain are bigger than in Portugal, for the same prices. Good.

The path then returned by the ocean, and alongside were arrays of unfinished mansions. It's no secret that the 2009 financial crisis took a massive hit on Spain, but my goodness, seeing it in person... For instance this one:

Just some windows, furniture, plumbing and it would be finished. But instead, it is left abandoned. While passing these, I was thinking about market forces, and also that it would be a prime spot to spend the night.. but since it wasn't even 3 pm yet, we kept marching.

A few kilometres up the road, we found this, another unfinished property.

no. 6, that's it! Our address for tonight, right there.

The sun was still quite high up, so I thought about going for a swim. But the ocean had a strong current going on, bringing large waves - that, together with the uneven rocky terrain had written trouble all over it, so I passed and relaxed a bit. Later, the ocean was calmer, good enough to get in.

Because a bath before bedtime is grand, that's why.

Then just set up all the sleeping stuff, and enjoy the view from the bedroom...


DAY5

Starting up early, the sunrise colored everything in vivid hues.

In a moment, we arrived into Oia, a small town with a large, pretty monastery:

Then, although the path keeps following the coastline, I planned a diversion into the local hills. My map shown that there should be a castle, and dense contours with occasional rivers were promising some waterfalls. So far, our progress was faster than expected, so a day-long break would be no problem. Might as well give it a go.

The issue was, while we easily found the trailhead, it was clear that the path clearly didn't see any traffic for a few years, it was just an overgrowth forest of dense thorny bushes and shrubs.

believe or not, that's the trail. Can't see it? well, we couldn't either.

After walking through such environment for a while, our legs looked like we fought a lion or two. Dirt, sweat and blood. "Ha, that's what pilgrimage should be, right?" I couldn't let it to ruin the day. Eventually we made it onto a proper road so the navigation was a piece of cake, and in a bit, the first river came in sight. Yey, the vision of waterfalls worked out!

That was just super convenient. The clean stream was an ideal place to cool down, wash ourselves and do the laundry while at it.

The elevation we gained revealed some outlooks every now and then.

Then there was a junction which wasn't in my map. We counted our chances and went for the direction that looked like it'll cut straight into the castle. Ummm, in a mile or so we were fighting through a jungle again, with no hint of a path at all. I was thinking, "that could be easily fixed by another waterfall," and sure enough, we run into one. Into the middle of it, to be clear. It was a rock shelve with a good drop down on one hand, on the other was a steep wall up, and the rest was also seemingly inaccessible terrain. It was nice remote location with no signs of civilization, a good place to chill, but at the same time I was trying to figure out what should be our next step. Nobody was keen on returning the same way we came, so we just climbed forward.

Then we reached the coordinates where supposed to be the castle. But the only thing reminding of a caste was a few rocks - if there wouldn't be a sign marking the spot, you wouldn't even think it is the place. The sign stated that there used to be some fort, but it is no longer there. Hm, like the paths, I guess.

But again, no room to complain as just a tad further was this:

Amazing natural pools with cascades.

Here we met some locals, which made sense. The area is stunning and it is even accessible by a high-clearance car. It reminded me the freedom of exploring remote lakes in Colorado. And swimming there, ah, good times!

Having no other points of interest prepared for this area, we started out descend back to the shore...

..where we found an old windmill, under which was a campground. It was neat, convenient and pretty, so we checked in, ate local food "zorza" and enjoyed the ocean.

It was noticeably colder than the lakes and rivers from earlier, but still super nice. Add fresh air, gorgeous sunset..

...and the moon lining up with the windmill... What a way to end a day.


DAY6

Same as the previous morning, we started early.

Besides of the convenience of a colder air, it is also a good way to see some locals doing their stuff - because once it gets hot, they disappear somewhere into shade, take a siesta.

Along the road, we passed a nice lighthouse..

..behind which is a town called Baiona.

It have a beautiful riviera, so we stopped for a breakfast.

After a tremendous coffee and croissant, we crossed the Miñor river by a neat bridge from the thirteenth century, and a few small villages later..


..we got into endless woods of eucalyptus trees.


They lasted pretty much all the way to Vigo, the most populous municipality of Galicia. There we ended in some restaurant where they served us tons of some odd seafood, and we called it a day. It was a long one, thus I was confident that I'll pass out immediately. Bs, probably due all the octopus weirdness I ate, I got only some 3 hours of sleep. At least I had time to chuck down some notes for this.


DAY7

It was over 30 km / 19 mi what we walked yesterday, so for today we planned to take it easy and just explore the city of Vigo. That said, we made another diversion from the path, to see the most of it. Starting at the southern tip, there were beaches,

and a view on the Toralla island.

Getting into a bigger city brought all its common pros and cons. More culture, nice parks and good restaurants were offset by more litter and more vandalism on historical structures. Oh, uh.

Our way to the downtown went through a shipyard district.

As you walk through, you can take a look into the large shops where people working on marine related stuff like screw-propellers etc.

Having a peek under the hood of the local industries, I like that a lot.

Then we reached the city center, with the Castelo do Castro. It is a hill topped with a fortress, in which is a nice public garden with great views. Such a nice space to have in a city; moreover, it is accessible free of charge.

Then we went to check out local cathedrals. "A large city like this," I was thinking, “will surely have some cool churches." The truth, we don't really know. Literally all of them were closed.

But that's fine, as they also have a museum of modern art, which was open. So we went for an ice cream and to check out some artworks. Pilgrimage is hard, let me tell you.

The evening sky was overcast, which added an atmospheric touch to the residential areas further east. Grey sky, grey facades, grey roads.

Some details looked like an piece of art itself:

We found a place to spend the night, with a good view from the porch:


DAY8

Walking further into the Vigo Estuary, leaving the city behind.

The path led through beautiful woods, taking us past the local landmark, cable-stayed Rande Bridge, into a few villages...

and later into a nice town of Redondela.

There we met two German ladies, lost, asking for help. I explained the road, shown the map, but they didn't believe that that's the answer, so they went to chat with someone else. It was odd, but each to their own.

We had a meal, a bit of a rest and then we descended on a local beach. Since this was our last location near the ocean, we decided that we'd stay here for the night. From the beach was a good view on the bridge, and also on an island, not too far away. This sparked my curiosity.

Having the time, I decided that I'll swim on that island to check it out. On my way there I started to question such decision, as there was nobody in sight there. "What if it's private... It's fashionable to own an island these days," I thought. Once I got out of the water, I found out that there's a small fence around the island, and inside was maintained park with a few mansions. I stayed outside of the fence, but took a look at what's inside. Near one of the structures I saw a couple in very posh dresses, having a stroll. Then I noticed a security guard walking around. "Ayy, it is private..." me thinking.

Suddenly, the guard was coming from behind one rock on the beach. "Oh bugger, he's going to get me.. So what; there was no sign about private property or trespassing, I didn't crossed the fence, what's he going to tell me?" I stood prepared for the confrontation. He walked towards me, but to my surprise he just passed and kept his way. "What?" Turned out, one of the fancy ladies lost her hat in the wind, and this guy just went to collect it. Ok then. So it was me who had to start the conversation, as I was keen to find out what's the deal with the island. His English was pretty much nonexistent, thus no big conversation happened. But he confirmed that it has a restricted access; then he went for a leaflet which he handed it to me and disappeared behind a locked gate. So before starting swimming back, I've opened the leaflet where I found everything about the island in English. Yey! So.. the island, called San Simon, has a pretty interesting history. Among others, it was a monastery from before 10th to 18th century; it witnessed the war of Spanish Succession; from 19th century, it was a quarantine island for the sick, and during the 2WW it was the biggest concentration camp of Spain. Nowadays it's a museum operated by the Galician Government, accessible by a boat once you get entry tickets. Cool!

Cool was also the view from the beach where we slept that night:


DAY9

morning view on the Rande Bridge

Shortly we were crossing another medieval bridge, and said bye to the ocean.

Heading into the inland, we passed several vineyards..

.. and entered Pontevedra, the capital of the local Province.

The city was pulsing with life, and was pleasant to walk through.

It has a well-preserved old town with many nice structures, such as the Capela da Peregrina:

We decided to stay in a hostel here, and after checking in I just let the streets to dictate the directions, browsing the downtown. This led me into the Basílica de Santa María a Maior:

Where, by a chance some orchestra was practicing.


There were about two dozens of players, most of which with strings, producing some good music. Together with appealing environment, I stayed a while.

Looking around the interior details, I discovered that it's possible to climb the church spire. As I'm sucker for a good view, I went for it. It costs an Euro, and on the way up are two chambers with old relics. What a steal.

Staircase up

Up on the tower was a nice, open platform and I had it all for myself. Great views, a fresh breeze, another happy moment.

When I descended from the tower, I found the musicians got accompanied by a choir. So I stayed even more, to listen the complete version of the instrumental tracks they played earlier. Then I returned to enjoy the local streets until the sunset.


DAY10

From Pontevedra, the path goes through agriculture land, which lacks the attractiveness of the views we had during the previous days. As we were getting closer to Santiago, on the trail were more and more pilgrims. Many went on a bike, which made me miss riding one a bit. Then we met a lady from San Francisco, who got lost. I shown her the way and we walked together for some time, and chatted about Europe and the US.

The previous night, when I was looking into my map what's ahead, I spotted that within a small diversion, one can get into Rio Barosa nature preserve. So that's what we did.

The lower section, right next to a parking lot, was rather crowded. But just as one climbed above the waterfalls, it was calm and quiet. Very nice place to have a walk around, and learn a bit about the history of the place.

It wasn't the only diversion of the day, a few kilometers later we saw a smokestack with an unusual spiral winding around it. As I like industrial points of interest, this worked as a magnet, and we went to check it out.

It is a former sugar processing factory, now rebuilt into a community center and a museum. The smokestack supposed to be an observation tower, with a staircase and a lift going up. Unfortunately is not in operation.

Then we got into the town where we planned to stay that night, Caldas de Reis, and after a good supper we learned that they have hot springs in there. That was pretty neat!


DAY11

On a pilgrimage like this one, it is more difficult to handle your mind than the physical aspect of walking. (Unless; of course, a person never walked further than from their living room to the garage, then it can be a proper struggle.) For example, one has to adapt completely different sense of time and its relation to distance than what we are used to nowadays. There's no such thing as "you just hop on a train for two stops" or "it's only 20m by a car," if something's 20km away, it is going to take a few hours, period. Kinda like in the old times.

Another biggie is to be able to cope with him/herself. Even if the road looks this good..

...when it looks the same for over half a day, the mind is escaping elsewhere. So after thinking about life, the good and the bad people in it, you start to think about various random things related to your work and/or hobbies. During this morning, I though a few hours about the sound of sun. Exactly. How all those eruptions must sound like, and that the Sun is basically one heavy oscillator. Going as far as imagining how cool would it be to patch the Sun together with some big modular synth, to modulate it with CV inputs...

I was drag away from these deep issues once we came across the churches around.

There were many palm trees around, and the narrow stone-built church spires reminded me some photographs from the South America.

Further down the road, a large industrial facility popped in view.

Emitting gallons of whipped cream into the skies.

That marked the entrance to Padrón, the last larger town before Santiago de Compostela. Closing in!

The city itself has a nice cathedral,

..and I had a weird tasting fish there. Many pilgrims decide to stay here, as the last stop before reaching the Santiago, but we opted to keep walking, so the distance we'll have to cover the next day would be shorter, and we'll have more time there. We ended a few kilometers pass the Pardon's border, tired, but eager what's tomorrow going to bring.


CLICK FOR THE PART 3...

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Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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