Monday, 12 October 2015

From Asturias to Galicia - and a pilgrimage of sorts.

Sunday 11th October.

Yesterday morning we set off from Cangas de Onis on a cold and misty morning but the lady in the panaderia promised us blue skys in an hour or so. We headed for Cudillero on the coast and her prediction came true, the clouds parted and the sun shone, lovely. The drive was pleasant and we arrived after a final deep, twisty descent into the harbour to find the only car park 43.56424 -6.14755 packed with visitors to the pretty town. We finally found a spot opposite a sign threatening us with a €300 fine if we parked overnight! So we stopped for lunch and a spot of harbour fishing (don't ask) and then consulted the maps to find somewhere to park for the night, Porto de Bares looked promising so we set off. We left the province of Asturias, the "real Spain" the locals would have you believe and the occupants are proud of the fact that it is the only part of Spain never conquered by the Moors who were defeated and routed in ad722 at Covadonga at the foothills of the Picos. We crossed into Galicia and it immediately started to rain - "Welcome to Galicia" said the sign as the windscreen wipers were turned on. This area is known as Green Spain and it's green for a reason, much as the English Lake District is green for a reason. The coastline is stunning but we didn't see it at its best through all the rain.

The town of Cudillero from across the harbour:

We finally arrived at Bares, squeezing through the tiny village and negotiating the hairpin descent to the bay where we were told there was parking for 25 motorhomes to again be confronted by a sign advising us of no overnight parking 43.77174 -7.66774. By this time I'd driven the best part of 200 miles and there was no way I was driving any further so we parked up and walked over to the beachfront bar which had half a dozen customers and we received a somewhat chilly reception. Half an hour later a German couple arrived in their brand new Motorhome and after a chat they decided they would also stay the night, safety in numbers they thought. Finally, just as it was getting dark, a massive Winnebago arrived, I have no idea how he drove through the village but within minutes the sides were slid out and the generator switched on. Fortunately he turned the gennie off before we went to bed but he woke us up with it this morning, grrrr. Anyway we survived the night without being moved on. Bares is a lovely place with a sandy bay and pine forests above on three sides and in the summer it would be an ideal holiday location, unfortunately nothing was bathed in sunshine whilst we were there.
The sandy bay at Porto de Bares:
This morning we set off for A Coruna just 80 miles away through mostly pine forests and the first 20 miles or so we drove through thick fog at about 500m elevation but as we dropped down the fog disappeared and the sun tried bravely to break through. Unfortunately it didn't try hard enough and it soon started raining again. We arrived at the city with both Sat Navs agreeing on the route we should take, which is unusual, and things were going well despite a whole load of traffic until we arrived at a police diversion because of a city fun run. Several detours and we finally arrived at our parking place, a little west of the city and overlooking the tiny port of O Portino 43.37167 -8.44444 there's nothing here apart from a bar/restaurant with no food. But we have plenty of food and the sun is just breaking through at 6pm so we'll stay the night and explore further down the coast tomorrow. Mind, we've just discovered that tomorrow is National Day and a public holiday and as I don't have too much diesel and I expect the garages will be closed we won't be going too far. Maybe Santiago de Compostela?

It's 9pm now and it started raining again at 6.05pm and shows no sign of letting up. I've just read that the Galacians have more than 100 words to describe different kinds of rain. Says it all really. I'd describe this as p*****g down.

Monday 12th October.

We decided this morning that we would visit Santiago and we found an open garage on the way. We arrived here at a large Motorhome parking area 42.89518 -8.53281 and after some lunch headed off for the town, it's only a walk of a couple of kilometres but downhill all the way which didn't bode well for the return journey. However our walk to the cathedral was nothing compared to the pilgrims route, the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) which originated in the 9th Century after Pelayo, a religious hermit, unearthed the tomb of St James the Apostle who had been brought back to Galicia by stone boat after his death in Palestine. Compostela became the most important destination for Christians after Rome and Jerusalem. The 11th and 12th centuries marked the pilgrimage's heyday, the Reformation just about saw off Catholic pilgrimages but now a revival of the route sees over 150,000 folk each year walking or cycling the route. Their are many caminos to Santiago but the most popular is the 780km route from the French Pyrenees taking five weeks to walk or a fortnight to cycle however you still get a certificate if you walk the minimum distance of 100km although you don't get such a large chunk of purgatory knocked off.

The cathedral itself is stunning although the main entrance is undergoing renovation and so is covered in scaffolding which means that the 200 Romanesque sculptures depicting major figures from the old and the new testaments are not visible. We joined the pilgrims and queued to ascend the staircase to kiss or embrace the 13th century statue of the Santiago - not having walked the best part of 800km for the privilege I felt a bit of a fraud so just gave him a friendly nod and a pat on the shoulder - and then descended to the saint's tomb.

The area around the Cathedral is full of tourist shops selling all sorts of religious tat and jewellery shops selling very expensive non-tat but we explored the narrow streets of the old medieval city before completing our pilgrimage back to the car park.

The main altar:

Even the side chapels are impressive:




Entrance to Casa da Conga:

After a fortnight away we need a washing machine! So it's a campsite for us tomorrow and maybe the next couple of days before a little more exploration of the Galician coastline and then - Portugal beckons.



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