Tuesday 9 November 2021

To be a pilgrim

 By calculated accident we appear to have stumbled on one of Europe’s hidden gems, in the form of Costa de Morte, in North West Spain. I’m sure we are not the first to discover it, judging by the wealth and size of posh holiday homes here, but it certainly is unpopulated by tourists and that suits me absolutely fine. Miles and miles of white sandy beaches and secluded wee coves, with virtually nobody on them. Admittedly this is September and towards the end of the season, and perhaps it usually rains around this time. In fact, judging by how green everything is, it must rain most of the time. But not this week, apart from the odd shower at night, as we sit on/or by the beach in pleasant sunshine. Don’t get me wrong, there are tourists here, thousands of them if you know where to look, being lugged around by coach to look at supposed hotspots and being ripped off by licensed bandits.

Many of you will have heard of the Comino, a walk made by pilgrims from Loudes in France, and other selected starting grids, all the way to Santiago de Compestella, at the north end of Galicia. We followed it for a few hundred miles, in the camper, each modern-day pilgrim identifying themselves in the bright dayglo habits and ski poles which they probably bought from a stall en route. I will admit, we steered clear of the city itself, just a bit too busy for our seven metre camper and my tastes. What a lot of people won’t know about the Comino is that it doesn’t end there at all. One guesses that someone in the system decided ‘hmm, when we get there and have said our prayers, what to do know?’  Or possibly, ‘how can we take more money from these blinkered souls?’ The answer is that the route extends 100kms past the city to a place called Finesterra, which loosely translates as ‘The End of the World!’ and for some foreboding reason, we decided to give it a look to see what such a macabre places would be like. Needless to say, as we grew nearer, so the roads were chocca with wannabe peasants from all lands, with only just enough money to buy bags full of religious tat and refill their bottles of holy water straight from the tap. More coaches brought in the infirm and lazy, all of which cluttered up the route up the hill to said lighthouse at the conclusion of the world. I had half expected to see them all throwing themselves in the Atlantic like Lemmings from the clifftops, and I am sure if one person did, the rest would have followed suit. Needless to say, we were there for less than five minutes, before we sidled around to the next bay and some more wine and solitude.

On the subject of wine, we have discovered yet another local gem in the form of Albarino white grown in the area of Baixas, a sheltered valley where the grapes hang from trellises and are still picked by hand. Although slightly expensive, it is absolutely glorious. Today we continue our journey south and will cross the Portuguese border by mid afternoon. Here we anticipate a few problems; not with the border itself but we have been advised that the country has imposed a recent ruling that there is to be no ‘wild camping’, the term used for parking where you like and cleaning up after yourself.  I believe this is due to the massive rise in popularity of the sport of surfing, something for which I am far too long in the girth for these days. Seemingly thousands of them descend on the coastline in their VW sheep wagons, a badge that, for some crazy reason, spells freedom and inhibition. To me it spells cramped, damp, and no toilet, that will likely breakdown by teatime. So for the last few days on this leg of the journey we will either try to outwit the local rossers by hiding our motorhome away in forests or back streets, or we may need to conform and haul up next to other people in campers, the very ones we go on holiday to avoid, who spend their every morning hoovering out said vehicle and the evenings moaning to each other about the lack of sun and everything under it.

BTW, I’m not sure if you noticed that Costa de Morte translates as Coast of Death! I am told this is to do with the amount of ships that have perished off that coast over the years, not the capsized surfers or pilgrim-lemmings diving form the cliffs.




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