Galicia - World's End and the Coast of Death
- Submitted by: Pete Buckley, United Kingdom
- Website: http://www.easywayup.com
- Submission Date: 31st Jan 2008
Heading up the hill from the pleasant fishing town of Ribeira and following the signs towards
Corrubedo, we crossed the low spine of what was now our home peninsula. It was October in the
region of Galicia in North West Spain and our jouney today would take us along the Coast of
Death to World's End. The evocative names refer not to a tale of marauding pirates but to the
Costa de la Muerte and Finisterre, on this coastline at the edge of Europe.
Passing an unassuming looking wooden chalet type building fronting a jungle like wall of
forest - the place serves the best seafood I'd had in years - brought us out of Africa or what
looked like it - into the village of Corrubedo. The place was built along a straight stretch
of road leading out to the lighthouse and its only visible occupants were a couple of guys sat
on sacks of building materials in front of a half finished apartment and a large brown dog by the roadside which surveyed us with a vague interest as we drove past.
A whole 2 minutes brought us through Corrubedo and the unfenced road then crossed the expanse
of windswept grass jutting out to sea at the end of which was the lighthouse at Cabo de Corrubedo.
Here the fury of the storm which had battered our hotel for the previous 24 hours was apparent.
Venturing outside our rocking metal shell into a world of roaring wind - or was it the sea - myself and Jacqui made our way along a trail past the lighthouse. The landscape here appeared like arctic tundra - even though it is in a sub tropical area. Only short grass and mosses seemed to grow - I guess anything that could blow away already had! The view out to sea was spectacular to say the least. Cape Finisterre was visible far off to the North and the 10 metre high waves exploded into a mass of windblown spray on reaching this rugged headland. It was scary even to think about being on board a ship out there - no wonder this coast was called the Costa de la Muerte or Coast of Death with the shipwrecks that had happened along here in the past.
A little wet and windblown but not cold, we returned to the relative sanctuary of our car and
headed back through Corrubedo. The workmen were still sheltering behind their half finished wall
smoking cigarettes and the dog didn't even bother looking up this time - passing the vast and
empty beach the other side of town we rejoined the main route northwards.
Our journey now led us along winding roads through small developments and lots of trees along a fabulous coastline. We passed little towns of white walls and red roofs huddled in gaps in the evergreen woods while beyond were glimpses of golden sands and far rocky headlands all edged in a pale sunlit haze blown from the blue and white waves by the wind.
Through the pleasant fishing village of Portosin and so to bustling Noia. It was market day and it seemed the Noia was the place to be. It was a case of how many people and cars could fit into what was actually quite a small town - add that to the fact that this was Spain and why look for a parking space when the middle of the road will do perfectly well! the driving experience was not the best but Noia looked nice enough and we decided to come back on a day when it wasn't the centre of the Universe.
Out of town and along to the head of the inlet - it was much calmer here and the sea had more the look of a huge lake - where we crossed the Rio Tambre and headed on an even more tortuous road up the north side of the estuary. This led us through the only town of any size up here, Muros and on around the wooded headland to a more open section of coast. Here we turned off the main road at Carnota and drove the half a mile or so to the beach.
Playa de Carnota or Praia de Carnota in the local Gallego language, is a vast expanse of windblown sand fronting the ever present Atlantic waves. Walking along here reminded me of Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand, though the wind here was somewhat stronger and made walking an effort. we saw two other people in as many miles then it was onwards again.
When the Romans occupied the region of Galicia in what is now North West Spain, they named the most westerly headland "World's End" or "Finsterra" as it was the westerly limit of the known World at the time. Known nowadays as Finisterre and locally as Fisterra, the most westerly town in mainland Europe appeared as a whitewashed Llandudno on a day when everyone was away somewhere else. A fair few reddish slates which had until recently occupied rooftop positions, lay in the road along with various other assorted debris that the wind had liberated from its owners.
As the place appeared relatively closed we carried on following the signs for the Faro or Lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. The road left the town and climbed through trees before emerging onto an open hillside with the sea far below. The wind was getting up again, buffeting the car and when we reached the car park in front of the impressive stone structure it was touch and go whether we stayed in contact with the road or not.
Negotiating the few yards from the car to the safety of the restaurant was an experience and although the news back home of "English Couple blown off World's End" would make an impressive headline, it was not one we wished to participate in. Staying behind the stone walls we reached the lighthouse - a large square building - you could go no further today though a path does lead down the slope a little further towards America.
The large steel antennae on the tower emitted a constant drone like a huge tuning fork above the thunderous roar of the wind. I once read that when metal structures and wires do this it indicates a wind speed of over 100mph - sounds about right! Sheltering over a coffee in the restaurant and a last look at the vast seascape below we returned to the car and continued our journey.
Back through Fisterra, this time following the road up from Cee towards A Coruna, known to European football fans for its illustrious team Deportivo la Coruna if for little else. This coastal region was not heavily populated though most people did seem to live close to the sea deriving a living from fishing in addition to some tourism. Away from the coast the agricultural methods were primitive and I have an enduring memory of a timeless scene by this roadside. A farmer and who I presume was his wife, were cutting grain using scythes while their children behind busily loaded their harvest onto a wooden handcart. It was a scene straight from a Constable painting but one we saw repeated many times that week.
We left the deserted main road just after Berdoias and proceeded to the rugged outpost of Cabo Vilan where the stone lighthouse stood in a spectacular spot high above the storm lashed waves, warning ships away from the Coast of Death. Here we were treated to scenes of a telegraph pole being pulled from the ground by the gusts and a campervan buffeted onto 2 wheels as it made a sharp exit from the headland. It managed to stay upright - just - and they made it back OK.
In search, literally, of some shelter from the storm we stopped at the village of Camarinas overlooking the much calmer Ria de Camarinas. This was another quiet fishing village but was also known for lace-making which was why Jacqui had wanted to stop here. No gawdy tourist gimmicks here though - the ladies of the village sit around tables in the lace shops going about their craft using bobbins and spinning wheels - not an electric sewing machine in sight - a true cottage industry. The prices too were extremely reasonable for hand-made lace in a village that was the centre of the trade in the region. They'd clearly done this here for generations like the farmers with their scythes and horses or the fisherman mending his nets outside on the seafront.
Jacqui bought some lace from one of the shops and we wandered around the village for a while before heading back. Camarinas was definitely one of our favorite villages we'd visited and was somewhere we vowed to come back to if we revisited this part of Spain. I'm sure we will.