The Costa da Morte

Well, we now seem to be beginning to live up to the name of the boat and travelling more Slowly, Slowly. Although it would have been good to see more of Ireland and the Scillies it was more important for us to get to Spain – and I am sure Dave and Maggie will agree as they are due to join us shortly and have booked the plane.

Since leaving A Coruna on 28 June we have travelled 84 miles. OK – it hasn’t been just an approximate 9 miles each day – we have stayed a while in a couple of places as you will hear below. Though having said that these rias are rather excellent in that having arrived in one there are usually two or three places to go, with only a couple of miles between them. The Pilot seems to lump them in with the Rias Altas whereas the Rough Guide states that from A Coruna south as far as the Seno do Corcubion [the ria we are currently in] is an area called the Costa da Morte – clearly translating as the Coast of Death – so named because of the buffeting the coast receives from the Atlantic. We have been very lucky and not seen or felt much buffeting, though we have had some very roly poly seas which some friends [who will remain nameless] would probably find somewhat uncomfortable – as would anyone travelling with them!

So first we travelled from A Coruna to the Ria de Corme et Laxe where, strangely enough, we visited Corme and Laxe. The journey of 35 miles to Corme took us 6.5 hours with all of it – bar the leaving and anchoring done under sail – genoa only for the last couple of miles. I am sure the purists may well have done it all under sail – and so may we, in time. We chose Corme because of its shelter from the North and with high northerly winds forecast for the two following days it was exactly what we wanted. It was also exactly what we were glad to have when on the second day we turned the wind speed indicator on during a particular blow to find it was recording Force 8. It may well have been that the bay was doing whacky things with the wind but, whatever, we were rather glad we were sitting there recording it and not feeling it out in the Atlantic. This is probably where the buffeting of the Costa da Morte would have lived up to its name. The French guy moored in the same bay as us was probably thinking the same thing – he arrived when we did and was still there when we left.

Our first night at Corme we dined on Mussels, Cockles and Langoustines – purchased that morning at the fish market in A Coruna and magnificently cooked and presented by Mike.

As the photo shows, we have also found some cheap plonk which is very palatable and comes in at €1.69 for 2 litres. I can’t believe I am drinking wine at that price. I fully expected to either throw it away or, at best, make use of it as a cooking wine – or possibly even as an alternative to Domestos! What’s more – we later found some at €0.55 per litre – well it all has to be tried and tested and the result is more like an 11% Pinot Grigio than a slam dunk 14% Chardonnay.

Corme itself is a small town with no tourism but some lovely beaches and on one of these we found an old grain store. These can be found in various places in Galicia and are, we understand, still used, though not sure about this one?

Everyone is so friendly. This actually goes for all of the places we have visited so far in Spain – so to save repeating myself later suffice it to say that tourism has not really found this corner of the world but, the folk in these parts are more than willing to converse using mainly sign language with the odd word we know thrown in. We bought a Spanish language book before we got here and have tried to learn a few words/phrases but, unfortunately, while Mike and I may have some talents, languages does not really seem to feature among them.

I think my best memory of Corme will be the excellent Tapas [on this occasion a kind of Squid and Potato stew] which we were each served along with our beer at a small bar whilst we sat in the sunshine watching the locals exchange what we think were words of wisdom delivered to each other at varying degrees of speed and volume.

My most significant memory of Corme, however, may well be the sight of our two oars, which we had left in the tender tied to the transom, floating out to sea. The wind – which I have already said was registering some significant levels – somehow tipped up the dinghy, even though it was tied front and back, and deposited the oars. Having righted it, Mike leapt into the dinghy and tried to start the engine – but that had taken a dunking too and was just not up for it. In fact – it wasn’t up for it at all and we spent the next four hours pulling apart and drying out various parts of the outboard. Meanwhile the oars were either well and truly sunk or really had gone out to sea. It’s probably better that we are currently without oars [even having tried at every place we have visited to find some] than without the outboard. Certainly our budget thinks so when it comes to replacement!

We were therefore confined to barracks on our last day at Corme but having well provisioned in A Coruna there was no problem – and with salad ingredients like these who needs to go out. [Thanks Chris and John S – the knife has come in very handy]

And so, the following day – from Corme to Laxe – a 40 minute motor across the ria. What an excellent night we had there. We had gone ashore on arriving to look for oars amongst other things as we had read there was a hardware store, which there was but it didn’t sell oars. Anyway having stopped for a beer at the fisherman’s bar on the port we saw they were having a sardine night starting at 9pm and thought that it sounded quite good. Later, however, we noticed that a new bar in town [O Gaiteiro] was having an opening night starting at 8pm – so we thought we would start there. Well we did start there but never got to the sardines! There was free tapas served all night to celebrate the opening, the wine was good and then a Galician folk band arrived and entertained us with pipes, drums and tambourine. You can imagine that Mike was in his element and had the wide grin to prove it.

Then it was on to Camarinas in, wait for it, Ria de Camarinas. We had to motor the 20 miles to get there as the wind was right on the nose. There is a lovely, if small, marina here but we anchored off as we did not need water or electricity – and the bar/restaurant was available to anyone who wanted. When we went ashore the first night there seemed to be a private party at the marina bar with a sardine grill and free wine. We were a bit disappointed later to find out that it was a “festival” that welcomed everyone so we could have joined in but we weren’t to know. Despite that we had a fab evening. We sampled Padron peppers at one bar [hi Nadia – you have spoken about these several times but unfortunately although there were some warmer ones there were none really hot] and then some Zamburinas [small scallops] and a fish salad at the Café Bar Playa.

Sunday [we are now up to 3 July] we had a great walk out to the lighthouse at Cabo Villano. It was probably only about 8 miles all told but part of it was along the beach and across a terrain consisting of a mixture of heather, flowers and very spiky, scratchy ground cover. Very attractive, but rather painful when the scratchy bit ended up in your shoe.

Having first visited a convent on top of a hill, the rule being that if there is a hill on a walk the obvious thing to do is climb it, we were wandering the path along the coast when we saw a group of people picking something from the rocks. In Galicia, the most favoured delicacy are “percebes” which we understand are goose neck barnacles, which are taken, at some risk to gatherer, from the rocks along the coast with waves crashing in. So we thought that is what we had found. On closer inspection, having clambered across several rocks we found that they were actually collecting seaweed, bags and bags of it. We determined that it was probably for use as a fertiliser – either that or they ate far too much seaweed soup for anyone’s good.

What we did find on our detour though were some great rock pools. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to capture all the different shades of green from the varieties of weed and plant life but we have learnt that any consideration of taking to the sea around here should not be done without shoes.

On second thoughts, any consideration of taking to the water should probably only be done covered head to toe in a wet suit. There are people who go swimming but so far it’s not been us. Jolly chilly this Atlantic. We have been told it gets warmer in the more southern rias. It will need to before I dip more than a toe.

Across the bay sits Muxia and it was here that we spent the next night. It only took about 45 minutes from Camarinas and left plenty of time for a wander round the attractive town and out to the church on the rocks. The church had been one of the leading marks when we first came into the Ria and has been around, in one form or another, for some considerable time. The church as seen today was built in C17 as the Santuario de Virxe de Barca and has replica ships hanging from the beams. It dates back to being a pre-Christian “animist” church with the surrounding rock formations being symbolic and, reputedly, having health giving properties. Whilst our ability to read Spanish told us that much we couldn’t work out what parts of the body the rocks were supposed to heal or what you had to do for it to happen. I think one was linked to lumbar problems and one family was encouraging their three young children to slide under a small space in one of the rocks. It may have warded off future back problems but if you had one you wanted to actually cure there would have been no chance.

All of this brings us to Fisterra where we are currently anchored. You will know it better as Finisterre. From Muxia it was a 23 mile journey and in good tradition the weather provided us with the cloud cover to make it suitably atmospheric. Some boats were taking the inner route around the shoals which is apparently fine in the calm weather we are having, but we chose to remain offshore [about a quarter of a mile] – just to be on the safe side. We arrived in Fisterra on Tuesday afternoon and decided to leave the walk to the lighthouse until yesterday. It wouldn’t have mattered either way as it only actually opens on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – but the walk was a pleasant one, even if the end result was less than stimulating.

The walk is very popular and is an extension of the Pilgrim Route to Santiago. It is an extra 75k and is apparently a celtic route towards the setting sun that predates the medieval pilgrimage by at least a millennium. There were lots of places in the rocks at the end where there had been fires and also what looked almost like a sacrificial altar. I have now read the Rough Guide which tells me that traditionally pilgrims burn their clothes after a dip in the sea to celebrate the end of their journey. Didn’t actually see any of this, and there were a number of people with rucksacks and the required scallop shells who seemed to have done the walk, but one of the fires was smouldering so it is obviously still a practice for some.

As a result of this pilgrim route, Fisterra is the most tourist oriented place we have visited – but even here there is no overkill. There are a few more restaurants but an excellent two course menu del dia, which includes a bottle of wine between two and coffees can be had for €20 – for two people. There is a relatively new purpose built wholesale fish market on the quay where all the haggling goes on. The actual fish market for punters is a much smaller building in the town itself but it suited our purpose more than adequately.  There are three more anchorages in this ria and we are off to the first of those later today after visiting the internet café to post this. Until next time I leave you with this little chap……

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    • Tiddles on July 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm
    • Reply

    Sounds like you spend most of your time eating and partying – keep it up!

  1. Hi there. The web site seems to be working again.
    I am printing off all 18 pages of the story so far to read on the plane. Save us some bars to visit and can you book a dolphin experience please they look great! See you Saturday at the party.


    • Paul on July 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm
    • Reply

    Hola mi amigos. your tour of North west Spain has left me very green eyed !!! You version of the highlife is currently being echoed by Rick Stein in a TV tour of Spain.All sounds good – Claire -does it feel real now ?????

    Be safe & enjoy

    Paul x

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