Cantabria, Austurias & Galicia: Bring forth the rain in Northwest Spain
In the words of the Village People and heading west, hopefully to find some illusive sun, we ended up in a beautiful area called Celorio. As we arrived the golden sand was glistening and the turquoise water sparkling in a stunning little bay. After two single night stops in a row (which are a bit more exhausting given you have to setup, pack up, drive, setup, etc), we were due a stop for at least two nights with a day to chill.
Parking up in a little local campground off the beaten track (Camping Sorraos, €15 per night), we were quite happy... that is until it clouded over (again) and then proceeded to heavily rain for two days straight. Following the inevitable cabin fever, Dan headed off for a run, and 10km later after getting a bit lost, had discovered simultaneously a beautiful beach called Praya de Torimbia, and an awesome freedom camping spot on the ridge above it (see breakfast photo above).... we will remember that for next time! While the campground location was great with sun, it's more of a fixed cabin type of place where you steer directly at your neighbour, and with rain, not that fun at all. Needless to say we continued West.
Furthermore we had intended to freedom camp a lot throughout our trip, and found ourselves after two weeks not having done it even once given the weather and our initial delays meaning we were behind schedule in getting south. This is where Spain was excellent in that it was very freedom-camping-friendly, with several well laid out areas (usually prime real estate right on a beach or coast). Our first night would be spent near the stunning beaches and geography of Las Catedrales.
TIP: It's always good to feel safe. So our first freedom night was spent near several other campers, who will always have your back. Furthermore, and as we laughed when we first read it in our VW Camper manual, if you are isolated "Experienced 'wild campers' surround their site with dry twigs - the cracking gives warning of uninvited guests, regardless whether man or beast". Hehehe.
That afternoon and evening the sun had briefly made an appearance, which had heightened our spirits. Furthermore the next day we got up early as we would be heading to
Praia América on the west coast which had a forecast of sun and 24 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately for us, that was for Praia América in Costa Rica, and Praia América in Spain was a frighteningly familiar 17 degrees and raining... After finding this out en route and several swear words, we slowed down the pace and thought we would spend a bit more time in Spain's northwest capital city Santiago.
Whilst we had simply driven to Santiago, one could not get the sense of a slight anti-climatic arrival for all those fluro rain-jacket wearing walkers who had battled through the Northern Spanish hills and storms over the previous several weeks, to arrive at a Cathedral mostly under construction. The "supposed" resting place of St James the Great (although along with almost all Christian stories, there is little to no evidence), a distant view through iron bars and a gloriously decorated crypt definitely help create the illusion.
Regardless, the legend seemed to stick with the Spanish, and has since became a legendary pilgrimage for many more than just devote Christians. You definitely get the sense of a pretty epic cathedral (even if you can block out the construction), however from chatting with friends about the trek, it's clear the journey itself is much more rewarding than it's conclusion. Nevertheless it's something we plan to do one day... (even Brigid, after Dan nags enough).
Whilst in Santiago, and going with the West theme of this post, we met some Western Australians at Cafe bar la Flor , who were proudly from Perth. Katherine had just completed the Camino de Santiago and explained to us that our fears of escaping from crocodiles are ill conceived given that if they get you in a death roll, you simply "relax and wait for them to place you at the bottom of the water, before sneaking away".... I'm sorry what!? The most Australian Australians you could ever meet. They were fantastic and much braver than us. We wish them all the best on their holiday throughout the non-Crocodile laden Portuguese and Spanish coasts.
After three to four hours in this city (easily enough), we passed through some beautiful vineyards (as we continued to avoid the highways and their tolls), before arriving at our rain sodden "Costa Rican" beach. Funnily enough the campground we stayed at (Camping Bayona Playa) was on a spit and actually quite unique (€22.30 per night). Following another rain-fueled frustration of a run along the beach in the morning, and this strange golden circle amongst a blue background emerging from the sky, we continued south along the coast. Would we finally find sun?
Gary had barely warmed up, before Brigid surprised Daniel with a CASTLE (Dan loves Castles...) and what an epic castle it was - Castelo de Monterral!!! A fortress which was first recorded the year 60 A.D., when Julius Caesar conquered Baiona. It's history like this that continues to remind us how young New Zealand is as a country (first discovered and settled by Polynesians in the 14th century, sighted by Abel Tasman only in 1642, and formally part of the British Empire from 1840).
Anyway back to this epic castle. You can walk along the entire wall, which covers a huge distance, and take in the breathtaking 360-degree scenery of the area. There's also a coastal track down below if you have enough time, but we chose the higher vantage point. Best of all, it's completely free :). Following a quick lunch just down the coast from the castle, and as we had gone about as far west as we could without Gary being converted into a boat, we eagerly headed south towards our fifth country of the trip: Portugal!
Bidi & Dan :)