Chapter 5 – to Espasante
May 13th, 2017
The next day was like the previous. I woke up on the center ridge of a mountain overlooking the ocean on one side, and a dense forest descending the ridge on the other. All around me I was surrounded by a blanket of green, brambly thicket with but millions of yellow flowers pointing outwards like satellites broadcasting their rich yellow off into space.
Having woken on a plot of hilly land, I learned a few things about camping in the wild that first night. First off, find a flat surface for your sleeping bag. There’s nothing like the constant reminder that you’re falling off your bed in the middle of the night. Second, thank god I invested in a high quality: tent, air mattress, and backpack. Besides the sensation of slipping onto my backpack, down slant from me, I was sleeping more comfortably than in some of the hostels I’ve slept in. If you’ve ever slept in a sleeping bag on the cold hard floor of a tent, you’ll know the importance of a mattress.
The evening before while journeying out of Cedeira, I kept seeing bright purplish signs for San André de Texido and the man who gave me a lift from Valdoviño de Cedeira muttered something about a similar sounding place. Lucky for me, it was along the way!
The narrow pathway into the forest that skirted the mountain ridge was replete with stunning views. Views of the sun peeking past a battalion of clouds cruising through the sky. Views of yellow Gorse interspersed with areas of long grass, branchy trees, and green patches dusted over with pebbles and stones. Views of patchy green hills in all but one direction, and distant wind generators on the tops of the tallest ridge ahead of me. It was an impressive eyeful to take in.
Before reaching Texido, I stopped for breakfast at an observation area with picnic benches to cook my bread & canned tuna and digest what I was seeing. Beyond there I discovered a shortcut to Texido. The path was more than half a kilometer descending several hundred meters of elevation that I had toiled the night before, ascending. Furthermore, my knees were still recovering from the ***retardedly*** steep descent to the city of Redondela on my fifth day of the Camino de Santiago and the trail leading downwards was all but forgiving.
The last few hundred meters gradually ascended up and into a small opening onto the mountainside. Distinguished by the cobbled streets and small bouldered fences, the village was defined by the chapel up against the descending hilly cliffside.
I walked into the only bar in Texido to take a breather and try wine. The two people working there, a male bartender and a middle-aged woman working in the closet sized kitchen had a precarious smile on their face, unsure what to make of my ragged attire. I asked for whatever they had that was local and inquired about this place I was in. I learned that people make pilgrimages to here. They saying surrounding this place, those who do not visit while they are alive, will visit in another form once they are dead.
The two opened up to me and I remarked the same friendly attitude in them that I’d seen in the two locals that had given me a ride the day before. I received a fruity white wine and a pincho appetizer. If you’re not familiar with it, as I was when I arrived, it is common among many restaurants to serve you a hearty or salty snack with whatever it is you’re eating, it’s like playing the lottery! This time I won two baguette slices with miniature sausages held on by tooth picks that had tiny flags on them!
I delicately devoured my appetizers, finished my wine while curiously chatting with the bartender. Then I asked for directions to a supposed pathway that cuts along the mountain side and I left.
The bartender said something or other about “not the first path”, “parking lot” and “right”. Even though I thought I understood, I ended up down a path way that literally stopped at a thick wall of branches and brambles. It was as if a man had teamed up with the forest to build an impasse that only a fool would attempt. I was going to be that fool; if you must know me, you must understand that I hate going back. I’m stubborn to a brick about that. Only hindsight can tell me I should’ve gone back…
I crawled, pushed, heaved and shoved branches & vines out of the way to let me through, not once having to stop and reevaluate the situation. Many scratches, cracks, and kicked pebbles later, I looked back to see the wall stood practically unscathed. The pathway beyond the obstruction soon ended and I found myself at a dead end into the forest. I’d blaze my own trail through the wet bushes & trees of the forest.
Finally, I made my way out of the forest and back on the asphalt road to continue my walk. And so the day passed on with endless walking back up the elevation I had gone done to reach Texido. Along the way, I passed a pretty view with a cross overlooking Texido and the mountain ridge where I slept last night. I trekked up the winding road into no man’s land. More aptly named, it was a cow-land; it was flat, treeless and full of brown cows that stared at me as if I was the most interesting thing they’d ever seen (thank you cows, for making me feel special). In the foreground, I was getting closer to the Titanic wind turbines, getting more and more, well Titanic.
About this part of the walk, all I could say is “Damn, I wish someone would pick me up”. As a result of nobody picking me up, I got to see the tallest cliffs in mainland Europe next to a lonely cottage named Garita do Limo. I was too fatigued to be impressed in comparison to the views I had seen earlier that day. I asked the two pairs of tourists if they were going in my direction. Same as all the previous people I’d asked along the way since getting back on the road, everyone was going where I came from. Boo 🙁
I walked. Then walked some more. Over the course of those hours, the sun hid away behind the all too familiar haze of clouds. I was positive it was going to rain by the time I started descending the mountain towards the Cariño, the nearest city. This part of the walk reminded me how walking down is harder than walking up. While walking the Camino, I complained to fellow pilgrims how I’d rather walk uphill both ways so as to save myself the hassle of going down. Because the road was flat and steep at parts, I realized I could reduce the strain on my knee by zigzagging down the road to reduce steepness. It meant more walking, but that’s better than injury.
By the time I made to the coastlines of Cariño, I swore off my decision to head upwards to Cabo Ortegal. I had hiked some 16 kilometers so far and going there would mean an extra 6 kilometers each way on a narrow road, and seeing as nobody gave me a ride, I had little hope I would get a ride to and from there. Furthermore, the weather was crap, it was still midday and I still had many kilometers to cover before I’d allow myself to stop for the day.
I decided I’d try to catch a bus to the other side of this bay to Ortigueira. I walked to the nearest restaurant, where I ordered a local wine and asked for instructions how to catch a bus to Ortigueira. There was no direct bus there but there was one that could take me 10km south to the bottom of the bay at Ponte de Mera. I got my wine, and I don’t know whether it was because I was exhausted or the wine was good, but that wine tasted more satiating than any desert. I didn’t want to rush drinking it but I had a bus to catch!
I caught the bus when it passed by shortly after it started raining. I was mesmerized by the combination of fatigue and watching forests go past me. It was also the feeling of progress, knowing I was getting closer to my destination with each passing second without having to tire myself. I wanted that bus ride to keep going…
Like all good things, that ride came to an end, I hopped out onto the busy intersection, right where the road to Ortigueira sprouts out. I swear not two minutes holding my thumb out, a shiny blue car pulls over and get in!
The ride to Ortigueira was even briefer than the bus ride and I had to really concentrate to hold a conversation. Though there was much to talk about, I found his thick Galician accent like traversing a concentration obstacle course. He told me about the trains that went along the coast all the way to France from here. I wasn’t ready to skip all of Spain yet, but I was ready to cover a small chunk of my 3,000+ miles.
He dropped me off in the center where I stocked up on the essentials at a Gadis supermarket and then wandered around until I finally ended up in a restaurant that had Wi-Fi. There I ordered my third wine of the day, charged my phone and started forecasting possibilities of where I could sleep that night. Together with the train schedule and Google Maps terrain view I started looking for deserted forest patches where I could pitch a tent. The biggest worry was that I would arrive at the place only to find out that it’s either a dense or unreachable forest that may not be as secluded as I thought. Additionally, I had over two hours before the last train came, and at best I would be searching for a sleeping spot in semi-darkness. What choice did I have?
I finished my red wine and spaghetti pincho and waddled over to the train station. The man at the desk convinced me out of buying a train ticket because it was so long away. Screw it, I’ll save money and hitchhike up the train route. At the very least I saw there was a train leaving at 9:37 the next morning.
I walked a short distance out of the train station, crafted a sign for “ESPASANTE” and waved it around while a bench full of old people looked me on. I felt a little self-conscious, here I was this foreign performing for a geriatric circus and it wasn’t only until someone finally stopped that I felt the “Ha-Yah!” moment when an unsure undertaking works.
The woman who picked me up appeared to be in her late fifties. She shared the same willingness to help as Rosemary, who took me to Valdoviño the day prior. In chatting with her I started noticing the narrative that I was building from person to person whenever anyone asked me where I was from, where I was going. I started realizing how similar my opening conversations were becoming.
I told the woman I was looking where to camp that night and immediately she offered some options. She drove out of her way to bring me downtown to Espasante, a peninsula with beaches on both sides. She pointed out the train station as we passed it and told me to camp on the beach when she dropped me off.
I stepped out of the car and frankly, I was unsure what to do. Can I really camp on the beaches here? The last time I camped near a beach, people went in my tent the half hour I was gone and robbed it. I walked into a restaurant overlooking the beach and approached a group of older men engaging in an alcohol induced guy talk.
“Good evening, is there anywhere one could pitch a tent for the night?” I asked in my most innocent expression.
“How many nights?” the bartender responded.
“Just tonight”, I reaffirmed.
He pointed with an open gesture to the beach and said “By all means!” without giving it any further thought.
They say it’s easier asking for forgiveness than it is for permission. At times like these, I’d rather ask for permission, **then** for forgiveness. Luckily, it didn’t come to the latter. I walked down to the empty beach, save for a man walking his dog, and I walk as far off out of immediate sight as possible. By now the clouds have disappeared revealing the sky’s lively blue hue. I found an opening against the cliffs of the beach where my tent would remain out of eyesight to everyone from the promenade. I pitched my tent, laid my mattress as not to slide off on one side, breathed in the salty wind and passed out…