Day 17: Ride to the end of the earth!

Thursday , July 14th Muros.

Blog-log: kilometres from ‘Go’: 3980.9 (232.6 ridden today)

Location: Camping San Fransicso, Louro, Galicia.

I should have guessed it, of course, the weather changed once again, had I but known it this time to set a pattern for the next two weeks of northerly storms rushing right over the bay of Biscay into Northern Spain. But at the time I just assumed this was ‘normal for Galicia’. Rounding the cape from Louro and looking over the Punto los Remedios, Cabo Finisterre and beyond out into the Atlantic proper I could see that we were in for a dull day, to say the least.

O Pindo is a 'real' fishing village with a very salty atmosphere. Gallego, the local language, drops many consonanants including the 'L' in the definitive object (Eng. 'the') so they have 'O' and 'A' for 'El' or 'La'.

I killed some time at the fishing harbour at O Pindo in the hope that the weather might clear a little with the growing day, asking at the bar whether the sun would come out. I should have known better of course, the answer was typically Gallego, “¡Pues, puede que si o puede que no!” – Well, maybe yes or maybe no! But with this climate one can understand why people are like this – a sort of survival philosophy!

I didn’t want to go to Finesterre as you have to ride through the back end of the town to get to that cape, and when you do get there it’s a grotty tourist/pilgrim trap, complete with a market full of trinket stalls and a bar in the lighthouse that serves just about the most expensive beer in Spain! So there was nothing else for it but to carry on. Luckily I’d been here the previous year and the route became obvious as I got nearer – in fact the Cape is signposted from quite a long way away, just outside Cée, albeit on a very circuitous route! If I could have seen it through the fog the countryside here is very pretty, with meadows set among the huge plantations of eucalyptus trees. These are a mixed blessing for Galicia as the introduced species has become dominant, killing the indigenous forest areas with their greater height and growth rate. But the wealth generated by the forests is essential for the Galician economy. Not only in direct employment, which is very high, but the land ownership pattern – although it’s usually managed on a large scale most of the forest is owned by private individuals in small plots – ensures that much of the income goes to the population rather than multinational companies, as is more often the case globally. But for all that the eucalyptus is a gloomy tree and its ubiquity, the forests now range far beyond Galicia (I first saw them as far away as the Sierra de Francia – see day 11) is a depressing reminder of where the road paved with good intentions leads!

Emerging from the forest and the mist - Cabo de Touriñan is never short on drama.

Finally the road emerges from the gloom and there is a splendid – if somewhat theoretical! – view of Cabo Touriñan from the village, if you can call it that, of the same name. You can ride right up to the lighthouse and if you’re brave ride along the cliff top. I had thought about wild camping there, but the site is pretty dirty from visitors doing their ‘business’ apparently behind every rock with a half-kilometer radius of the unmanned lighthouse. Furthermore, although I had arrived before anyone else – if anyone else was daft enough to visit on such an inauspicious day! – there was a file of cars belonging to the percebes fishers there, and I’m not sure I would have wanted a rude awakening at their hands!

You need a second mortgage to pig out on 'percebes' - to be honest I do wonder whether it is al worth it!

Percebes are edible Goose barnacles (order Pedunculata) that the Spanish go wild for. Needless to say the best foods are the most difficult to cultivate or find, and the Goose barnacle is perhaps the most difficult, and certainly the most dangerous, of all! They grow attached to the rocks and sea cliffs in their inter-tidal area and the only way to harvest them – although that seems too cosy a word for this perilous occupation! – is to clamber over the rocks at low water. The work is hard, skilled and incredibly dangerous and the percebieros are among the highest paid workers in the huge Galician seafood industry. Take a look at this newsreel about one of the several women percebieras working on the Costa del Muerto, just along the coast. One of the points about the item is that in the previous year the price paid to the percebiero had dropped from over €230 per kilo to around €100 – on a good day a skilled percebiero can collect about five kilos of percebes; nice work if you can get it – but rather them than me!

I had a lot to think about having reached my goal, not least where to go next! I wanted to review my ‘method’ of exploration. So far I’d had three different experiences; revisiting an area I knew at Albarracín, successfully exploring somewhere new at Gredos and a mixed bag of feelings about Portugal. I was getting used to the camping – even sleeping on the hard ground after my airbed’s slow puncture refused to be found! – and the riding long distances over several successive days so that was a plus. But I know that once I turned my wheels in the direction of home the journey would have a different feel. Depite having time (actually money) constraints I decided to stick to the ‘method’ at the expense of a couple of locations that would have to wait for another trip, and I also realised that I could kill two birds with one stone along the way. I wanted to pay a call to a friend in León city and realised that I could do this from a base at the Reserva Natural de Somiedo in the  Cordillera Cantabria – the major system of mountains that runs along almost the whole of the north coast, not just in Cantabria. But the star turns of the Cordillera are the Picos de Europa and luckily I had a warm welcome near it’s ‘capital’, Potes. To get to the Somiedo would take tow days riding by my preferred back roads, so I could also do a whistle-stop tour of the Rias Altas, where I’d never been. And just for good measure that part of the trip could start at the Punta de la Estaca de Bares – Spain’s northernmost point!

OK, boys and girls - Now where?

I rode away from the Cape and got lost in the mountain lanes inland, rather typical of my experience in Galicia and eventually came back to the coast near Corcubión – I’m still not sure how I did this! – riding south from here on the weather had indeed cleared, leaving me with a final view of Finisterre, with the Atlantic mist still hanging on in there – roll on tomorrow and the north coast itself!

And no, having reached his goal The Spanish Biker deserves to strike the classic 'Adventure Bike Rider looks into the distance' pose!

Finally, I almost forgot to note the kilometre reading at Cabo Touriñan, to compare with that at cap de Creus, which by then seems an awful long way away: 24,735 kms at Touriñan and 21,309 at Cap de Creus, making 3,426 in sixteen days – quite a respectable figure, especially compared with the ‘Official’ route courtesy of the Repsol guide, avoiding tolls roads and taking the shortest route: 1,244 kms in 16 hours and thirty-four minutes!

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