View from the Ria.

Yet another squally shower cloud is approaching from the bows. Overnight we had about two inches of rain, and here comes some more!
Click to enlargeIt's quite odd rain - not like the English stuff that we were brought up with. It's sudden, intense, stair-rods of the stuff. On Saturday, sailing north from the Pontevedra Ria to the Ria Arousa, (the yellow track on the chart), where we have been for the last few days, we were out at sea in very rough conditions, (see photo, click to enlarge) with 40-knot gusts and 12-foot waves. Then the rain came down with such intensity that all the sharply breaking crests were rounded off and everything around us became kind of grey and furry. I was too slow to capture this on camera, unfortunately. Perhaps that's the next challenge, photographing rain!

Today it is Clive's birthday, though we haven't sung HBTY yet, nor lit candles on the cake. But we did have a repeat of the Bucks Fizz for breakfast that we also had yesterday (JK's birthday) - could get used to that! And Euro-shopper baked beans on toast... in the rain, of course, but with the cabin heater blasting out 3kw of dry air to cheer us up, and the "UK Theme" followed by "Enigma Variations" on the sound system.
We are motoring at present, along the purple track on the chart, (which means I can use the laptop without denting any batteries), over to the west from our overnight anchorage just to the east of "Big Toxa Island" and south of "Small Toxa Island". Two 6-storey hotels are on Big Toxa, and reminded us of our experience in County Kerry, when we visited a large posh hotel and wowed the staff by bringing the Taoiseach's (Bertie Ahern's) brother with us (aka Jim C). Robin, Jon and Clive tell me that yes, they really had booked the Flamenco dancers to come and do some cabaret on board last night, but that the unusually heavy rain had put them off.

As we make our way back to the entrance of the Ria, on both sides of us are rows of "bateas" - wooden rafts maybe 35ft square - anchored in areas known as "viveros", from which hang ropes of blue mussels. Almost 2000 of these bateas float in this particular Ria - navigating among them at night is not to be recommended. Spain's output of mussels from the Rias accounts for 55% of the world output of this farmed bivalve, so claims our Cruising Guide.

And very tasty they were too.... we sampled Mejillonnes Marineira on Sunday evening in a tapas-bar, finding them served without their shells in a lively provencale-type sauce. Robin has also been encouraging us to try other shellfish types, and on sunday we also ate a large ration of razor clams "navajas" cooked in oil, onions and garlic, "pimientos de padron", salty mini-peppers wilted to perfection and "gambas con ajillo", shelled prawns swimming in garlic butter and "chipirones" which are mini squid cleaned and then finely crumbed and fried. All this was washed down with local draught lager and provided us an inexpensive meal to finish the day.

After the four-hour bashing we and Voltair received on Saturday, getting up to our most northerly point at Pobra do Caraminal, Robin gave us a day off, and we decided to go sightseeing on the other side of the promontory between the Rias. We found the bus station, discovered that there were buses both in 15 mins and 30 mins, which both connected with the next bus to get to our target of Castro de Barona, about 9 miles away as the crow flies, but twice as far via the bus route. After nearly an hour there had been no buses going the right way, so we phoned for a taxi, which followed the late bus into the station to pick us up and got us to the destination much more quickly. The taxi dropped us off at the (closed up) restaurant/bar at the top of the footpath down to the Castro ("Castro" meaning ruins of ancient fortress).
Click for a panorama
It was a pleasant walk in the sun, stopping only to snack on some blackberries along the way. The fortress village was impressive indeed - built on a promontory with defensive walls on the narrow bit of the isthmus. (Click photo for a panorama) Each house was more or less circular and about 12-feet across, with a hearth and stone walls. You have to imagine the bit that was more than 3 feet off the ground, but I guess they would have been like the shepherd's huts with thatched roofs which we had seen in the Picos de Europa park. To find out more about the Castro, have a look at this tourist guide.

I climbed up to the highest rock for a better view, and found a nice little contemporary story: a painted pebble from some young lovers. Maybe there are some 3000-year-old versions at the foot of the cliff!

We climbed back up to the road by a different route, finding a bronze-age cart-track with genuine bronze-age wheel-ruts.

Fortunately, it was a 21st century taxi that came back to pick us up again. That was after we bought tapas from a beautiful but unhappy girl at the bar up the road which was open on a Monday, out of season. ....but that's another story!

Best wishes from the September crew of Clive, John S, John K and Robin