Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Towards the beautiful grey

Ponferrada to Benqeurencia, 113 miles Camping Gaivota, €17, per night, 2 nights Benqeurencia to Ortigueira, 50 miles.

We figured that if we stayed at the aire at Lugo for a night it would enable us to see the Roman city walls and explore what promised to be an interesting town. Depending on how quickly the large dollop of cloud and rain chuffed across the Atlantic we may still make it north to Galicia's spectacular coast before it becomes wreathed in cloud. It seemed a good plan. All went well until we arrived in Lugo. Despite Spanish driving becoming a bit Italian around the town's circuitous outskirts, soon Muriel announced that we should take a right at the next lights and arrive at the aire in 40 seconds. The lights changed and I was immediately faced with a temporary no entry sign forcing me to drive on, despite being able to see the slip road to the aire no more than 50 metres up the blocked street. Now Muriel started to re-calculate an alternative route, immediately we were enmeshed in narrow side streets with parked cars on each side. Things can go from manageable to chaotic in a trice. Briefly we motored past Lugo's famous city walls, then found ourselves driving down the blocked street in the opposite direction. It became clear, not only was the street closed in one direction, but the motorhome aire was blocked-off too. We found a small parking area near the river, pulled over, and discussed our options. This is too hard we agreed. We reset the satnav to a campsite near Foz on the North coast and headed there. Some places you are fated never to visit. Perhaps Lugo will be one of them. 

A new motorway north saved us a little time but lacked any service areas; it was now well past lunch time so when we pulled-off to re-fuel we were pleased to see a small patch of waste ground next the garage with a couple of trucks parked-up. Our moment cheese and bread was unexpectedly disturbed by much revving and gear crunching . Whatever unseen vehicle was manoeuvring behind us it sounded very big and very close; this impression was reinforced when six feet to the left of our cab a hydraulic arm with a large crab-like claw on the end of landed clunk! into a nearby patch of mud. Concerned that we may have decided to have lunch in someone's building site, we hurriedly began to clear the plates, but part way through our emergency evacuation the offending truck - a big artic piled high with logs- pulled away and disappeared down the road. What it had deposited beside us was a large demountable grab used for loading tree trunks. 

A friend dropped by at lunch time

There it was, bright red, looking like a left-over robotic insect from Iron Man 29 (Revenge of Cyborg Spiders). There followed one of those moments when you notice a particular individual with carrot coloured hair or end up in a queue next someone seemingly ten months pregnant. Suddenly from that moment onwards the world becomes half populated by Scottish people or women in urgent need of a maternity hospital. So now every layby and scrap of waste ground we passed seemed to contain one of these tree trunk grabbing contraptions. Eventually what was going-on dawned on us. Lumber is big business around here and you see dozens of trucks piled high with newly felled tree trunks. Instead of every single one having its own hoist, demountable grabs are left scattered about the area. Drivers then simply 'borrow' a nearby hoist if they need to load-up, then deposit it at a local layby for others to use - ingenious! 

Earnest discussion of recent work practices in the Galician lumber trade kept our minds off the worsening weather as we approached Camping Gaivota. The place was within a few days of closing for the season and it was almost empty. Our pitch near reception ensured a good WiFi signal and I settled to watching the rain dribble down the windows while sorting out the blog. The greyer the weather became the more virtual reality conspired to bombard us with deep blue Mediterranean skies and images of the colours of the south. First, Facebook's facility to alert you to bygone posts 'on this day' meant my phone kept buzzing, then displaying images of cafe stops in Manfredonia , moments gelati in Alberello, as we headed toward the ferry to Greece last autumn. Gill was not immune to 'geoporn' either, as our elder daughter and her boyfriend, right now en-route between Sicily and the Cilento, sent a steady stream of winsome pictures via WhatsApp and Instagram involving sea-views from the terrazzo posing with Aperol Spritz, and entries seemingly aimed at nailing National Geographical's sunset photo of the year. Not to be outdone, my email alerted to me to a rival Greek entry for this accolade from Joanna, who I am linked to via Motorhome Adventures Group. 

Sarah is having great weather in S. Italy...

Next day the weather improved slowly, overcast in the morning, broken cloud in the afternoon. A footpath runs along the coast right outside the site entrance. In the morning we walked a few kilometres east towards Ribadeo; in the afternoon west, until we reached the outskirts of Foz. 

The coastal path runs right outside the campsite entrance.

It is a magnificent coast. For all the Mediterranean's absorbing colour, ocean greys can be equally beautiful, more subtle and nuanced. Then there is the sheer scale of the Atlantic, its slow inexorable pulse. No wonder surfers flock to these beaches, mere black specks a few hundred feet off-shore dwarfed by the swell. 

The beautiful grey....
The wave watcher's seat
Surfers paradise

Most of the beach signs had been 'customised
I could imagine living here

Being alongside something so big has an odd effect, it makes you notice small details, the lace pattern of the semi-dried tide-line, the brown speckles and rusty fissures in the cream coloured sandstone out-crops. Gill reckoned they were deposits of iron. 

The ebbing water left oddly beautiful marks in the sand

Sandstone 'marbled' with iron deposits

Walking along Mediterranean shores I find myself thinking about history and the culture of the peoples that inhabited its shores and perhaps how we are their descendants. By the Atlantic it's the power of Nature that strikes me most; for all our ingenuity, how frail and powerless we are. Faced with the raw power of the ocean, its inhuman scale, maybe it's only natural that you are drawn to the people you love; faced with the sublime we crave intimacy. I focused my camera on a line of footsteps snaking away in front of me which ended at the ever diminishing figure of Gill. 

I felt blessed to be sharing this time and place with her, here on this huge empty beach beside the beautiful grey sea, its undulating swell reflecting the cloudy sky. I paused to watch the waves break, sometimes a dull mercurial silver, sometimes icy turquoise; then l quickened my step to catch Gill. Soon l was next to her. We did not say much. Sometimes silence is more eloquent than anything.


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