Playa las Catedrales, near Ribadeo, just across the ‘border’ from Asturias….
This beach has incredible rock formations at low tide!
We spend a day by this beach in the rain and wind. Just in time for the low point of low tide, the sun comes out and the sky lights up in spectacular colours!
Check out more photos on flickr, it’s worth a click here
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We have a couple more appointments before we can leave Asturias.
First, we go and visit Kike at his house in Dolia. Not having his exact coordinates, we start to ask for him in a bar about 5 km before Grau (Grado). “Kike of Dolia? He lives just outside Grau, but it’s hard to find. Go to Grau and ask again.” So when we arrive in Grau, we stop by the side of the road to ask some women who stand chatting in a garden. But before I get to the women, the Guardia Civil has got to the van, because two of our wheels were over the white line! I go back to the van and ask them about Kike. They are very friendly, and after a few phone calls they have got Kike on the phone who instructs them to lead us to the cemetery, from where he will pick us up. So off we go with an escort, with flashing blue lights. The women in the garden have stopped their conversation and come out onto the road to watch the Happening.
It seems we are the excitement of the day, because within 10 minutes, we have all three different types of police cars passing by and stopping. But we are in the care of our two young and friendly policemen who explain the situation to their colleauges.
They stay with us the 15 minutes until Kike and Ana Clara arrive, and we chat about this and that. It turns out one of them is a Rugby fan and would love to come to Cardiff to watch a game. So we exchange emails.
When Kike arrives, the conversation continues, and we experience first hand the importance of knowing someone who knows someone. I may be wrong, because the talking is so fast I only get parts of it, but it seems to me they are discussing who they might know who might know someone who knows the other, and they establish that Kike knows the grandfather of one of the policemen. So the world is in order again, and good byes are accompanied by hearty slaps on the back. We pile into Kike’s car and speed up the hill to enjoy an evening at his house, meeting his daughter, his 6 dogs and his wild boar which he keeps in an enclosure and he dares us to come and help feed them. We prefer to stay outside the cage and watch him instead – it’s a rather large male boar with his harem and children, and with very long tusks! Kike and Ana Clara are very hospitable, and we pass the evening chatting and sharing a meal.
The next day, we meet our friend Mada once more, who travels a few miles together with a fisherman friend of hers to meet us on a beautiful beach, where we share a lovely afternoon and evening. We go for a bracing swim in the roiling sea, followed by a lovely expansive meal in our van, with the stove heating the van and roasting chestnuts, while the Firewok is grilling Monica and Txema’s vegetables outside.
That night, we have our first unfriendly encounter with the police who rudely awake us at around midnight and asks us what part of a no entry sign do we not understand to have come and parked right by the beach? Ok, we asked for it, ignoring the sign, but we thought it’s out of season and no-one’s here….
Anyway, we are chased off in a hurry and manage to forget that one part of our firewok was stored underneath the van… we find it the next morning in a rather mangled condition
We tell ourselves it could have been worse – they could have fined us – but still, it leaves a sour taste, after so many really nice encounters.
The following day, Kike collects us to go and meet Jesùs who owns a riding stable at Lamuña. We are in luck, we can go on a horse ride that morning! What a joy to experience the landscape from the back of a horse! We ride through pine forests, through Eucalyptus plantations (I know they are bad for the land, but they do smell very nice!), through chestnut woodlands, through meadows, and for a little while up a stream! The sun is shining and it’s pretty hot: 28º. Perfect for our last day in Asturias!
Little do we know that the weather is closing in on us (ever since we have crossed the border into Galicia, it’s been cold, wet and windy…)
The day closes with a shared meal with Kike and Ana Clara outside our van in the setting sun, where we return their hospitality and cook for them. Kike takes it upon himself to straighten out the mangled grill from the firewok and does a pretty good job, while muttering about lack of tools, and if we’d only rung him in the morning about it, he would have brought his blow torch and anvil and special hammer and tongs etc etc.
Just before leaving, he makes a very moving speech, almost in the style of our Georgian friends, on the strength of chance meetings and developing friendships, and mutual desires for a more ecological approach to the planet. He blesses our journey onwards and hopes to meet us again somewhere some time.
For more photos of this chapter, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/126714897@N05/sets/72157648720240410/
To contact Jesùs, go to http://www.aventurasacaballo.com
He offers short rides as well as longer ones, along the various ‘Caminos’ of the region: Camino Real de la Mesa, Camino de Santiago etc.
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We meet Pepe 3 times: First during the mushroom walk, the second time on our way up to the Camino Real de la Mesa where he shows us his beautiful house, and a third when we return to Samartín de Ondes to meet him with more leisure, for Frank to give him a massage and to spend a few days with him and in his village.
Following an industrial accident that left his back severely damaged, Pepe has spent 12 years working with wood to calm his mind. The result is a beautifully decorated house where every piece of wood is carved with floral and celtic patterns. But it is also clear that this beauty is wrought from pain; there is a slight melancholy in the house, an atmosphere of ‘waiting’ for something, for someone…
Every stone, every piece of wood tells a story, and Pepe knows many of them first hand. He tells us how he grew up in this house, with his 8 older siblings, his father, mother and grandparents, all sharing two bedrooms, how after the war they started with nothing and they worked very hard.
He went to school in Belmonte, 5km down the hill. From his stories, you get the impression that this was already too far away from home: it was cold there and the rumble of stone boulders and tree trunks in the river in winter frightened him. He felt cooped up in the school room, longing to be out and about, climbing trees and catching the warm breeze of Samartín. It is significantly warmer up there than down in the valley, where the sun only reaches a few hours per day….
We visit his workshop to see how he researched into traditional ways of working, with pegs in the wall that hold the wood in a particular position, and traditional carving tools and techniques, eg. how to cut fine slices of wood from hazelnut poles to weave baskets. Traditionally the work bench itself would also have been a big beam protruding from a wall.
We visit his garden and learn about traditional uses of some of the local herbs, eg. how people used lemon balm to clean out the big cider barrels, and how the yellow sap of a local weed that grows everywhere is used to treat any wounds in the skin, how to plait corn cobs so as to hang them to dry (as can be seen hanging under the eaves of many horreos). We pick from his vegetables and delicious fruits to make a shared dinner. He appreciates our cooking for him (and his house is happy, being lived in and used), although he thinks that we cook too fast – the vegetables should be cooked slowly for several hours, not fast and hot. He approves of the combination of ‘smashed’ potatoes and mint, even though it is new to him – se puede comer!
He shows us how the people of Samartín cut their chestnuts to roast them on the fire – not with a cross in the top but chopping off two little bits of the skin at the side. When the chestnut is roasted, you just have to squeeze it and it pops out!
It is a joy to watch Pepe around animals, especially horses. They seem to calm down instantly when he’s around and to just do what he wants them to do, without him having to say or do anything. It’s almost like magic!
Pepe takes us on various walks and without seeming to teach us, he is a constant source of information: how to track footprints in the woods (we find some bear prints!), what the difference between wild and cultivated species of hazelnut, apple, chestnut etc is and what they are used for, where to find mushrooms and which are edible etc etc.
He has an open eye for everything, even an oddly shaped root that can be turned into an interesting piece of decoration. He is a dab hand at scything, as we can see when we visit the graveyard with him and his sister on the day before All Souls. In a few strokes he has mown the grass down…
He also knows about the local history. He explains the difference between an horreo and a panadera, the two types of food storage buildings typical to the area. They are usually made of oak wood, and some of them are over 300 years old. Apparently, if you drive against an horreo, it moves but doesn’t collapse, it’s flexible. If you tried to hit the wood with an axe (who would want to do that???), the axe will jump back at you, it’s as hard as iron.
He takes us to a disused water mill and shows us how it worked to create electricity until about 50 years ago, when one of the people in the village sold the rights to a larger company who now run large hydroelectric projects in the area.
He shows us the well where people had to come to get water, before a fountain and wash house was built in the village.
He tells us how the paths that connect one village to the other are flanked with hazelnuts so they create a closing cover, which prevents anything else from growing on the path, thus maintaining itself.
He shows us the old path up to the village cemetery, which was so steep and narrow that people had to carry their dead on their backs.
He has stories of his childhood, when he was a naughty boy, roving through the woods with his brothers, finding birds nests and swapping their eggs (!), until they are suddenly caught out by the dark, and how he had to run past a particular part in the woods where he got frightened of the dark shapes of the trees. Most of his family have gone away to live in bigger cities but a couple of his siblings still live in Samartín, and without fail, they eat together every day at 1pm.
One beautiful sunset-evening, Pepe lovingly points out the dominant rock above the village and tell us how he never really left Samartín, that he has no interest in seeing the world – with so much to see right on his doorstep, why travel further? Every day, stepping out of his door into nature is for him like seeing it for the first time. There is so much to learn from nature right here, to listen and learn from the elders and to experiment with plants and wood.
There is a contentment to him, and yet a longing to share this: a loneliness, but also a happiness in his solitude.
He is a deep thinker, a humble and openhearted Mensch, and he is very connected to the place where he was born and has lived all his life. There is no small-talk with Pepe. Our meeting with Pepe of Samartín de Ondes was very special and went deep into our hearts.
Thank you, Pepe, in three days of accompanying you around the village, we learnt so much from your stories. We hope we understood your stories properly and apologise for any misrepresentations: our Spanish has improved, but if we got something wrong, it is not down to your lack of explanation, but our limited vocabulary.
*To find Pepe – go to Samartín de Ondes and ask for him! He’s not on the internet. He said he’d be happy to meet and host any of our friends, as long as they are like us
The house is ready and happy to receive guests: 3 double bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, and downstairs a large kitchen and dining room.
*To see more photos for this chapter, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/126714897@N05/sets/72157649120512722/
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