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Published: December 7th 2015
Galicia is about a quarter of the size of Pennsylvania, which doesn’t seem too big, but without a car, it’s been a bit difficult to explore the countryside and more rural areas outside of major cities. Though, I also haven’t seen a lot of other cities here yet either!
Luckily, this past weekend, my roommate’s Breton friend invited us on a road trip! Before we left, our Galician roommate gave us a massive list of sights along the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death). The Costa da Morte forms basically the northwestern stretch of Galician coast. Why is it called that? It’s had a lot of shipwrecks over history. Naturally, my expectation for the scenery was a gray, stormy place, and I even half-expected to see wrecked pirate ships on the beach.
As it happened, for better or worse, it was a sunny, more pleasant-looking place instead. We left Ourense mid-day Saturday and then stopped in the city of Pontevedra for lunch and a quick walk around. There wasn’t a lot of time to see the city, but what we saw was nice. It seemed to have more palm trees than Ourense, and was close
to the beach. I want to go back there for a day trip to see more of the city.
Because it was already mid-afternoon, and we’d burned daylight, we cut some stops off our list and headed directly to Praia do Carnota (Carnota Beach). It’s the longest beach in Galicia. It was the first time most of us had been to the beach in Galicia, but it wasn’t necessarily swimming weather. In fact, I’m the only one that even took her shoes off. It was windy and cool, and the sun was setting. We ate some snacks and hung out.
After that, we drove directly to Fisterra. I say directly, but as it turns out, there is not exactly a ‘direct’ route anywhere along that coast. There are lots of mountains, which lead to hilly, windy roads. Plus, a lot of the destinations are on peninsulas, so you drive to one peninsula, and then you have to get back out of the peninsula, and wrap around the next one, on roads that are pretty slow-going. So it was a bit disappointing to realize the driving was taking up a lot of time, and we
wouldn’t be able to do as much as we wanted. It’s also that there were five of us, and getting everyone moving and making decisions took up a lot of time.
So in the end we got to Fisterra at night, booked a hostel, unpacked, got groceries, returned to the hostel, then went out for dinner and a drink. Fisterra seemed to be a tourist-centric, but cute little town, at least at night. It is an option for the last stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, so it gets a lot of pilgrims in the warmer months. In fact the symbol that marks the Camino system of trails is a scallop shell, and one reason for this may be that this end point is on the coast. Fisterra (also spelled Finisterra) means ‘the end of the earth’, and it’s one of a few places along the western European coast to have been considered the westernmost points to the Romans. Technically, the westernmost point on continental Europe is in Portugal.
After chatting a bit with some Korean pilgrims at the hostel the next morning (and unfortunately realizing how much Korean I’ve forgotten/how confused
my brain is between Spanish and Korean), we drove from the town of Fisterra to the cape of Fisterra, a few kilometers further. From there, we saw the ‘end of the earth’. Actually it was pretty foggy (typical of Galicia), so it wasn’t spectacular. My fave part was seeing goats munching grass on the hillside. I don’t think they realized they were so close to the edge of the world.
Sunday was a much more ambitious day than Saturday. From Fisterra, we backtracked to (maybe) my favorite spot on the trip—Cascada de Ézaro in Monte Pindo. It’s a waterfall that ends in the sea (but more in like a bay or fjord kind of spot). Although there is a hydroelectric plant next to it, which messes up the ambiance, the area is just beautiful.
From there, we went northwest to Praia do Lago (Beach of the Lake), which was so named because there’s a lake next to it that seems to get both freshwater from a river and a bit of water from the ocean, depending on the tide. It was a really nice spot that also had camping facilities. Man, how great this
area would be in the summer!
Next, we drove southwest into Camariñas, intending to follow a scenic coastal road that my roommate saw in her guidebook. After consulting Google, we found the road, but it was really tiny, and we couldn’t see how we would even be able to more for other cars. A second look at the guidebook told us it was a hiking trail, not a road! So we had to turn around. It would be a seriously great place to hike; my Galician roomie (who wasn’t with us) told us it’s his favorite place along the Coast of Death. But unfortunately one of our companions currently had a stress fracture and couldn’t do much walking.
So, we took an alternate route towards Cabo Vilán (Cape Vilán). In super-windy weather, we snapped some pics of the pretty lighthouse, then aimed for the Cemitario de los Ingleses (Cemetery of the English). I haven’t mentioned it before, but we were in a small, older hatchback Renault that had seen better days. On hills, with five of us in the car, we had to encourage it to go. It also acquired the nickname Nacho during
our trip (a nickname for the man’s name Ignacio here).
Google told us how to go, and again, because actually there was no other way, we ended up on a pot-holed unpaved road. I continued to be surprised about the lack of tourists there that weekend (a long weekend), and the lack of good roads for it being a tourist area in better weather months. But it was also really peaceful because it is so wild and undeveloped. And, although the road was not the best, the views were amazing. We didn’t stop to take pictures, so I have none. But as you wind around the coast, you see cliffs jutting out, with surprisingly blue water just as pretty as Hawaii. And I’ll echo that for other parts of the trip as well, where you drive along pine trees in the foreground and the ocean in the background.
We finally made it to the cemetery, which exists as a memorial to victims of an English ship that crashed there in 1890. The cemetery isn’t much, but closer to the shore, there are rock piles. It’s just a beautiful landscape. Then there are tide pools.
You have to be careful, because the waves could suddenly rise, but I loved looking in the tide pools for sea creatures. In five minutes, I saw snails, mussels, barnacles, and some other creatures I don’t know the names of. I could have stayed there all day—it was like the aquarium, although obviously real.
But we didn’t have all day. We got on the road for our final stop, Playa de Traba. Something interesting about this beach was that it was relatively flat nearby, and locals farmed. Normally the soil so close to the beach isn’t good, but it seemed fine for those in the village there. You would never guess looking at the village that ½ a mile away was the beach. It was another beach with a creek running through the sand into the ocean, and picturesque with the sun setting. We hung out a while longer, then decided to head back to Ourense.
We stopped about halfway to eat dinner in Santiago de Compostela. It was my second time there, but I still haven’t actually toured it. It’s on my list to do soon! Costa da Morte was a really nice
trip, and not nearly as morbid as I expected, but next time I want to do more hiking and see everything we didn’t get to on our list!
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