Guns and Roses

Yesterday we went for a long walk around the coast towards Ria Arousa. The headland, Con Negra, is a nature reserve and a site of outstanding natural beauty. We set off from the pretty seaside environment of the harbour,  along the impressive wooden walkway, which winds smoothly round the coast. It has silvered planks chamfered to turn the corners and shaped around the many protruding boulders. Along higher sections there is a handrail and at one point it even threads up into town and along a street over the pavement. We came across several dog walkers and what seemed like a coach party out promenading. They were posing for photographs in front of the strange group sculpture of heroic figures with gas mask faces on the promontory outside El Pirate, a cafe. Very Dr Who. The scenery itself then became increasingly surreal due to the organic shapes of the huge boulders piled on top of each other emerging from below the fine sands and stretching out into the sea. There are no small rocks or pebbles, the stones are huge and smooth, their fissures rounded like folds in skin. Here is a sleeping crocodile, there a colony of giant seals, in the distance a monolith face, precariously balanced. Dark with seaweed at their base, the higher ones crusted with yellow lichen, the boulders could have turned the empty sands into a Dali landscape, but the coves were too intimate, Cornish in their beauty. Small beaches sheltered between the arms of the giant rocks, each lapped by a perfect azure fan of rippling sea.  On the landward side of the walkway more boulders emerged from a tapestry of wildflowers. Eventually the walkway ended in a seating area, but a footpath continued and we carried on following it, climbing over and round the stones, feeling the gritty texture of their rounded surfaces, which sparkled slightly in the light.

The footpath skirted an restricted military area, fenced in by generous rolls of barbed wire, from which hung boards with ominous red warnings in Spanish. The wild flowers were prolific as ever and the air reverberated with the hum of bees. As we turned a corner the picture book landscape was subverted by a line of old gun emplacements facing seawards, from which the rusted remains of long gun barrels poked their snouts. Disconcertingly we heard in the distance the booming of big-gun fire and saw white flashes inland, near some rather smart looking houses. We could only think it was some celebratory fireworks, coinciding with our guilty photographing of the military relics, or a sort of fog warning, as the visibility out to sea was falling fast. Undeterred we carried on leaving the defensive scrap metal behind. Drawn ever on by the lure of the next corner we wandered across beaches where ours were the only footprints and scrambled between rock pools, frightening small creatures, which disappeared with a plop. Weird globes of fluorescent purple looked as if they should have been inside the rock pools, but were protruding from cracks in the rocks above them, frightening me when I nearly put my hand on one. Here were anthropomorphic boulders to inspire Henry Moore, balanced in a huddled pose. There were a few other walkers, but not many.

Eventually we ran out of footpath and headed inland following a narrow road. We passed a houses with a small vineyard, a field with a large brown horse and an old communal wash house, which comprised a set of troughs with water flowing through, now full of algae. At the junction with a larger road we turned right, back towards our start. There were houses with more vineyards, a small poppy field and hedges with beautiful red roses seemingly growing wild. We took a fork in the road which headed back towards the sea, it passed through pine woods, which had been infiltrated by eucalyptus, which must be a concern in such a carefully balanced environment. At the end of this road was a hotel and we came back to a spur of the footpath and rejoined the coastal path just before the military zone. We retraced our footsteps as far as El Pirate, which has a rather lurid mural and is fronted by a person sized, stuffed, cerise octopus sporting a bandana. It also had a covered porch with a row of tables facing a glorious view, so we threaded our way in and sat down to a very up-market late lunch, pasta primavera for me and seafood risotto for John. Both first rate.

Today we found ourselves back there on our hunt for a supermarket, but both the supermarket and the cafe were closed. We went inside a smaller, neighbouring cafe and had such delicious milky coffees we fancied a second cup. The lady serving was busy arranging some gorgeous red roses with some cream lilies. After she had finished the counter was covered in a cloud of crimson petals. She scooped up handfuls and started them pushing into a catering size pickle jar full of sherry coloured liquid. I went over to order the coffees and asked what the liquid was, thinking she was making rose water. She knelt down and began to pull bottles out of a fridge behind the counter until she came up with a small corked bottle, full of brown liquid, right at the back and a carton of cream. The cook came out of the back to offer help and they both watched as I tried the liqueur she had poured into the bottom two iced glasses, shaped like tiny beer steins. It was very good and rather potent. Satisfied I liked the neat version, she put the cream away and waved me back to John with the two samples of her rose petal grappa to accompany our coffee. I assume it could also be drunk as a cream cocktail with the cream. As we left she introduced us to what sounded like Growler, a seagull that was patrolling outside, which she said had been there for five years. He cocked his head at the sound of his name and waddled cautiously towards her, keeping his eye on us.

He was there later in the evening when we wandered back, but everything else was tightly shuttered. It was probably a good thing we came here at the weekend, as this is clearly early in the season for them. We should probably have made sure to go to the supermarket, because the weather has now turned grim and everywhere is shut. We are hunkered down in the cabin with the wind wuthering through the rigging and a halliard two boats away beating out a flamenco rhythm on its mast. We wrestled with the canvass in the wind to put up the cockpit cover, which has made a big difference to the cosiness of the boat and gives us another room. A sort of  porch come garden shed. The Spanish weather forecast does not agree with what we are in fact experiencing. I have always thought it odd when the forecast at home devotes so much time to telling what the weather currently is. I now miss the reassurance of having the report agree with the fact. Here it is like having the weather told by politicians. Luckily we have not far to go to our next port, so we can be guided by the evidence of our own eyes as to when to set off.

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2 Responses to Guns and Roses

  1. ruralmoon says:

    What wonderful descriptions, how I wish you were able to put up the photos to match them. Love the name “Ria Arousa” – maybe something to do with the special rose petal grappa which certainly sounds interesting 😀 Might have to try something similar at home 😉

  2. Jan says:

    You write so beautifully.

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