Illa de Arousa

Friday 20th June 2014

The alarm was a bit of a rude awakening for me. I’d been wide awake in the night, so made a bunk in the saloon and read for an hour (another brilliant book, gorgeous writing and so engaging, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch), so when the chimes went off, I wasn’t really ready to get up. Today we had the promise of a walk on the island, which was enough to stir me, although it was about 11:00 by the time we were disembarking for the shore. Where does the time go? It wasn’t as if we had WiFi as an excuse!

The sea was glassy this morning, and the sun was wrestling with the clouds. The cloud base is very high, so the relative stickiness of yesterday had gone, but the stillness of the morning meant that we could hear the water lapping the sandy beach. Pete rowed us ashore, and when we landed. The sand was alive with small bugs! No seeums? I thought they were a blight of the Caribbean, not Spain! A bloke was sitting on the rocks watching us as we came to shore, but other than that, it was deserted, he’d have seen me hop and jump my way up the beach, slapping at my arms to get the bugs off. No new bites to report (only the five existing ones maturing).

We knew that St Julien de Arousa was around from the lighthouse, because we’d sailed past it a couple of days ago, but had no idea about getting there. I’d seen a coastal path, around from the lighthouse, but that didn’t seem to begin from our beach. We walked inland, along the road, effectively up and over the island, and along to the outskirts of St Julien. It wasn’t quite the walk we’d hoped for, and I was feeling a bit disappointed, but then we picked up a sign for the Praia de Faro, the Lighthouse Beach, so took a different road out of the village, probably about 45degrees to the one we’d walked in on, and found the beach and the lighthouse. We scrambled across the rocks and had a super view of Whinchat in the bay.

Look carefully, she's there!
Look carefully, she’s there!

For the first time, I think, we’ve encountered ‘genuine’ tourists! A few couples, out for a stroll, all of us carrying cameras. We were also passed by a cyclist and a runner, but it seemed odd to be among tourists. Perhaps the season is now upon us? From the lighthouse to the fishing village was a super walk, partly along gritty tracks (very annoying for open toed sandals for both of us) and smooth boardwalks. The guidebook says that Arousa isn’t ‘attractive’, and it’s not, with the views of the viveros and across to Villa Garcia, but it was a very pleasant walk, the sun winning out in its battle with the cloud for most of the time. We were soon upon the little village, with an extraordinary fishing fleet in the harbour, mostly on moorings. You’re supposed to be able to anchor there, but it would be incredibly taxing to do that. We were having an interesting conversation as we came into the village. Pete had read that Spain’s unemployment is 25%, so we were relating that to St Julien. Were the boats there because of a dwindling fishing industry, and not out to sea, or was it just a lazy day? The harbour is lined with little bars and cafes, so we plumped on one and had a drink. It was now a respectable 12:30. Pete had a draft beer, and me a glass of ‘vino blanco’, which came poured from an unlabelled bottle – it was lovely – and our snacks were two fried sardines and chunks of bread! Awesome. It was absolutely the best beer snack yet! And the sum total – €3!

Beer and sardinas
Beer and sardinas

What we also got, was a wonderful window on village life. The bar was filled with blokes, round, ruddy Spaniards, drinking wine, smoking and chatting. There was a real buzz about the place. We were on the kerb-side, with cars passing, people stopping to chat. It struck us how social a culture it is. You meet at the cafe for a beer, a coffee, a vino – and there you linger. A grandpa was pushing a small baby in a pram, and a number of amigos stopped to coo at the little one. I could have stayed there a good while longer, watching the world go by, but the glasses were empty, and we were now in search of bread. We traipsed around the village, in the process finding the other coast (good), but it was only when we’d doubled back, we found the bread shop. The poor owner tried to engage us in conversation, but his words were bouncing off me, and it was only when Pete said he’d heard ‘gusto’, that I realised he was trying to ask us if we liked the area. “Me gusta” would have been a good reply (and I’d learned that ages ago – just not able to process the heavily accented Galicians. He was cheerful, and I apologised profusely. Bread in the backpack, we set off to complete the loop. Only it wasn’t really a loop, as we’d had to go into the village, and out, as a “V”, and now we were walking along the southern harbour. A “Kulture Pub” was also buzzing, but with the a younger set. Were they part of the great number of unemployed, or was it now heading to siesta time? Mind you, the shell-suited youth didn’t have the air of a working generation.

We picked our way along the harbour, passing some splendid houses, and an incredible display of hydrangeas. A pang of homesickness! It’s funny what triggers it. The coastal path again stopped, so that we had to retrace our steps, and follow the road. We passed a German couple who I’d seen when having the wine, and they’d completed a circuit, and had a map. It made me think we might be on the right path, but then we rounded into the football club, and a factory. Back up the hill, and now following signs for “Faro” (lighthouse). I was encouraged, until Pete said there might be more than one! We took one more wrong turning, down a dusty track towards the coast, which rounded into a sort of car park, so back along the track and towards what looked to be another factory car park. In fact, it was some official ministry building, and the coastal path appeared at the far end of it. If the beginning of the walk had been like a “V”, I think this side was probably an “M”, so our distance covered was more than the 3-4 miles that we thought a circumnavigation would be… and blister free!

With Whinchat’s mast in sight, we were on the homeward leg, the disturbed sleep catching up on me, as I was feeling weary. Somehow, in getting into the launch, I ended up rowing back to Whinchat! How much better was I than when Pete first tried to give me a rowing lesson in Maine (when we nearly got swept out in a strong current)? I was impressed with myself, and as Pete said, he didn’t have to tell me which way my arms had to go around. “Yes,” said I, “that’s true, but I was rowing us up the beach” I hadn’t realised that I had to turn the dinghy round so that the ‘bow’ was leading the way, so we were going backwards! Close, very close. So, having been corrected on that one, I rowed us to Whinchat. All was good, until it came to landing us. It took a couple of attempts, with instructions “left hand… stop… nope…” as we’d missed it and the wind was taking us. Back around, and then it was a frantic “oars in!”, in order to protect Whinchat’s hull. Did I say that I was impressed with myself? Mylor and Flushing Gig Club – look out!

I made a sandwich, which we ate nearer 15:00 (beyond Spanish), and I was feeling sooooo tired. Pete fetched the cockpit cushions and I had a proper siesta, with the sun on my toes (Pete had laid a cotton scarf over me so that I didn’t burn), and it was a lovely drifty/dreamy snooze. I woke to the sound of shouting. Quite unexpected. It was a couple of small sailing boats, single sail (lugg, Pete said) coming in to inspect the boat. I could hear them trying to decide where we were from, and then Pete must’ve raised his head, as I heard a cry of “hombre”, as I raised my head too, to see the sails veering away.

So, another night in this lovely spot (if you ignore the raft of viveros), so calm. Tonight’s meal was a curry! Delicious, all festered in the Remoska, using a pile of vegetables and a bit of chicken. I think we’re good on the “5” today. We’ve washed it down with a Ribera del Duero, a heavy red wine, much more gutsy than a Rioja. I think our good friend Chris would approve.

Tomorrow we will begin our journey north again, to Ria Muros, with a couple of anchorages before we have to provision again. I’m looking forward to all of that. It’s such a tough life.

Today’s haiku:

gentle breeze rocks us,
embraced by a hazy sun
soporific me.



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