Friday, May 17, 2019

Logoso to Muxia

After enjoying a lovely breakfast of coffee and croissants in the albergue, we set out under a sky filled with loose, fast moving clouds stained pink and yellow by the early morning light. As the sun peaked above the horizon the clouds were suddenly set ablaze, and the forested hills below were bathed in red.

We made our way through the rolling hills of this dramatic landscape on a wide gravel track, surrounded on either side by tall, scented Eucalyptus trees, and banks of blooming gorse. The ridges on either side of us were again topped by row upon row of wind turbines.

As we slowly progressed through hills covered with rich dark brown, spring green, and sunny yellow fields, patches of rain began moving rapidly across the landscape. Distant hills began to fade, giving us a sense of depth and distance in the landscape that shifted and changed as the showers passed.

Shortly after setting out we came to the tiny community of Hospital, where there is a fork in the trail, marked by two cairns in the middle of a roundabout. One branch would take us first to Muxia and then to Finisterre, while the other would take us first to Finisterre and then on to Muxia. We chose to go to Muxia first, partly because finishing our hike at 'the end of the world' seemed more appropriate, but also because bus service back to Santiago is more frequent from Finisterre.

As we turned towards Muxia we were caught in a short-lived but powerful deluge. For the next few kilometers we kept our rain gear on, as we were soaked repeatedly. As often happens on the Caminos, we spent this time playing leapfrog with another couple. We would pass them as they huddled under a tree, then we would stop a while later to take shelter and they would pass us.

When we arrived in Dumbria we found a somewhat larger town. There was a very modern looking tourist office, but it wasn't open, and it had a slightly abandoned air about it. There was also a large and ultra-modern looking albergue, and some interesting cultural exhibits showcasing the history of the region.

When we passed the Iglesia de Santa Eulalia on the far edge of town, the rain had turned the square in front of the church into a perfect reflecting pool. The old stone church had a very worn and inviting appearance.

When we left Dumbria we continued our trek through the Galician countryside. We crossed stretches that had been cleared by logging, and other areas that had been replanted with rows of tiny Eucalyptus saplings. Much of the walk was on gravel tracks through farmland, and as the morning wore on patches of sun began to break through the clouds and set the fields aglow.

Along the way we passed through several small communities with bars and cafes. We saw many of the old field-stone walls, crumbling stone cottages, and iconic corn cribs that are characteristic of Galicia. We also spotted several stone crosses, and other signs of the Camino and well, including expressions of love in the form shell and stone hearts.

We stopped at a cafe in Senande for a break and a coffee. The friendly and mischievous barkeep offered us one of his 'special' hard-boiled eggs from the bowl on the end of the bar. When we went to crack the shell, instead of breaking open, the egg bounced! When he indicated we should smell a lovely yellow rose he had in a tiny vase we were skeptical, expecting another trick, but this time he simply wanted to share something beautiful.

Shortly after this lighthearted encounter we came to the Monasterio de San Marino de Ozon. This former 12th century monastery is now an albergue that is run by a group of hospitaleros who are mostly pilgrims who 'arrived and never left'. They are living as a community with the goal of being environmentally and socially responsible and sustainable. The albergue, or refugio, had an absolutely beautiful walled garden that seemed to invite us inside.

In the next few kilometers we passed quite a few other albergues that called to us to stay in them. The countryside around Galicia is very peaceful and beautiful, and it somehow seems to promise a simpler and slower life.

We passed through several smaller communities, and eventually stopped at a local bar a little ways off the Camino for coffees and enormous bocadilla con quesos. Siesta was in full swing, but this small bar was open, and we enjoyed sitting on its shaded balcony in the company of the neighborhood's friendly black lab.

In the early afternoon, as we walked over the crest of a wooded hill we found ourselves outside the stone Capela de San Roque, beside a beautiful stone cross. From this beautiful resting spot we got our first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean!! We were so excited!! Unlike the Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland, the distant patch of ocean we'd glimpsed was a brilliant, turquoise blue.

                                                  (image from website)

With a lighter step we continued on, and almost immediately came to the 12th century Romanesque Igrexa de St. Xulian de Moraime. The original monastery established on the site was run by Benedictine monks, but it is no longer active. One of the buildings was open, and there was a very friendly historical interpreter there who explained the history of the site to us, stamped our credentials, and showed us the handmade lace and other Galician crafts for sale inside. Before we left she took a photo of the hiking crests on Sean's backpack to post on Facebook.

She had indicated that we had about an hour of walking left before we reached Muxia, and most of it was spent hiking through beautiful shaded forests. We started to spot signs of recent improvement here too - new sidewalks and signage along the way. Once again, we rounded a curve in the road and suddenly had our first view of Muxia. It was beautiful!!

The town is perched way out on a spit, sitting in the shadow of a large rocky mound, and there is a long, white sand beach curving around the edge of the bay to meet it. The water was a brilliant blue, with foamy white waves breaking on the shore. We couldn't contain ourselves any more, and stepped off the track into a patch of recently harvested Eucalyptus trees to get a better look. Without really meaning to, we made our way across the clear cut and down a very steep slope to the beach far below.

We stepped out onto the warm sand and ran down to touch the surf. We had made it to the Atlantic! The salty water was very cold to the touch.

We continued around the bay on a sandy track and then a wooden boardwalk, which eventually met up with a beautifully tiled sidewalk leading along the town's waterfront. We passed a strip of ocean front shops and restaurants, the colourful 3 or 4 floor buildings climbing the hill behind them.

The winding streets of Muxia are like a maze, but we managed to make our way up to the albergue, which luckily had space for us. The proprietor not only showed us up to a lovely, light, and spacious room, but she also issued us with our Muxiannas, which are certificates issued to pilgrims who have walked from Santiago to Muxia and have stamped credencials to prove it.

Too excited to stay put, we soon headed back out to explore. Our hostess had told us that today is a holiday, so most things would be closed, but we nonetheless managed to find a small grocery store which was open, and a bank machine. Thus resupplied for tomorrow, we headed towards the Santuario da Virxe da Barca, located on the very edge of the world.

The Sanctuary is linked with the legend of Nosa Senora da Barca, and was a popular pilgrimage site in it's own right. The story tells us that the Virgin Mary sailed to Muxia in a stone boat to help Saint James with his ministry. Saint James had retreated to Muxia, believing he had failed in his mission to convert the people of Finisterre. Mary reassured him that his mission had been successful and that he should return to Jerusalem. Some believe they can still recognize the remains of Mary's boat among the stones along the shore.

We made our way out to the Sanctuary, which is an old stone church dedicated to Nosa Senora da Barva, along a wide and well maintained stone pedestrian promenade lined with street lamps.

When we reached the Sanctuary on the edge of the ocean we found the courtyard out back crowded with pilgrims. An air of festivity was provided by a small group of vendors that were set up outside, selling traditional holiday pastries, hand made crafts, and souvenirs. We stopped to sample some fresh made churro before continuing on.

The inside of the Sanctuary felt like just that - a sanctuary. Its simple white walls extended up to a tall, domed ceiling that was filled with light. The thickness of the walls deadened the sounds from without, and gave the impression that the building could withstand the towering waves and ferocious winds of a raging sea, as well as the slow progression of time. One of my favourite things about the sanctuary was that it was filled with model ships. It seemed like a strong tie between legend, and the prayers of a modern fishing community whose members are still subject to the mercy of the sea.

A little farther along the shore from the sanctuary is a modern monument that resembles a gigantic block that has been cracked in two. A Ferida, or 'the wound' is a modern sculpture that was erected in 2002 after the oil tanker "Prestige" spilled 70,000 gallons of crude oil off the coast of Spain. The wound represents the irreparable damage that was done to the sea and the fishing industry by that disaster.

Near the base of this somber sculpture is one of two cairns marking the zero kilometer point of the Camino (the other is in Finisterre). After taking selfies with the cairn marking the end of this stage of our journey we wandered back to town, climbing the base of the Mirado O Corpino on the way. This tall stone mound gives fantastic views over the ocean and the town.


We made our way through town and back to the beach. We enjoyed watching a variety of interesting birds walking along the shore and flitting through the scrubby seaside bushes. As we walked over the white sand, climbed the boulders covered in brilliant orange lichen, the bright blue sky above was filled with gulls. We took some time admiring the lizards scuttling among the rocks, looking for shells and crabs in the tide pools, and generally enjoying a warm, sunny afternoon on the beach.

 This evening we enjoyed a light dinner of salad and white wine, and then headed back to our room to do chores and write the blog before setting out again around 9:30 to watch the sunset.

We chose to walk out onto the rocks in front of the Sanctuary to watch the sun sink into the sea. About two dozen people were gathered above us, outside the chapel, and others had climbed the hill to watch the spectacle from above.

There was still a layer of clouds hanging above the horizon that turned to gold and then red as the sun sank slowly into the sea. It was mesmerizing to watch the waves gathering in speed and size as they approached the shore, and then exploding into feathery fountains of white spray as they collided with the rocky shore. There was a local fisherman right on the Ocean's edge with a long rod and line, and he timed his casts to match the action of the waves. It was quite amazing to watch.

We sat on the rocks for a while after the sun had sunk below the horizon, enjoying the solitude after everyone else had headed back to town. We couldn't help but think of Cape Spear, Newfoundland, sitting straight in front us, across all those miles of open ocean. In only a few short weeks we will be there, looking back towards Muxia, as we begin walking west across Canada, the second largest country in the world, on the 24,000 km long Great Trail. We cannot help but feel little daunted by the prospect.

We eventually headed back through town, enjoying the smell of a pig roast, and the sounds of laughter coming from someone's backyard. Looking towards the warm and inviting lights of the town, it felt like we were heading home, even though it would be our first and last night here.

We end the day feeling grateful to be here, in the tiny seaside community on the edge of the world. Today was one of the most beautiful hikes of this Camino, and we are very grateful to have had to the chance to experience it as we did.

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This blog describes our walk along the Camino Finisterre from Santiago to Muxia to Finisterre in May 2019.    We hiked 690 km from Lisbon...