Thursday 26th July 2012
We slipped Villagarcia marina at noon and made our way under engine down the misty Ria. The mist thickened to fog and we had the nav lights on. It would clear a bit and then thicken again, raising and dashing our hopes for a scenic close quarters cruise down the ria and through the inshore passage between Isla Ons and the mainland.
1430 we raised all the sails and made a lazy 3kts in a W2/3 through the mist banks, spotting pot markers in time and avoiding a few fishing boats and yachts. No sign of the coast though, except on the chartplotter. Seeing both marks of the Paso de Fagilda assured us that the chartplotter is reading correctly, but we didn’t share the same sense of humour as the fishermen who delighted in laying their pots right across the channel.
The wind dropped to 6kts and we would have continued sailing very slowly if we had had our lovely views of the coast, but mist banks are not very interesting to look at so we motored the rest of the way. The visibility improved a bit as we went up revealing again tree covered hills and nice beaches here and there. Nowhere near as many mussel rafts as in Arosa. We passed the Naval Academy on the south bank, a cluster of quite impressive buildings also on a hill so very reminiscent of Dartmouth.
Leaving Isla de Tambo (Off limits – belongs to the Navy) to port and the musselrafts on the other side to starboard we anchored off Combarro at 1840. The anchorage is outside the marina with a modern restaurant complex and a big red Bla Bla Bla bar on the end. Not quite the old stone town we had come to see. With the binoculars we could found the old town further round. I made a quick supper while Richard pumped up the dinghy and we went ashore to explore.
Combarro from the Sea
This may sound a bit late in the day, but we are now living in Spanish time. Everything opens about 1000 and shuts again about 1400 or 1500 for siesta. Then about 1700 everything opens again, with the Spanish seeming to only have dinner about 2200, including the children. So going ashore about 2100 is just about right! It also does not go dark till after 2200.
Combarro is an old granite fishing village declared a national monument, with most of it restored - very sympathetically. They are mostly fishermens cottages, with a few belonging to “peasants” on the landward side. Most are two storey with stone pillars holding up the upper floor balconies which have nice carved stone balustrades. In the back gardens they mostly have horreos, which are grain stores on mushroom shaped legs which keep the rats out. These are also stone with tiled roofs with crosses or gargoyles at each end, very picturesque, and Combarro’s claim to fame. Around these they would have had vegetable gardens. So the view of Combarro from the sea is a wall with tiny slipways here and there and a row of horrreos, very quaint.
The streets again are very narrow and crooked, carved out of the living rock. Steps where necessary are also cut from the rock often in no particular shape or size and you are usually going either up or down. The row of houses right next to the sea are mainly all restaurants or bars or shops selling Galician souvenirs ranging from very nice ceramics and jewellery to tea towels and trinkets. All the shops sell witches! Dolls about 2ft high to tiny which if you get too close or make a noise, they start to move and cackle. Quite unnerving at first. They also have witch earrings, pendants, bracelets, T shirts, pencils, anything you can think of.
Horreos from the beach (Low water)
Where 3 or more streets meet in the village there is a little square – not that any are square – with a cross in the centre and often an altar table. They would have meetings here and flowers on the altar at religious festivals. The crosses were to convert pagan visitors and keep out witches, so that must be where the witch fixation comes from. We have seen witch things in other towns but not to this extent, so I suppose they are part of Galician culture.
The other houses are a mixture of shops, cafes and many of them are just ordinary houses, so you find yourself peering into a colourful little garden and realise the owner is there tending the flowers and often vegetables too. Wherever there is a space there is something growing, which brightens up all the granite. Of course, there are several churches and chapels and a few bigger buildings, an interesting little place to wander around.
Cart tracks in the granite!
After a drink in a tiny bar with wine barrels for seats it was back to the boat, me planning tomorrows shopping and Richard suddenly remembering lots of jobs that needed doing on the boat.
Friday 29th July
Ashore again for Rowena’s shopping and photography trip, we looked to moor on the outside of the marina with a view to investigating the facilities. A very officious marinero came out of the office wagging a finger and saying no, no! Ok fella I think a lesson in customer relations are needed here. We found a pontoon connected to the shore near the public slipway and left the dinghy there. I had thought of buying diesel and having breakfast at the harbour cafe but chasing customers away is not going to get my business. A couple of other UK flagged yachts arrived to anchor so we advised them the best place to moor the dinghy. The anchorage was slowly filling up and with excellent holding there was no need to use the marina, the only reason we would have to use the marina was if they had a washing machine. Sadly this was lacking so we spent a pleasant 3 nights at anchor.
The Anchorage from the old town
On the Friday night after we had gone to bed we heard fireworks, oh no not another fiesta! Then loud disco music full volume at about 0200! It transpired that one of the old tripper boats moored off the harbour was holding a private party, never mind the rest of the world trying to get some sleep!
Saturday 30th July
A bus ride to Pontevedra from Combarro was the plan for today, if we could find the bus stop! We stood where we thought it was supposed to be but the first bus that came along went straight past without stopping! We asked an elderly gent where the bus stop was, his reply “just down there” we walked down the street. “Here” we asked? He waved us further on.“Here”, we asked again? He nodded. Soon a couple of other people joined us. This must be the place, but nothing to say it was a bus stop, just outside a house (with a horreo in the garden). Soon the bus arrived, a very nice coach. In my best Spanish I asked for 2 tickets to Pontevedra, no problem €1.40 each. A 20min ride later we were at Pontevedra, where do we get off to see the old town. Everyone seemed to be getting off before the bus station so we joined the throng and looked for the signs to the old town. Seems we walked the wrong way but asked directions from a couple with some shopping and eventually found the tourist information near the old town. Navigating at sea is much easier! I suppose having a map would have helped.
Pontevedra old town is similar to the architecture of Muros, Viveiro, Coruna, and Combarro. The noticeable difference was the buildings were larger and the churches much larger and more ornate, reflecting the town’s wealth as Galicia’s main port until the 16th Century and a regional capital in the 18th Century.
The old town is now surrounded by a modern city and while very impressive and interesting, lacking some of the character of the smaller towns we had visited. Thanks to tourist information, the bus trip back was uneventful!
Supper ashore was in a small cafe in the old town overlooking the sea. We updated our blog in the Miami cafe on the roundabout by the main road. Not a lot of wi-fi in the town.
Tomorrow we are off to the last ria, Ria de Vigo. Our plan is to sail to Baiona.