Galicia

We spent a week camping in Galicia, right up in top left Spain, but round the corner now, staring westwards out into the Atlantic. Our campsite was pretty in a dusty, sun-dappled sort of way. We had a tent under the pine trees with four beds, a lamp and a fridge. It seemed to be a short stay campsite, all around us tents popped up and disappeared daily and a bubbling soundtrack of excited Spanish coursed around us like a stream around a rock. At the weekend highly dressed girls would emerge out of tiny tents to go and party, but they would be gone by 10am the next morning. We lived in the middle of all this movement and chatter in our own peaceful little world.

Apart from one night on the ferry, this was the first time that all four of us had all slept next to each other. There was a whole new range of nighttime whistles, snuffles and whispers to get used to: Matilda sitting up and giggling mid-dream, Arthur rolling out of bed for a pee in the early hours, breathing rhythms that rose and fell through the sleep cycles. The kids claimed that I snored terribly and did many lurid impressions, but I never sleep on my back so I found this unlikely.

The campsite was run by a father-son combination. There was also a mistreated old lady who did the cleaning, who might well have been mother. The son had big dark eyes like a water rat, and the same wild flickering gaze when he rattled through the camp commandments on our check-in. You notice eyes so much more now everyone is wearing masks. He scurried around the campsite, in a tight Homer Simpson t-shirt and short yellow trunks, conducting a fruitless war against the ants. Arthur found him hilarious.

“Dad, I just busted him crouching down behind our car. He looked at me and said ‘Ants you are too many. Die now’ and then he did this kind of dance and sprayed poison all over the floor. He’s so weird!”

The father ran the camp café. He didn’t like us and showed it by charging us a different price every morning for the same four croissants, two coffees and a loaf of bread. He only dropped his scowl once when Menna took him a red wine to uncork for us, and on seeing the label his eyes widened and he talked urgently and at length about its unique properties and then shuffled off to his living quarters to show her that he had this exact bottle himself. It was a very average wine that we had grabbed at the supermarket in town, but we sipped it carefully, trying to understand the hidden qualities that inspired such passion in the granite-faced old miser.

Our campsite gave straight out onto the beach. There was a large turtle shaped rock which the kids dived from and also used as a good vantage point from which to hurl seaweed grenades at their parents and other passers-by. Better still though was the next bay south, Playa Lanzada, a long beautiful beach which curved obliquely to the prevailing wind and swell. At the near end it was sheltered and calm as a millpond, but at the far end we discovered a break with beautifully spaced lines of waves that the offshore wind made steep and glassy. We surfed a couple of sessions there every day. I paddled so much that I tore the rotator cuff muscle in my left shoulder.

North of the campsite, after the end of the urban drift, there was a worn old boardwalk that wound its way out of town. We took this one day and wandered some miles through a series of deserted bays, through a landscape of evocative rock formations where sly faces and stray creatures loomed up in our peripheral vision. We came upon an old military site where artillery emplacements still pointed blindly out to the Atlantic. We ended up having our picnic down in a cove, right under the shadow of one of these rusted cannons. As we ate a sea mist rolled in around us and we were cold for the first time since arriving in Spain. We built a driftwood shelter and there we huddled together to warm ourselves awhile before wandering on our way.

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