Europe, Galicia, Spain

Semana Santa: Ribadeo

March 31 – April 2, 2021

After finishing in Lugo, I took one of my only public transport options north to Ribadeo. I walked to the bus station and boarded at 3:30 PM bus. As always, I despise bus rides, but I survived the journey thanks to some lovely Spanish views.

While on the way, I booked a $21 stay at the Carragal Hospedaxe. After about an hour and a half, I arrived at the bus station. It was a bit of a walk to get to the hotel, but I arrived and had a pretty nice view out my window.

Praia das Catedrais

Even though it was already early evening, I was eager to get right to Cathedrals Beach to see this remarkable site. I only planned on staying for the night and leaving mid-day the following day, so I didn’t want to waste any time. Here are some photos from the Galician tourism website that shows what the arches and caves of the beach look like.

As such a big site in Ribadeo, I was surprised to find out there was only one way to get close to the beach from downtown (about 10 kilometers away) was via the Ferrol-Oviedo train route. Pre-COVID, it left four times a day, but it was down to just once. Because of this, my only option was walking or taking a taxi. At the hour that it was, I decided to take a taxi. $20 later, I arrived.

Well, I quickly realized a mistake I had made. I didn’t check the times of the tides. The caves on the beach are only visible during low tide. Despite this, I was still completely in awe at the beauty. The violent waves, the vast ocean, all of it. It was another moment of, “Is this real life?” It’s one of those experiences that photos and videos barely begin to capture.

By the time I finished looking at this beach and walking along the path that goes past other ways, it was close to 10 PM and dark. Deciding that I was not up for a 10km trek, I called the same taxi to come bring me back to the hotel. Because I was determined to see the beach at low tide, I talked with the owner of the hotel and added on another night so that I could spend the day there tomorrow. There would be no way to see low tide in the morning and catch the train back.

The next morning, I had researched the time of low tide and the one train on the Ferrol-Oviedo train route that would get me close. After getting on the train, the attendent saw my round-trip ticket and informed me there would be no return trip that day. Oof. I panicked a little but figured I could figure it out later and it was all part of the adventure. There was no point stressing because that wouldn’t make a return train route just appear.

I had been forewarned by an aux friend, Monica, that the train stop closest to Cathedrals Beach was in a very strange place. She described it as in the middle of a field. When the train stopped, I couldn’t believe that it was it. It was actually in the middle of a field surrounded by farms. Even worse, there was no clear way out of the field/farms and onto the road. I ended up videocalling Monica so she could guide me to the road. It was quite a humorous adventure if I’m being honest. I was convinced for a little bit that I was going to be stuck with the cows forever. I also was ready for a farmer to come question why I was wondering all through their land.

Once I made it to the road, it was about 2km to the beach. I was surprised yet again at the limited public transportation options (which I’m ready to call nonexistent) to get to this beach. Once I arrived, I was ecstatic and so grateful I added on a day to see the beach at low tide. While it was incredible at high tide, it was its own kind of beautiful at low tide.

So, when I got there, I noticed attendents at the stairs where you go down to the beach. Because it was a holiday week and they were expecting a lot of visitors, you had to sign up for a ticket. This was a COVID contact tracking protocol, but it was so strange to me. First of all, the beach is huge, and even with a lot of people, we were so spread out. I was glad that it wasn’t “sold out” and I had to leave without walking the beach and in the caves. Once that was all sorted out, I descended to the beach.

Again, photos don’t do it a great justice. It was a great work of nature, and it reminded me of why I love traveling and seeing new places in the world. Here’s a side by side of some of the photos showing the same places at high versus low tide.

From here, I decided I didn’t want to spend $20 on a taxi back again, so I had the idealistic thought that I could manage a 10+ mile walk that was estimated to be nearly three hours with no water and not properly dressed for it. I will admit along the way, I was ready to give up multiple times, especially after the halfway mark. But, I had no idea where I was, I was in the middle of fields with very few landmarks to describe to a taxi even if I wanted to. And of course, as we know, there were no bus routes anywhere nearby and the train wouldn’t be back that day. So I continued on the journey…

After I arrived back at the hostel, my legs were jelly and there was no moving once I laid down. So I called it a night.

On Friday morning, I woke up and headed to the Ribadeo train station to take the one available train on the Oviedo-Ferrol line to connect to a bus back to Pontevedra from Ferrol. All was going as planned, but when I arrived, the train was stationed there, not running, with no staff, and the doors were locked. Oh no.

After doing some research and making a few phone calls, I found out that Good Friday (Viernes Santo) is a holiday where things are shut down… such as train routes. I had been pretty carefree during this trip, including not even planning where I was going until an hour before, not booking a hotel until I arrived, and going with the flow about getting to Ribadeo from Lugo. But, at this point, I began getting stressed. I was pretty much stuck in Ribadeo with no clear options of how or when I would be able to leave. I had not taken Bla Bla cars before, but my friend suggested it, and it was my best hope. I found someone going from Ribadeo to Coruña, so I sent a request. I hoped for the best and had a plan to grab a train or bus from Coruña back to Vigo or Pontevedra from there.

With my legs still feeling like jelly from the 10+ mile walk yesterday, I called a taxi to drive the three or so miles to a site in Ribadeo that I hadn’t been able to see, Isla de Pancha. This island has the two lighthouses in Ribadeo, one from the 19th century and one from the 20th.

It was beautiful to walk around and enjoy the coast, walk along the rocks, and feel a bit of nostalgia for the Maine coastline back home.

I still had quite a few hours to go until my Bla Bla car would arrive, so I decided to walk to a nearby island along the coast up from Pancha, Isla del Penedo da Ínsua. I didn’t know exactly what or where this was, but I figured it was just a short walk up a path and farther up the coast. Well, I was quickly proved wrong. After about 45 minutes of walking along paths, which were not on the coast but rather through fields again, I was convinced I was totally lost.

With plenty of time to still go, I decided to keep trying to find this island. It appeared more like a peninsula than an island, but I guess it was totally disconnected. I enjoyed the views of the water and coast and the distant view of the Pancha lighthouse.

From here, I decided to begin walking back downtown closer to where I would meet my ride at the bus station and towards the San Damian fort. Of course, walking back was just as eventful. I think most of my adventures in Ribadeo can be summed up as admiring the beautiful coast and being lost in fields.

The San Damián fort was originally built in 1624 by Marquis de Cerralbo. After British destruction in 1719, it was rebuilt in 1774. Its been preserved since another explosion during the Independence War greatly damaged it. It was another site that was currently closed for entry, but I enjoyed looking around outside and seeing the scenic views.

From here, I walked to an adjoining site, O Cargadeiro. This ethnographic park houses an old commercial loading bay which was later used for passenger transport until 1966. Now, you can look at the old site and a small beach.

From here, it was finally time to meet my Bla Bla car and head to A Coruña. I was still not entirely convinced I was going to successfully make it back tonight, but I was hoping for the best. Thankfully, my ride arrived, and a few hours later, I was in A Coruña!

After arriving at the transportation station in A Coruña, I had a whole other wild journey. First, it didn’t look like the bus was arriving, and I was struggling to communicate with any staff to get confirmation. I made a snap decision that going to the train station would be safer, which was about a 15 minute uphill walk, where I knew for sure a train to Pontevedra would be arriving. Well, I did not arrive in time to get a ticket, and they would not sell me one this close to departure. By the time we went back and forth in broken Spanish, the train had departed. Now, at this point, I had to run back down to the bus station to try to get the bus that was tentatively arriving. I’m happy that I made it, although with barely any time to spare.

From here, it was another few hours back to Pontevedra, but I made it back! I forgot we still had a COVID curfew, so I tried to rush back without drawing any attention to myself. I made it back without incident and was ready to spend the next few days sleeping!

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