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Spanish Secrets: Magical Mystery Tour

Craig Briggs relishes the opportunity to go touring and exploring along Galicia's uncrowded roads.

To read more of Craig's delicious accounts of life in an uncrowded corner of Spain click on Spanish Secrets in the menu on this page.

The headline read, “British motorists are the most uptight in Europe”.

Considering the size of the We had done our bit, we thought, towards freeing the world from brutality, oppression, slavery and exploitation. Sadly, it will never happen until we overthrow the New Slavery which places profit margins before people. island and the number of vehicles on the road, I wasn’t surprised. Nevertheless, reading it brought a broad smile to my face. This cheeky grin of satisfaction was prompted by a comparison with Galicia’s congestion-free highways.

A comparison made all the more humorous by my passion for driving. Not racing, as some might suggest but touring; discovering our surroundings by filling the car with fuel and setting off on a trip. These magical mystery tours are generally unplanned and most certainly unguided. Maps take all the fun out of discovering somewhere new.

Another benefit of not relying on a map is that it’s impossible to get lost. Melanie will invariably ask if I know where we are. The answer is simple. Spain. A confident and irrefutable statement, though admittedly we occasionally stray into Portugal but who cares.

Last week we took two such impromptu tours. The first and shorter of the two, took us through tiny hamlets, high into the mountains. It ended at a remote, semi-abandoned village. The fragile looking houses clung to the mountain side. Narrow lanes, most of which were impassable by car, joined the decaying buildings in a labyrinth of eerily-quiet, ancient and well trodden tributaries.

Our intention was to find a route from our home and back, without retracing our steps. On this occasion we’d failed, but undeterred we set out the following day on our second tour.

We left our home in Canabal and headed east on the N-120 towards Quiroga. The road meanders through the river valley following the course of the river Sil. Deep valley sides rise steeply into a pastel-blue sky. The early morning cloud had melted away in the mounting mid-day temperature.

We left the main highway at Quiroga and joined the LU-651 heading towards San Victorio. The road climbed gently as we drove by beautiful houses with neatly manicured gardens set back from the road. Slipping passed the last of the houses we crossed the unmarked border between civilisation and wilderness.

Higher and higher we climbed on a snake of grey asphalt clinging to the mountain contours. The gradient increased and the road narrowed. On the tightening bends I needed to look through the side windows to see our path. After 8km we reached the summit and pulled off the narrow road.

At a height of 1065m above sea level, this green and fertile mountain provides awe inspiring views of the surrounding area. An endless landscape provides mile-after-mile of hills, valleys and mountains, a collage of natural colours changing shade in the bright sunlight. The air was still and the panorama crystal-clear.

From here the road descends into a hidden valley of outstanding beauty. Small hamlets appear and then disappear as the road meanders down the mountain side. Before long we’d reached the small village of Folgoso. I can’t help but wonder how these villagers survive and what employment they might undertake in this isolated and inaccessible place.

Our next port-of-call along this quiet road was Pineira; another small and isolated village resting by the river in a valley that time forgot. A little way out of the village the road changes to the LU-634. At Val de Farina the road bears left heading west and back towards civilisation. By the time we reached Lamas and a few kilometres later Samos, the countryside is more familiar.

At the town of Sarria we’re back on familiar territory and within half an hour we’re home. With this visual feast still fresh in our minds we promised ourselves a quick return.

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craigandmel@msn.com

Copyright © 2006 Craig Briggs


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