Sunday, May 19, 2019

Catamaran Trip

At weekends, there are catamaran trips at 11.30 am and 4.00 pm. They go from the landing stage at Belesar and around a big meander in the Miño which I could see from my terrace. Only €5 for seniors. I had booked by email for the 4.30 departure and Esther kindly offered to drive me to the landing at lunchtime. The narrow winding roads in this area are not for the faint hearted, but Esther is an expert driver, I’ll say that for her!

The catamaran set off 20 mins late. It was waiting for a group on a bus tour but the bus had either broken down or crashed into a narrow bridge on the way. Everyone on the catamaran was fed up of waiting, so finally we set off without the bus load of passengers. We were offered our money back, but I didn’t bother: I’d enjoyed the trip, though a cold wind was blowing on the return.

Catamaran seen from my terrace.

Catamarans moored at Belesar.

Leaving Belesar.

Pretty villages en route.

Vines come right down to the waters edge.

Very intensive production.

Cabo do Mundo 2

This Casa Rural has a lot going for it, if only the owners were in residence. I was relying on them being here to talk to me in English about the various local attractions (as reviewers on TripAdvisor had mentioned). Instead they had left a local woman, Esther, to attend to visitors. She was very excitable and spoke rapidly in Spanish, though she claimed to have been attending English lessons for a month! She didn’t know about using Google Translate and was attempting to communicate via Siri. She also comes and goes from her home in Chantada.

So I was alone overnight in my Wine Cellar room, looking out onto my view of the River Miño down below, until darkness fell at 9.30 pm. For dinner, I cooked myself a cheese omelette with bread and red wine. “I have dined well” as the pirates said in Bendinat, Majorca. I explored the house, left to my own devices. There was a bar with an honour system, full of various whiskeys and gins - you name it, it was there! But my bottle of Cabo do Mundo red was enough. There was also a lounge, with books in several languages and a better supply of Galician tourist brochures than had been available in the various tourist information offices I’d visited.

When I woke up at 7.00 am. There was a thick mist hanging over the tops. At 8.00 am I heard a church in the neighbourhood somewhere with Westminster chimes. It was 4 degrees outside; no wifi and no phone signal inside the bedroom!

Imagine my surprise when I went for breakfast and discovered a French family helping themselves to the buffet: mum, dad, little boy and grandparents. Mum had studied in Perth 20 years ago. Esther enlisted her help to translate for me. 

View from my room early today.

Cherries for breakfast from the tree in the garden.

This woman was spraying her veggie patch on the terrace below me.

Her little dog came to visit me.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Cabo da Mundo

This Casa Rural (Cabo do Mundo) is a long way from civilisation, but has an amazing view over the vineyard terraces and a meander of the River Miño, to the south of Chantada. But it is really too remote to do any good, even though it’s only 9 km from town. The road in is really narrow with hairpin bends, but fortunately there is absolutely no traffic on it!

A woman called Esther is looking after it in the absence of the owners and has departed leaving me a free run of the place, including the kitchen.  I can cook myself an omelette w. chorizo tonight. The room comes with a bottle of local wine. The fridge is full of goodies, which I can help myself to. She will return to make my breakfast at 9.00 am tomorrow morning. I am sitting on the terrace outside my room, enjoying the sun on my back. 

My room is called the Bodega Room.
It’s cut into the rock and was a wine cellar. But there is aircon if it gets cold!

The incredible view!

But wifi is non-existent.

More views of the house.

Friday, May 17, 2019


Chantada is a charming town, untouched by modern development. Houses have closed in balconies and  the streets have arcades of wood or stone going back centuries. Going down to the river, the winding streets are narrow and cobbled. The sun appeared in the late afternoon and families were out in force along the river walk.

Pub by the river

River walk

House of Lemos, which now houses the library and tourist information centre.

Typical coat of arms on the old houses.

Belesar Dam, near Chantada

After leaving Diomondi, we drove a few more kilometres and started to see the dramatic scenery for which the Ribiera Sacra is known. An enormous dam came into view. Here is some info from Wikipedia for any engineers reading this:

This monumental reservoir is another of the great hydroelectric works that the Franco regime carried out and that covered with water large areas of valleys in Galicia and that today forms part of the landscape of the mythical Ribeira Sacra in this province.  It was built in 1963 on the largest river in Galicia, the Miño River.  The name of the reservoir is given by the parish that is 4 km downstream called  Belesar.

Weather still chilly and showery, so I didn’t want to stir far from my hotel. Imagine the good news: one of the top restaurants in town is right next door (A Faragulla) so without stepping outside I could dine well. The bad news: it’s a public holiday, so everybody will be here for a celebratory lunch with family and it will be choca! However they found me a table and an English speaking waiter (who had previously worked at the Wine Interpretation Cantre in Monforte). He looked after me and served me:

Cantabrian anchovies on toast

Baby goat.

This is him:

Monforte to Chantada

I seem to have lost track of the little blue train. The line has disappeared from the map and the Tourist Office knows little about it. So it’s road travel for today.

We had a lot of rain last night and early this morning, and there’s a very grey sky. Last night, there was constant hooting from cars in the street below. It’s a very narrow one-way street and the traffic seemed to be permanently snarled up. Photos in both directions:

I later discovered that it’s a Galician public holiday today, which explains everything - including why there are no buses running!

I was picked up at 10.00 am by my taxi driver and we were soon speeding along to Chantada. On the way, the plan was to visit the Romanesque Church of San Paio de Diomondi. This was off the main highway on a narrow winding country lane - a long way for even fit pilgrims to walk, which is what the guidebooks advise.
We passed a cheese factory and many plump cows enjoying the grass. I found the Church rather austere with its grey stone blocks, but the carvings were in good condition:

Side entrance - but everything closed!

Ruin next door: nobody is looking after this place.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Ribiera Sacra Wine

Next on my agenda today: the Wine Interpretation Centre: a thoroughly modern exposition of the importance of wine in this area. It is built on the site of an old hospital. Wine produced here has only became well known in recent years, because the small wineries only produced what could be drunk locally. They finally joined together into a co-operative and adopted the name Ribeira Sacra, meaning “Sacred Riverbank” as a marketing ploy. A bit like Margaret River, I suppose. However, they have a huge disadvantage in that the vines are all grown on steeply sloping terraces so that there is no way for production to be mechanised.

Courtyard of old hospital.

Grapes of this region.

A “river” of white wine bottles.

Time for a taste with my very knowledgeable guide.

Can’t buy any, though! Can’t carry it.

Poster of wine labels.

On my way back to my hotel, I stopped to take a photo of the “Roman Bridge”, really a medieval structure but retaining an original name:

After this, I was suddenly pounced upon by a Spanish woman, Aida Menendez, the author of the official guidebook to the Camino Invierno. She lives in Monforte and appears to prowl the streets looking for pilgrims! She was very excited to find one from Australia and I was excited to meet her. I recognised her immediately from her photo in the guidebook. She then accosted two passersby and got them to take our photo:

Nice colour co-ordination!