Friday, 31 July 2009

Looking for the source of the River Fraga

On Wednesday my friend María and I went on our promised jaunt across the estuary to Moaña. The sun shone as I did my morning routine: up the road to pick up the free paper, double back to the bread shop, sort out the troubles of the world with the panadera, home for breakfast, a quick look at the Guardian online, check my email and I’m set for the day. By just after ten I was down at the harbour to meet María.

We took the boat across to Moaña, a Monday to Friday service, leaving Vigo at half past the hour. If you want to visit Moaña at the weekend you have to go by bus or car up the estuary, across the Rande Bridge and back down the estuary or catch the ferry to nearby Cangas and take a bus from there.

On the boat, María admitted that she had not been on that ferry for about twenty years, a combination of that old thing of forgetting the good things you have close at hand and her husband’s refusal to go on a boat after a bout of seasickness on a fishing trip. Impressed by the cleanliness, spick-and-span-ness of the little ferry, she is now determined to work on her husband and persuade him to leave the car at home next time they want to go to Moaña.

Our aim on Wednesday was to walk up into the hills behind Moaña, not quite seeking the source of the Fraga (I think they know where that is already!) but following the river on our ramble. So we walked through the little town, popped into the street market and went on our way, commenting on the properties of naturally grown produce, so much better, we agreed, that a lot of the supermarket stuff. Then, as we got close to the beach at the end of town, we abandoned the coast and took a left turn to follow the river up into the hills.

At first we went past cultivated smallholdings, all the time following a well made path, obviously intended to be a planned walk but now in need of a little tender loving care or, at least, more frequent use. Eventually we were past the vegetable garden plots and into what María referred to as lo más bonito.

As the path went gently but steadily uphill, some sections improved or made accessible by a boardwalk, the woodland reminded me of some parts of our own Saddleworth walks, but with more and bigger trees – no eucalyptus in Saddleworth!

At one point I thought we were in for a storm. I seemed to hear the rumble of distant thunder. Then I realised that it was where the road went over the valley supported on massive stone pillars, a stretch of motorway striding across the countryside. Beyond that though, all was quiet except for occasional birdsong.

All along the way there were abandoned watermills in various states of disrepair, some almost nothing more than a heap of stones, others recognisable buildings complete with their millstones. María now showed a trait common to many Spaniards; her inner teacher came out. She loves to instruct and set about explaining to me how a watermill works, the water turning the lower wheel, grain going in at the top and coming out as flour. She clearly sees me as a city girl who needs to learn things. I don’t disabuse her and her enthusiasm is charming. Like many people I have met around her, she is still in touch with her agricultural past and told me that in her pueblo she and her family still have the right to us the watermill if they want to (if they have grain to grind) at designated times.

At various points we saw old agricultural machinery on display and eventually we came to a kind of information centre with plenty of explanatory posters, mostly in gallego. So clearly not all gallegos are so completely in touch with their agricultural past and need to be reminded of these things.

We stopped and ate fruit before heading back for the ferry home. The path continued uphill. We could have reached the source of the river where there would be magnificent views of the ría but that would be a longer expedition and would have to wait for another occasion. So we retraced out steps, finding the path blocked at one point by a fallen (?) branch which we needed to remove. María declared indignantly that this was the work of owners of the smallholdings who did not want people tramping past and sometimes through their property. Maybe so, but the only person we met on our adventure seemed friendly enough.

Finally we were back in Moaña town with a choice of rushing for a soon to depart ferry or waiting an hour for the next. We opted for the early boat and ended up running part of the way. Two no longer very young ladies jogging along the harbour must have been quite a sight. The boat blew its hooter to encourage us and the smiles on the faces of the pilot and co-pilot made it clear that they had watched our progress with amusement.

Back in Vigo it soon became clear we had had the best of the day. The clouds had moved in. When I went out again in the early evening the drizzle started and soon turned to slow and steady rain. So it goes!

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