The Road to Santiago.

November 1, 2004

Photo of cliff angler.
Cliff angler


Since the weather was nice, I thought I should take the opportunity to do some sight­seeing. The albergue was located in a park known as el Parque del Cargadero, so I set out to discover why it was so named. I soon found my answer when I came to a wooden structure which looked like the remains of a bridge — an incomplete bridge. But it wasn’t.

Photo of el Cargader.
El Cargader

It was a cargadero which, in English, means charger or loader. The structure was actually a terminus for a narrow gauge railroad which brought carbon (coal) from the mine to this collection point. (Our English word cargo is derived from the Spanish el cargo. It refers to that which is loaded onto a ship via el cargadero.) A ship would be anchored beneath the end of the structure and the coal sent down a chute.

Seaward from the cargadero was a high point upon which was situated el fuerte de San Damián (Fort San Damian), which controlled a commanding height over the mouth of the river. The shape of the fort was almost identical to the one I’ve seen in Saint Augustine, Florida. This makes me think that the two are contemporaneous (about 400 years old).

From the fort, I followed a path which curved around the headland toward a lighthouse. It was an impressive trail because it followed the edge of the shore. But unlike the shoreline back home where I live, the water was 30 to 50 feet below the steep cliffs.

On top of one promontory, I spied a man with a fishing rod. He was casting his line down into a swirling pool beneath him. I am always amazed as to the efforts anglers will go to drop a line. When I fished as a kid, I did it out of a skiff. I would go to find the fish rather than sit and wait for the fish to come to me. I always wonder if the passive anglers — who sit on bridges, piers, or wherever — actually catch any fish or whether they’re just passing the time.

Near one of the cliffs, I saw something that I hadn’t seen before — un murciélago (a bat) hunting during the day. Only about 30 feet from me, it flew back and forth along the edge of the cliff. I couldn’t see what he was catching, but there must have been lots of them. He kept twisting and turning, soaring, and diving while I sat there watching. The agility of that animal would be the envy of any fighter pilot. He would fly at top speed toward the cliff only to veer off at the last moment and head out over the water. On the opposite side of the inlet, he would approach the far cliff and perform the same maneuver. He kept up the hunt for at least 15 minutes and I wondered if he ever got tired. Then, at some point, I was distracted by a passing boat. When I looked back, I couldn’t find my little flying friend. After close inspection, I was able to make out a black shape clinging to the cliff. A few minutes passed and I realized that he wasn’t going to resume flying. Perhaps he was satiated. I continued on the path.

Photo of Faro de Ribadeo.
Faro de Ribadeo

After about a mile, el faro (the lighthouse) came into view. Actually, there where two lighthouses. A higher building, the larger and older of the two, consisted of a cupola above a hexagonal building. The lower edifice was where the keeper and his family had lived. His job would have been to keep the lamp in the cupola stocked with oil. Modern technology has made a lighthouse keeper unnecessary, and the plain tower next to the building now holds the light.

For my readers who are interested in the derivation of names, the use of el faro for a lighthouse (also for an auto headlight) comes from Faros, the Greek name of an island off Egypt. It was the location of the lighthouse built by Alexander the Great — one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

Photo of Perro-grino.

When I got back to the albergue, I saw a couple of men with backpacks waiting at the door for the Grumman crew to show up and stamp their credencial. They had with them a handsome dog — a boxer — who was carrying his own backpack and sleeping mat. It was quite a sight. He was a charming dog, extremely friendly. All of us patted him and made a fuss. Arturo said that he was a real perro-grino (in Spanish is perro means dog and peregrino means traveling stranger or pilgrim). This was one of the few bromas (jokes) that I have been able to understand.

Unfortunately for the perro-grino  and his owner, when the Grumman crew arrived, they did not find him so charming. It’s almost a standard rule that dogs are not allowed in the albergues. However, in many albergues, the rule is overlooked if the pilgrims don’t mind. Today’s crew were sticklers for the rules and would not allow the dog to stay inside. Rather than make the dog stay outside, the guys decided to find another place. They made several calls on their cell phone, so I can only assume they were looking for a pension where they could take the dog.

The apparent leader of the Grumman crew was a severe looking woman who scowled and looked annoyed. When she asked if I wanted my credencial stamped, I told her that I had had it stamped on a previous day. She looked at me askance and told me that the rules stated that staying at the albergue was limited to one night.

I responded by telling her that the previous Grumman crew said that I could stay. She relented but insisted that I leave the next day. I assured her that I would. I almost wondered aloud why Arturo was still there, but I didn’t want to anger her. Besides, I was planning to leave anyway.

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