The Coastal Walk from Porto to Santiago Compostela – Part 6

February had been particularly dry and quite mild here in Portugal and it was exactly this sort of weather that we faced on February 26th for the 6th sector of our walk – Oia to Baiona in Spain.

Once again our number almost topped the 100 mark with 95 walkers and two four-legged friends.  We were happy to have the feisty little Kiko back again and he was kept company by last month’s new participant, Nino.  Both were obviously incredibly excited about all the goings on around them.

Although we were starting from Oia in Spain, where we had closed our last walk at the end of January, we didn’t take the A3 main highway up into Spain from Porto but instead took an inner highway once again ending up in Caminha on the Portuguese side of the Minho River.   We arrived in time to have the usual much-awaited, hearty second breakfast (getting to be a bad but enjoyable habit!) at the local café before catching the ferry across the Minho River to Spain.  Being the mild morning that it was, the river crossing was particularly beautiful and the Minho River was peacefully still with no movement.

During the crossing our friends from Terra Verde handed out a scallop shell with the red cross of St. James painted on it.  ‘Generally the traveller carries a scallop shell that has several meanings. According to legend, a man covered the distance on horseback when the animal suddenly shot toward the sea. The pilgrim evoked Santiago and a strong wave brought him back to dry land. Regaining consciousness, the stranger noticed his robe was full of shells. Thus, the scallop shell took on the meaning of protection which is also associated to the Grail. It symbolizes wisdom and the authority of Christ as a Higher Self for the traveller.’

Once over the river we boarded our bus again and continued our journey to Oia where we had closed the 5th walk.  Arriving at Oia first thing in the morning was a beautiful site and as walked down to the Monastery of Santa Maria (Mosteiro de Oia), the morning light over the beach and ocean was just perfect.

We were formally welcomed by our Terra Verde friends in the small Oia town square and introduced to our Spanish Camiño friends who would give us guidance along the best route to Baiona.  The group photo was taken and we got underway enjoying the most beautiful weather anyone could wish for the month of February.

On leaving Oia we had our first encounter with a small herd of animals and their shepherd and had the opportunity of admiring his beautiful donkey (one of my favourite animals) peacefully grazing with sheep.

As we walked along small paths and tracks our route followed the ocean and one couldn’t help but admire the beautiful colour of the sea with its waves crashing over the rugged rocks.

Due to the mild winter weather that we have been experiencing in the Iberian Peninsular so far this year, wild flowers are in bloom everywhere and in between these and the small, well tendered, vegetable gardens with their vegetable ‘collard greens’ (couve galego) standing proudly, it was simply the most mind clearing and relaxing walk taking in all the nature around us.

Along the way we were welcomed by local Spanish people setting about on their day’s activities and they would wave us on wishing us good luck and ‘bom camiño’!  Many beautiful dogs and cats also watched us warily and some even allowed us to touch them!

Hunger seems to set in so much quicker when one is doing one of these long walks and much to our delight, Terra Verde had planned an earlier lunch than last time so when we arrived at our restaurant, located in an unusual castle-style building , we  quickly made our way inside to sit down to a delicious shellfish soup, followed by roast veal and potatoes and some ice cream and chocolate sauce.  All washed down with good local Spanish wines from the region.

From here, under the watchful eye of our Spanish camiño guides, we continued our walk up along an old Roman track, into the mountains of granite rock where we could enjoy magnificent views out over the Galician coastline.  Once on top of the mountain, the walk took us along dirt tracks, passing through small villages and farms and enjoying a totally different scenario from the coastline.

As we began our descent, following the windy road into Baiona, we couldn’t help but notice a huge statue of the Virgin Mary, Maria de Afueras, sculpted out of rock (only the face is added) perching high up on the hill, overlooking Baiona and the Atlantic where it watches over sailors and blesses the ships, all symbolised by a ship she holds in her hand.  There is a steep, stone spiral staircase in the interior of the statue which can be visited and you can alight next to her eye and step into a boat that she holds in her outstretched hand.  Inside the sculpture is a small box which contains gold, silver and bronze coins together with documents telling about the Virgin.  The view is amazing for those confident enough to take this climb!  (The statue was designed by Antonio Palacios and was started in 1910 but was not completed till 1930. It stands about 50 feet tall and towers some 300 feet above the sea.)

Baiona is located right on the Galician coast in the province of Pontevedra and has an amazing history dating back to medieval times.  On this particular Saturday it was full of Spanish people enjoying a beautiful afternoon and we ourselves all enjoyed just wandering through the old streets and enjoying the Spanish architecture and all that was going on around us.  Many buildings were decorated with brooms symbolic to the town.  An obligatory stamp in our ‘credentials’ at the local tourist office was also on the itinerary.

Before leaving, many of our group got the chance to pop into a local tapas bars and enjoy the delights of Spanish food and as dusk fell, we boarded our coach for our drive back to Porto.  Once again another great day and wonderful walk, all helped by fantastic weather and great organisation thanks to Terra Verde!    Sector Nr. 7 coming up at the end of this month – Baiona to Vigo.

Follow this walk viewing the links below:-

See photos below of this beautiful 6th sector of the walk.

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