Photos From Ribeira Sacra Lucense

As the first trip out of our town since the quarantine, we started north to Ourense, then headed northeast to explore the towns just before Monforte de Lemos on the lucense side of the Ribeira Sacra. The weather was mostly dry but a little chilly, the end of an unusual cool streak.

We passed the small railroad town of Canaval (or Canabal in castellano), right off the highway near Ferreira de Pantón, quite a few times this week. Along with the train station and a cluster of old homes was an old brick industrial smokestack that reminded me of Cologne. For whatever reason, memories of driving through rural France on the way to Germany came to mind. The town felt forgotten, but in peaceful way. Perhaps its train service and proximity to Monforte de Lemos.

After Doade, a touristy town dedicated to the area’s signature viniculture, comes the Lookout of Souto Chao with its great views of Canón do Sil and its granite statue of a grape picker.

We bounced around between lugares and parroquias in Sober, Pantón, and O Saviñao looking at different houses from idealista, talking with neighbors, and getting a feel for the rural life in this corner of Galicia. On the way, we found a lake near Rosende. It turned out to be private property but we still managed to have a nice lunch and walk around without disturbing anyone, or them us.

Alqo has been getting braver with going into the water and swimming a bit since we showed him the Arnoia river by our house. The last time he swam was in Long Beach and I think the waves scared him!

Van camping is fairly easy in Europe. While not exactly legal, if you’re off private land and and not conspicuous in you’re vehicle, you shouldn’t have a problem. When you camp off-season and in less-populated places, this becomes easier.

Alqo and I are almost always the first out of bed.

Many of the fincas we looked at have been long abandoned. Occasionally all that is left is the stone foundation, like this house that was built in the 19th century. Other times, we’ve seen houses with the bedspreads still on and knickknacks on the bookshelves. The older generation emigrated out of necessity. The Galician land inheritance system of minifundium prevented families from growing enough to sustain themselves, so they left; to Cuba, Argentina, to Catalonia or Basque Country. The younger generation inherited these places but either can’t or won’t live in the rural world for myriad reasons. No jobs, no option to telecommute, used to city life, etc.

Perhaps there will come a de-urbanization phenomenon due to the pandemic and financial crisis that pulls young people away from the cramped city life back into España vacía, empty Spain.

This mirador is actually on the Ourensan side of the canyon. Our last night we decided to cross over the river and camp near Paradela and Castro Caldelas. The mirador As Penas de Matacás offers a stunning view at sunset. I don’t think it’s possible to tire of looking at the canyon walls, the vineyards, and the villages nestled close to them.

There’s been a lot going on in the world, and I need to disconnect a bit. So I brought Castelao’s Sempre en Galiza, translated by Craig Peterson, with me on the trip. It’s a very interesting book. The publisher Francis Boutle sums the book up quite nicely:

Forever in Galicia is the most extensive account of Galician identity ever written, an idiosyncratic text that spans and erodes the traditional genres of memoir, political treatise, historical essay and revisionist analysis.

I’ll share more after I’ve read more, but suffice it to say that it’s a compelling read for another interested in the history and cultural diversity of Iberia.

Lastly, on our route home, we saw a few reservoirs on the map. We stopped at the small beach near the town of Pradomao and found a great potential camping spot for the future.

The trip was both refreshing and intimating. Refreshing as it removed us from the monotony of the quarantine life while still being safe and socially distant. But intimating as it made us confront new potentialities.

  • How big of a rehabilitation and agriculture project can we both handle?
  • How far is too far removed from nodes of denser society for economic and social futures?
  • What will the area look like in ten, twenty, thirty years?

And so many more. Patricia said it didn’t feel like a vacation since her brain was in constant overdrive with possibilities. I agree.

Next week, we head back to the Rías Baixas area for a few days to visit family and plant a small garden.

Phase 3 to la Nueva Normalidad in Galicia

The Xunta of Galicia, the autonomous community government, will allow inter-provincial travel as the region enters phrase 3 of the deescalation/transition starting Monday (along with 46% of the Spanish population in other communities). Phase 3 will be directed by the autonomous governments rather than the national government of Sanchez, and they will decide when they are ready to transition out of phase 3 to the “new normal”.

Galicia has long petitioned for inter-provincial travel during these phases. I’ve seen some interesting stories about people living next to provincial borders not being able to easily get groceries, as the market is in the other province. In fact O Bloque Nacionalista Galega, the left-wing Galician nationalist party that holds one seat in the Congress of Deputies, has abstained from Sanchez’s state of alarm renewals due to this unrequited request.

Galicia with a population of 2.7 million, currently has a total of 11,172 COVID-19 cases with 609 fatalities. The cases per million is 4,138 and the fatalities per million is 226. Of the 17 autonomous communities and the 2 autonomous Moroccan enclave cities, Galicia falls about in the middle of severity in cases and deaths.

Personally, this means we can cross the río Sil and explore Terra de Lemos, the heart of the Ribeira Sacra, in a few weeks on a first road real van trip of the year. The van life is excellent for maintaining social distance I might add. After that, we plan to head back to Rías Baixas on the coast for a few days of beach before all the madrileños are able to make their post-coronavirus summer holiday exodus from the capital.

While I still love our village and the adjacent town, I’m ready to move around responsibly, hike, take photos of something other than the monte, enjoy the spring and summer weather, and take advantage of all that Galicia has to offer.

Coffee-less for Detox Week

After Ramadan, I promised my significant other I would participate in a detox with her. We eat very well, gracias a ella, and almost vegan, aside from very infrequent eggs from the neighbors (and if I break down at the market and buy semi-curado cheese). But we were both interested in cleansing.

The detox consists of a week of planned breakfast juices, a quinoa or rice salad mixed with veggies, and a soup with puréed greens. From 7 pm to 11 am the body fasts, and we drink water or a tea between meals.

But for me, the absolute hardest part has been relinquishing my beloved morning coffee. For the first few days, I had a day-long caffeine headache. And while I desperately wanted to make myself a cup, I know that the purpose of the detox for me is taking a much-needed break. I was stubborn and didn’t give up coffee like many do for Ramadan.

But yesterday, the headache was gone and even though I’m a little more lethargic, I felt good. Indeed, the meals are delicious. So even though I was less enthusiastic about detoxing than her, I’ve come to enjoy the self-discipline somewhat.

Unified Veranda Theory

It’s my Saturday today. I’ve been out on the terrace, watching the fig tree away with the breeze. There are more insects buzzing, snails crawling up the stone walls, and birds darting between the electrical and phone lines that surround our house. I’m also playing around with the vintage camera app Vooravo for some retro-looking photos around the house. I’m bored of photographing the same trees from the well-worn paths of the monte.

This is one of those weekend mornings that reminds me of my years in Sierra Leone; the unhurried day, the privilege of watching time and life of the village pass by from a veranda, the warm sun on my body, the ability to read as much as I want to.

Grateful and guilty, which has been a recurring tension during the lockdown. Grateful to have had the privileges and opportunities to organize my life in this manner, and guilty knowing that not everyone is so lucky. But I know I’m in my head a lot, and that guilt will lead to paralysis or unnecessary suffering.

I misread a quote from some article a few weeks ago. In my head in went something like;

The best safeguard to life under late capitalism is withdrawing from it.

But it actually wasn’t that, at all. It was a critique, that the privileged ones, the ones with an inessential, work-from-home job are the ones who can safeguard themselves from coronavirus.

I recently talked to a friend, a madrileño musician from West Africa with a similar practical philosophy. He mentioned the protests in barrio de Salamanca and the incessant material desires that nag certain classes of people in the capital. It feels foreign, otherworldly. That wasn’t always the case, but a product of half of my life, maybe started after they extubated me. Who’s to say. But I think it’s possible that most can come to the conclusion that infinite growth on a finite planet is illogical.

We can thread the needle, withdraw from the capitalist mentality without completely withdrawing from society like Christopher McCandless; plant a garden, reduce costs and discourage consumption habits, prioritize immaterial experiences, read books, go for walks, re-valorize the countryside, or enjoy voluntary frugality in the city. Flatten the curve of coronavirus and of climate change by socially distancing and driving less, flying less, removing animal products from my diet, eating seasonally and locally. Prefigure a better world by thinking, talking, and planning other ways of organizing life and social relations. Want less, need less, and perhaps work less because of those priorities and that organized withdrawal.

For now, I’ll “do praxis” by non-participation, as much as I can, and theorize by writing into the void, ruining conversations with family and friends by talking climate, and reading Bookchin in my hammock. And I’ll never forget to enjoy the conference of the birds on the phone lines.

2019 Recap Video, Weekday Weekends

Patricia put together a great video of video clips from our Latin America trip and a couple days ago did the same with everything we’ve filmed from 2019. It features building the inside of our van with a family friend, a three-week trip through Andalusia, moving to Germany, moving to Galicia, a tuktuk ride in Porto, and the last few months of the year here. iMovie crashed a repeatedly while trying to export on her small MacBook Air. We were finally able to get it into a movie format by importing it into iTunes first. It was nice to reminisce, even though we felt like the whole year we were a bit lost as to what we needed or wanted to do. The photo is one of our first mornings on the way to Andalusia.

This year, a global pandemic and approaching financial crisis aside, I feel much more steady about our family’s priorities. We’re ensconced in Galicia and while we still want to hop in the van for a road trip soon, we both want to return and make a home here.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are our weekends now. I took off both days for classes the last few weeks and it’s been super relaxing to have two days without thinking of teaching instead of my usual one. Patricia is also stepping away from her business those days to enjoy the early spring with me. We were able to get a few bureaucratic errands and house cleaning done one day, and had a nice walk halfway to Penamá.