Summer solstice in Ria de Barquero

Caramor - sailing around the world
Franco Ferrero / Kath Mcnulty
Sat 21 Jun 2014 16:37
We assembled the kayaks, paddled round the bay, over the sandbank at high water and up the river. We passed under the bridges; the railway, the old and the new road. The river meanders through hilly countryside with Eucalyptus plantations down to the water edge, through farmland, orchards and marshland. Although we passed many small boats moored along the banks and several small villages, we saw no one. Fish were jumping everywhere, probably mullet but it was difficult to see them properly. As the river became less tidal swallows flitted around above our heads accomplishing complicated aerobatics in pursuit of insects. Gradually the Eucalyptus forests gave way to other trees; pine, oak, alder. We eventually came to a small rapid, the end of our expedition!

End of navigation 

A finca (small farm)

As we floated downstream with a strengthening ebb tide, we disturbed three herons which flew off, soaring high above the Eucalyptus forests on the adjacent hillside. When we drew round the corner where the river becomes a tidal estuary, the world went suddenly quiet; no bird song, no wind, the silence was nearly oppressing, the sky to the east was black with gathering storm clouds. "Oops, we may not make it to Barquero in time" said Franco. We paddled on, the wind picked up and within minutes the storm broke, we paddled flat out hoping to shelter under the bridges. The new road bridge was wide enough to provide good shelter and as the rain increased the run-off formed a curtain of water on both sides.

Storm water pouring off the road bridge

The storm eased and we made it to Barquero where we dragged the kayaks up onto the beach, changed into our 'posh' clothes and went in search of a coffee. The town was quickly explored: a few houses on the hillside up to the main road, a smattering of Spanish tourists, a drunk fisherman arguing with a restaurant owner over the development of the quay, a couple of cats frolicking in the sunshine and a few small children walking even smaller dogs.

Ria de Barquero

As storm clouds gathered again we retired to a café to read the newspaper. We learnt that Spain and England are out of the World Cup, that the Socialist Party (in Galicia) has been fiddling the books and inventing voters, that the new king isn't to everyone's taste and that an 87 year old man shot a farmer and his son while they were gathering hay.

I looked up from my newspaper and Franco had that hungry look, since it had gone 8pm we set off in search of a seafood paella. It was huge! Doggybag packed we carried the remains of it back to Caramor.

This is a Fiesta week-end; San Juan in Asturia and parts of Galicia, another saint in Ares for whom flowers are painted on the pavements and roads, here in Vicedo, it is for La Virge Carme (Carme Virgin) and preparations had been in full swing on Friday with music until 5am Saturday morning. We wanted to take part but our problem is that nothing much starts until midnight, way past our bedtime!

Half past ten, we decided to go for it, we launched the dinghy for the short row over to the harbour. The fishermen were out in numbers, lining the full length of the harbour wall and we could easily spot them because they were using phosphorescent floats.

As we got to the wall we were blinded by the street lights and couldn't make out where the steps were; had we gone too far? by now we were rapidly drifting into the fishing lines. Back in the UK we are used to difficult relations with fishermen who for some unfathomable reason loath kayakers (even sea kayakers!) and we certainly didn't want to annoy anyone here. We argued quietly as to the best line of action and prepared to take some abuse ... eventually the closest fisherman heard us, he lifted his line, then calls rang out, "por acqui, por acqui" ("this way, this way") leading us to the steps, as we paddled slowly forward, the lines lifted one by one in a yellow phosphorescent arc of triumph, even the ropes that tie the tenders to the railings were lifted for us to pass safely under. We left our dinghy by the side of the wall, confident it would be looked after.

The music was blaring, we passed the small fair ground with dodgems, floating inflated bubbles that you crawl about in, trampolines and small children having fun. We arrived at the two large music stages, a band called Acirema (America back to front) were playing Spanish oldies, merengue, waltz, salsa and a few elderly couples shuffled dejectedly around the 'dance floor'. Franco had his "this is terrible" face on. After about an hour the group relented and the curtains on the larger stage opened to a dissonant noise and Orquestra Israel (; 5 dancers, 5 brass and a 5-strong band with a versatile repertoire from the Spanish classics, Abba, flamenco, Miley What'shername's Canon Ball (in Spanish) to Galician bagpipes, all to a fast and furious dance routine. The audience remained sparse and elderly (where are all the young people?) and lacking in enthusiasm despite the gargantuan efforts of the group's cheerleader. Luckily Franco and I were there to clap. They kept us entertained until 3am, good effort!