Day 16 – Palas de Rei to Ribadiso (26.4 km) > excerpt 2
The next day I arrived in Ribadiso – not even a village, just an old farmhouse next to the río Iso with a medieval-looking bridge bordering one side of the property. The sleeping quarters were converted old barns, built from rocks. They were surrounded by meadows where about twelve cows grazed peacefully. There was no fence in any direction.
After the obligatory midday snooze I sat with my water bottle and some biscuits which I had bought the previous day, next to the riverbank and a short distance from all activities. While trying to catch up on my writing I could hear a cow close by. She was making whish – whush noises when ripping grass with her tongue and simultaneously blowing the dust from her meal through her nostrils. She was only about a metre away and from where I sat with legs sloping down the embankment, the head of the cow at such close proximity looked enormous: the beast was intimidating and in comparison I felt insignificant. From time to time we looked into each other’s eyes, just to communicate that we did not mean any harm.
It appears that I have been away from Europe for too long. There was a small green plant next to me and, in moving about, my calves brushed against it. It was a nettle and now I had the burning sensation and sting marks which I remember well from Boy Scout days in my teens. And then I was suddenly stung on my elbow by a plant behind me – I needed to be more vigilant.
During the last few days the countryside was exceptionally beautiful: fairly hilly – which adds to the workout – and lush green fields sprinkled with herds of cows and with trees often shading the path. Here also, as earlier in Galicia, the meadows were surrounded by dry-stack rock walls which bordered most of our way. Rocks were also used to build farm sheds but slate roofs of previous villages had given way to the half-round ‘monk and nun’ clay tiles, with a half-round tile facing up and the other down.
The previous day, when I was descending a village lane, a herd of cows came home from the fields. I was surrounded by them as they stomped slowly up the hill, quite placid with their heads nodding and slightly swaying from side to side. From so close, almost brushing up against me, they appeared massive and I would not like to meet an angry bull in such intimate proximity. The cows gazed at me with their big eyes, asking why I was in their way and why I parted their stream and forced them to step around me. Those coming up this road were all light brown with white patches, but in the fields I also saw many with black and white markings, just like the ones I encountered at the riverbank. After passing the herd, I had to be extra watchful: the cows had splashed their droppings anywhere, especially, it seemed, when straining uphill.