We arrived with a band of pilgrims at the ferry station a little before 8:00am. There was a nice looking double decker ferry tied to the pier. Moments later, a small open rubber bottom boat pulled up and the captain waved us aboard.Our captain spoke only rapid Galician Spanish, yet I am pretty sure I understood his guided tour during our hour and a half journey through the Vilanova estuary and upstream on the River Ulia from Vilanova de Arousa to Pontcesures. It was a cold and overcast morning which was extra chilly on the fast moving boat. We stopped at what looked like loads of barge-loading platforms. They are in fact mussel farm rafts. Galicia is the third largest producer of mussels in the world behind China and Chile. They produce different size mussels for different countries. The entire mouth of the Ulia River was loaded with mussel rafts and harvesting boats.We also stopped several times to see the maritime cruceiros. These can only be seen from the water. There are seventeen of these cruceiros along the river. They represent the stations of the cross and were placed in 1965 for a celebration commemorating the journey of the “stone boat” that carried the remains of St James along this river in 44 AD. I expected them to all be next to each other but they are spread out and on both sides of the river.We also saw the towers of the west which are the remains of a medieval former fort at the estuary entrance. We were lucky enough to see some river dolphins. The dolphins moved too quickly to digitally capture, but we all were delighted and amazed to see the pod of river dolphins playing. While we were stopped and listening to this information (my rough translation), the captain passed around some tea and cake for us to enjoy. It made this feel a bit like a school trip.We arrived in Pontecesures, disembarked and wished each other a Buen Camino as we rejoined the Portugese Caminho. We plan on reuniting in Santiago for a final meal or drink on Thursday evening. Until then we separated and melted into the many other pilgrims heading towards Santiago.We were now absolutely off the Spiritual Route, about 15 miles until we reach Santiago. First stop, coffee to warm up.We went through several small towns, and at times the Camino was alongside a very busy road and even next to railroad tracks. Definitely not spiritual.
Mostly, we were on quiet roads looking at farm animals and beautiful gardens and flowers. I spoke with a farmer who loves talking to pilgrims. He told me he was preparing his fields for fall crops. We decided to stop about 10 kilometers (six-ish miles) outside of Santiago. We found a lovely place to stay and relax and feel like we can arrive fresh and ready to enjoy Santiago tomorrow. Our inn, Parada de Francos, has a lovely farm with some pretty noisy chickens, roosters and geese. There is also a great restaurant, Casa Rural across the street from the inn (what’s on the menu tonight? It might be a quiet morning on the farm). They serve craft beers at the bar, one tostada and one negra, both delicious.