Twelve miles outside of the river town of Ribadeo, Atxuri parked his car on the coast. He got out of the car like he always does – like he’s about to do something extremely important – and I got out of the car like I always do, forgetting that I still have my seatbelt on.
“No te apures,” I tell him, disentangling myself from the car.
“We can only go there during low tide,” he says, as if by the time I got from the car to where he was standing we would have missed our opportunity. I love how he makes all the goods things in life so dramatic.
Like right now, he’s putting on his sunglasses like they do in the movies – all slow and gangster-like – and taking a long mystical look out over the ocean.
“We’re on time,” he says.
“Of course we’re on time,” I snorted. “We planned this out yesterday.”
He glares at me like I’m about to fuck up his movie and I grin. A car full of Germans pulls up alongside us and we both look at each other with the same expression: What are they doing here? Without hesitation, we break into a full run down to the famous beach, Playa de Catedrales.
It’s not that Atxuri and I are afraid of the Germans; we just like to discover new places by ourselves. Like we are the only two people in the world. This is, perhaps, every traveler’s dream and there are only a few moments in time when we get to experience it.
Today was not one of those moments.
There were other people on the beach, but I didn’t mind. I could hardly tell they were human because the rocks that shot up out of the sand completely dwarfed them in size.
This was the Playa de Catedrales, where one feels that they have entered an outdoor cathedral designed by God rather than for him. This was the Playa de Aguas Santas, where everything you touched was quite literally alive and breathing. This was As Catedrais, as spoken in Galician, considered a national monument by La Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Galicia and one of the best-known beaches in Spain.
I felt my heart stick to my throat as I watched Atxuri disappear amongst the monster rocks that had been almost completely submerged in water only an hour before. It was incredible.
The rocks rose up more than thirty meters high. All of them were teeming with various forms of marine life and about half were riddled with deep, inviting caves and crystalline pools of water.
It was a place that spoke directly to every childhood fairytale land that I had ever imagined in my heart. It was place that I thought only pirates could find and I certainly wasn’t a pirate. Really, it was a place where you felt like you could do anything because it would all be erased by the tide in a few hours.
Atxuri decided to kick off this newfound liberty by taking a leak.
“You wouldn’t piss in a cathedral,” I scolded him, but he was already zipping up his pants and taking on his second transformation: Gollum, from Lord of the Rings.
He wandered into a murky cave calling out for “my precious” until he vanished from sight. I wasn’t about to go after him. I was well aware of his predilection for scaring me, so I kept walking further down. A few minutes later, he appeared on the other side of the cliff.
“Did you find any treasure?” I asked and he held up a dead starfish.
“Well, that’s not going to buy us dinner,” I mused.
All of a sudden, we heard a shout and we turned to see the Germans, stark naked, and running into the water.
And people say the Germans are too uptight.
People also say that Galicians always answer your questions with a question.
This was true of the old man walking along the road when we asked how to get to Playa de Catedrales.
He said: “Are you ready to see something you’ll never forget?”