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30 January 2004, 03:59 pm
About Galicia
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Volvo Ocean Race

For the first time in the 30-year history of the event, the start of the race will not be from the UK. Galicia, or more specifically Sanxenxo and Vigo, are the chosen venues.
Lizzie GREEN went to investigate what makes this quiet corner of northwest Spain stand out from the crowd.

There is something special about this region. You can sense it from the moment you arrive in the small, but efficient airport at Santiago de Compostela - an easy one hour 30 minute direct flight from Heathrow. Galicia is a region rich in myth and steeped in history and it does not conform at all to the preconception I had of Spain. In fact it couldn't be more different and is in sharp contrast to the image typically held of Spanish landscape abroad.

Instead it is hilly and wooded with oak trees, chestnut trees, and, surprisingly, a foreigner - Eucalyptus - imported from Australia. Deep river estuaries gouge into the ragged coastline, providing a perfect location for the thousands of black, spiky, mussel-farm platforms, usefully made from long lasting wood from these same Eucalyptus trees.

The guidebooks say we are assured that mild temperatures predominate for most of the year, but be warned; expect 'an abundant rainfall in autumn and winter'...

Either side of Cape Finisterre, a place familiar to those sailors who listen to the shipping forecast on BBC World Service, are river estuaries known as 'rias'. It is a highly indented coastline, where stretches of rocky and daunting cliffs alternate with beautiful sandy beaches. Galicia boasts some 750 of them. To the north of Finisterre are the upper estuaries and to the south, the lower estuaries, where Vigo and Sanxenxo are located.

This coastline is known as the Costa da Morte - the Coast of Death. Hundreds of ships have foundered in its rocky shallows, with countless lives lost, hence the name. The oil-carrying tanker, the Prestige, was one of the last victims of the Costa da Morte, in 2002. On the vast beaches of this wild and mystical coastline it is still possible to be alone, a rough and fierce sea as a witness, with all signs of the oil destruction now gone.

The full story is available on the event website at the address below.
Lizzie Green
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