‘It’s very wild. I’ve seen wolves’: a hike through the forests and ghost villages of secret Galicia

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Trains from Britain to Spain put me a taxi ride away from Ribeira Sacra – an unspoiled region of river gorges, chestnut groves and rich history

Modes of transport always dictate the shape of the human landscape. When travel took to the rails in the 19th century, vast palaces of railway stations were built all over Europe. And now, on a train journey to Spain, I am passing through some of the best examples: in Paris, Barcelona and Madrid. In the latter, I have time to leave my bags at Chamartín station, actually a modern terminal, and dash off to see the Goya frescoes at the church of St Anthony, then nip back for the Renfe service to Ourense in Galicia.

My week-long hike is in a little-known part of Galicia close to the northern border of Portugal called the Ribeira Sacra, a region cut by deep river gorges. I arrive with my sister Jo after dark in the city of Ourense and take a taxi from the station up into the mountains. Our plan is to walk back to Ourense over the next five days. The taxi winds up the mountain, the headlights strafing deep forest and few houses. “It is very wild up here,” says the driver, “I’ve seen wolves on this road at night.”

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