It’s a country for old women too; we meet a chuckly one on the road in a jaunty cap, driving an agricultural kind of lawn-mower. The women wear blue overalls, bring home the cows, and are busy among the brassicas. They hang out in bars too, playing board games that look something like ludo.

The old men stand at the side of the road with their hands folded behind their backs, contemplating life and the trees. They wear felt hats and smoke cigars, or chew sticks. In the bars they thump each other on the shoulder, slowly. Hombre! they shout. They shuffle cards and drink red wine, or coffee from very small cups. They have handkerchiefs protruding from their pockets.

One of them calls out to us as we walk the dusty camino, he has seen us from behind his shutters on a hot afternoon. Come and see! he says, and take20140322_084228s us into his shed, he is wearing slippers. It is a big shed in a swept yard with old oil cans hanging on the door. Inside it is an emporium full of little trinkets he has carved by hand from wood – no machines! he says, only one euro! There are curious wooden flowers in pots, toys, and jewelry-stands made from apple-wood displayed in their hundreds on the shelves. For children! he says, pulling at the string of a wheeled cart. Very strong! he says, hurling a spinning-top to the ground. He is having fun but he wheezes between breaths, and struggles to pick up the top. I buy a pilgrim walking stick – he has stripped the bark from it and shaved it into intervals like candyfloss lichen. He has even peeled a whippy offshoot and wound it around the whole thing so it resembles a kind of fairy helter-skelter. It will take you to Santiago he says, I will watch you. I believe him; it is a good stick – slender, strong, flexible, and beautiful. I look back as we crest the hill, and he is watching, he is watching, holding onto the corner of his barn.

It is not a country for young people, this Galician hinterland – or if it is, we haven’t seen them yet.