Taking the Beartracks to the Bears – Sensa del Oso, Tunon – 52km, Wednesday 22 April
Some months ago I read about a rail-trail ride that had been established in a valley southwest of Oviedo – the bonus was it went past a free-ranging enclosure where some Asturian bears could be seen. So we took our BH [brand] Beartrack [model] bikes to see their namesakes, singing the ‘going on a bear hunt’ song as we went…and not being scared.
Though rain threatened there was only one fall of significance en route – it was therefore time for a picnic lunch which was munched-on in one of the many short rail tunnels. And a beautiful route it was, slowly meandering upwards alongside a fast flowing river that had cut its way over eons through some serious rock walls. It was a geologists dream seeing the folds and intrusions in the rock layers, and at the top of the canyon were a couple of peaks reminiscent of those above Lake St Clair in Tasmania.
The four or five bears we saw seemed happy in their naturally vegetated slopes and fields, though there was a bit of graffiti about suggesting the bears should be liberated! A couple had that listless walk that you see zoo animals have sometimes, but they were quite inquisitive – perhaps expecting a bit of tucker?
The summer tourist season is still a way off, so the bikehire and adventure watersport businesses were only just coming out of shutdown. Jordy could have got a job helping one bloke clean his kayaks, given his training at Paestan Canoe Hire, Lower Glenelg National Park. [How’s that for a plug Ross and Marg?!] After a very pleasant day out, we’d cycled 52kms of the 68km round trip trail – easy as!
Packed all the bikes back into the trusty Kanga, gave Jordy a drive in the carpark so he could say he’s driven a left-hand drive vehicle, and headed back to our ‘warmshowers’ abode in central Oviedo. Dodging downpours now, we checked out phone shops for a ‘sim and plan’, and found a restaurant to watch Real Madrid play Athletico Madrid in the Champions League. Nice regional food and a good soccer result…for Jordy.
Los Picos de Europa – Oviedo to Las Arenas driving, 5km walk, Thursday 23 April
Left Oviedo early…well, tried to leave Oviedo early…but a premature right-turn using the GPS resulted in us spending an unnecessary 15 min in heavy city traffic. [Let’s just say the driver wasn’t happy, but no-one is to blame!] Rocketed down the freeway to the seaside town of Ribadesella just as the tourist office opened at 10am. Sadly we would have to miss the ‘festival of the apple’ which started that night and went into the weekend, as we were headed to a large Parque Nacional, the Picos of Europe. In summertime traffic it would be a novice’s nightmare driving up, as the last 10km from Covadonga – with up to 15% grades – is narrow, winding and oft-times has no barrier-rail. But wow, on a clear, warm day the vista at the top was stunning. Two large perched lakes, surrounded by peaks, some still with snow, and a meandering walking circuit that if you turned off, you would definitely be in Mordor. We played ‘only stand on the rocks’ and ‘wannabe free climbers’ [going horizontally not vertically!], threw some snowballs, and enjoyed every step. Best part was the absence of a thousand signs eg stay on the track, don’t throw stones, keep off the grass, be careful, carry your rubbish, don’t tease the animals, blah blah blah blah. Just one multilingual catch-all at the start, and if you don’t want to die, follow the unobtrusive painted markings. There was a free-wheeling joy in the experience that doesn’t exist in an over-regulated, over-litigious society.
Ended up staying in a camping ground cabin at bottom of the valley Las Arenas, and luxuriated in cooking our own dinner, being loud, having separate rooms, spreading stuff everywhere, kicking the soccer ball, and playing cards. So we booked for two nights!
Able to visit Cain – Ruta del Cares -24km walk, Friday 24 April
A gorge walk, just out of Las Arenas in the Picos Mountains, called Ruta del Cares, runs 12km upstream from Poncebos to Cain – we were able to do the return journey within the suggested 6 hours. It is spectacular, and scary for those with a serving of vertigo. Initially the walk climbs sharply up the valley wall, then flattens out as it enters a final tight gorge of a couple of kilometres. No protective barriers, just the seemingly vertical drops to the raging river below. Whenever other walkers came along Jordy hugged the wall regardless of whatever passing protocols exist in Europe. Many mountain goats to be seen grazing; some shepherded, some not. A few eagles and swallows/martins flying about, and patches of daisy groundcover species in flower amongst the steep scree slopes. All backdropped by peaks of remnant snow – all very grand on a mild Spring day. Got lots of practice saying ‘Ola’ to other walkers, and one ‘Gidday’ to a couple of
Aussie women who were on a 4-wheel driving trek around Europe.
Our cabin was welcomed when we got back though – a well-deserved cup of tea with the feet up watching TV. Unfortunately the ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ story about the World War One Memorial Tree carvings in Dartmoor didn’t make it to Spanish TV.
Anzac Day – Las Arenas to Santilana del Mar driving, Saturday 25 April
Got all the facebook messages about Oma starring at Anzac Day; Essendon not so much. [And well done to young Kate Mani who I dobbed in for the address at the Dartmoor service – heard it went really well Kate!]
Drove to coastal Santilana del Mar with occasional views of the snow-capped Picos behind us – but certainly other tourists had been here before us! Santilana has a primly-restored medieval central area filled with door-to-door artisanal shops, curios and restaurants. Its popularity and wealth is aided by being adjacent to the famous Altimira Cave of prehistoric paintings. We visited a cultural history museum and a museum of works of a local famous sculptor. Two local delicacies begged to be tried: anchovies, and meringue ‘snotblocks’. No takers for the first [because the other two didn’t want to put up with the smell of me afterwards!], and no likers of the second [a big-mac sized chunk of meringue between layers of puff pastry – impossibly sweet and impossible to eat neatly!]
Picnicked at nearby Suances Playa [beach] which Jordy declared to be the ‘Best beach cricket beach in the World’. A very flat, expansive area of hard fine sand – just choosing the time of year to play might be an issue, because the number of hotels, holiday houses and apartments indicated beach patrons would be densely packed in summer.
Drove to El Castillo Cave, rather than Altimira, because the former has the oldest rock paintings and you can see them in situ, not as reproductions. Though guided in Spanish, we still managed to easily pick out the depictions of black and/or red bison, goats and ‘negative’ hands, which had been strategically located on the rock wall surfaces to give ‘relief’ to the paintings. Only the Neolithic sharman would paint, lighting the area with an animal thigh bone with the marrow alight inside which was smokeless evidently… Not sure of the rock type but there were stalactite and stalagmite formations that indicated some sort of carbonate deposit?
All very interesting and somehow sobering as the significance of our minute blip in the continuum is contemplated. [Just remind me again…is the universe still expanding?]
Back to Suances, where the bravest soul went for a toe-tingling evening swim [guess!], after having booked our apartment accommodation at the camping ground at Santilana. Sadly the tent was left alone in the car…again…we’ve carried it for a month now without use – it must feel quite unloved. Jordy cooked – tortillas with a healthy dose of vegetables to fill them. Some life in Spain only starts at 10.30pm, but camp ground life definitely stops then, as the café and internet access closed early at 10.15pm.