Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Asturias June 2013

Campervan Trip, June 2013

Overnight ferry from Plymouth to Santander.  Expensive but a joy, with good food and great night's sleep and arriving in Spain by lunchtime.  A few hours drive took us to our first campsite at Avin on the road to Cangas de Onis, in the Picos de Europa National Park, in Asturias.  The northern coast is known as the "Green Spain", and is usually wet.  The limestone mountains of the Picos, covered with snow rise above green hills and valleys, covered with the sound of tinkling cow bells.  This area is famous for its Cabrales cheese, made from cow's, goat's and ewe's milk, and stored in cold, dark caves, and fabada, a stew made from large white beans in a sauce, with black pudding, belly pork and sausage.  Also famous for sidra, cider, aerated by pouring from a height. Just a gentle orientation cycle of 20 odd miles to get a fix on the state of the roads and consideration of Spanish local traffic.  No need to worry about either.  Ian cycled to the head of the valley at Poncebos, to the start of the walks up the mountain peak of the Naranjo de Bulnes.  There is a funicular to take you part of the way up.  The main walking route across the Picos takes you into the Cares valley. No roads, just walking route.  The Picos are pretty inaccessible, unlike the Alps, unless you are on foot.  The area seems quite affluent, with houses and granjas recently restored.  Customary to paint walls a vivid blue, red or green.  Very attractive.
The following morning, we set off to Los Lagos de Covadonga, a climb featured regularly in the Vuelta de Espana.  At 1135m over 14.2km, the average gradient is described in "Europe's Greatest Cycle Climbs" as 6.8%, with a max of 15%, but there are 2km of 11% and above, which made this feel tough.  Relieved it wasn't just me, Ian said that was tougher than he expected, with not many places to grab a drink for fear of not being able to get going again on the ascent!
The views up to the Picos are wonderful.  Looking across the Lago de Enol and then further on to the Lago de Ercina up to the snow covered mountains makes the ascent worthwhile.  During the descent, time to pause, stretch a sore back and braking hands and gaze at the magnificent Santuario de Covadonga, a basilica perched high on a hill above the road.
Note to self:  a menu del Dia of fabada and fried hake/merluza, is not a good idea half way through a testing cycle.  Fabada, in typical bean fashion gives you shocking wind and makes you feel uncomfortably full for the rest of the day!  Stick to light, sweet snack!

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