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Los Picos de Europa.

September 11th, 2008 · No Comments

Mary: Christened the Peaks of Europe by returning sailors for whom this was often the first sight of their homeland. We arrived by hire car! Cangas de Onis tourist office first stop, where we found information about walks. Rather than the usual walking from sea level which is what normally happens when you arrive by boat we took the bus up to Covadonga. It’s a long windy narrow road, where the front of the bus hangs over the edge on the corners. Better to look at the views than worry about the road. 02_road_to_Buferrera.jpg

We soon leave the other passengers behind as we follow the yellow and white stripe marks that are painted on the rocks. What an amazing place, it is totally breath taking, round every corner there is something else of interest to look at. Some places the winding gorges cut through craggy rocks then into green valleys. The cows and goats roam free. 03_Mountain_huts.jpg We see a BIG dog come towards us, we wait, he comes closer and finally, wags his tail he wants to chat, but he soon sniffs out my lunch so we move on. He was friendly but they are there to work and look after the animals, so you are never too sure. Some of the cows and goats have bells round their neck and they clang clang as they move around.

The walk we have chosen takes us from the Lago La Ercinal 1108m.up to Refugio de Ario which is at 1634m. 12_Vega_de_Ario.jpg The refugio is somewhere that you could stay, it is a bit like our bothies, I think they all provide basic food, cooked by the warden /guard, and you have space on a mattress, some are more deluxe than others. When we arrived there was the warden and two friends playing cards, and three dogs. We were followed by three other walkers who were staying the night, coffee and a chat with the other walkers and we discovered that they were on a nine day route staying in the refuges and covering 60 miles total, not a lot per day but up and down the picos I would think be more than enough. We were tight on time as we had to get back down the hill to catch the last bus back to the hire car. We left in mist and rain, keeping an eye on the markers, making sure we were on the right path and watching our feet on the now very slippy and muddy ground. We made reasonable time and found the bus waiting for us, we were the only ones on the bus down. All day we had only seen the long distance walkers, once we had cleared the area around the bus stop.

Showers, local fare and a hotel for the night in Cangas de Onis, Refreshed we drive to Soto de Sajambre in the morning, this time for a guided walk, provided free by the park rangers. We are the only two who turn up for the walk so we have the guide to ourselves. Maria de Mar is full of information, pointing out birds, explaining the use of the different trees, telling stories from the past, explaining the use of the old paths, giving us the local names of some of the plants. When the flowers of the despatcha pastores appear in the autumn it is time to take the cattle back to the Madrid area for their winter pasture. Despatcha pastores looks like our autumn crocus but is very close to the ground. 05_despatcha_pastores.jpg All this while walking up hill through woods over open communal areas and watching the mist rise and fall around the mountains. 15_Glimpse_of_hill1.jpg Mar tells us the sad story of how the Celts in this area eat poisonous leaves and died rather than being captured by the romans. We stop for our lunch at a refuge, then finish our round trip by going down into the village. A local man, who left the village, went to Mexico and made his fortune, built the school in 1907 and the communal cloth washing area. The school is by far and away the best in the area, with everything the teachers could wish for. The little village is peaceful now but not always so, Maria pointed out the bullet scars on
one house from the Spanish Civil War19_Civil_war_bullet_holes.jpg. The village had been on the front line.

Wanting an answer to this though, do all guides carry umbrellas? 14_Guide_with_umbrella.jpgIs there an association of guides that requires them to carry umbrellas? She also has a fabulous hazel walking stick. The bottom has been strengthened by putting a series of cut marks in the growing hazel sapling and then returning two years later to cut!

If you like walking then this must be a place to visit, long or short walks umbrellas or not, the Picos de Europa is a great place to be.

Tags: Atlantic Leg