Monday, 23 April 2018

Quiet day in Cabarceno


Monday 23 April 2018 - Day 50

We decided to have a quiet day after the excitement of yesterday.  It’s a bit drizzly and misty. We needed some food and diesel so I plugged in the co-ordinates for a Carrefour hypermarket nearby, but they had a height barrier on the entrance, so Carrefour lost out to Mercadona. Shopping done, we drove just half an hour to our current stop in Cabarceno.  We’re parked up with a few vans, overlooking a small lake.  I think this aire is a first or last stop for those using the Santander ferry, which is only about 20 minutes away - there’s lots of UK vans here.  The aire’s on the edge of the Cabarceno Nature Park and by walking down the track at the end of the aire, we had a great view of the elephants in their large enclosure.  If you follow the track around, you'll get a unobstructed view, as the first part has a large wire fence. It’s quiet here and we’ve enjoyed listening to the birdsong.  Today’s been a chilling out day - reading, snoozing, blogging and planning where to head to next.  I suspect we may only have a couple of days left in Spain before we cross over back into France.  I had an email from the owners of the French water mill we’ll be house sitting in May, providing directions.  It’ll be a welcome break from the van for a week.  






I've got to drive up there!?

Sunday 22  April 2018 - Day 49

A bit of an unusual day, with six hours of mountain road driving. We left Entragu, stopping off briefly at the next village to empty the loo.  Our plan was to drive to a lovely looking aire in the mountain village of Posada de Valdeon, deep in the Picos de Europa national park.  The road soon started to rise, but it was a wide, smooth road….until we came to the landslide.  It looked like half the mountain had come down on the road and into the river, very scary indeed if you’d been near it.  There was a restaurant just either side of the slip; they were very lucky.  A security guard pulled us over and indicated we had to wait to take a diversion road that had been built across and alongside the river.  I was in two minds whether to turn around, but he didn’t seem phased by the size of our van and after about 10 minutes, when traffic coming the other way had passed through, we were waved on.  The diversion dropped steeply to cross a makeshift bridge over the river, then we followed a rough track for about 200 metres before again crossing the river.  The track then turned into a very steep, hard-left hairpin bend and I knew I wouldn’t make it in one go - the turning circle on the van isn’t great.  So I had to stop, reverse slightly (there were no barriers between this makeshift road and the ravine) and hill-start to get around.  The van’s rear heavy and front-wheel drive so the traction wasn’t great, but eventually we gripped and managed to make it out!  On the reverse we heard a bang and thought we’d hit something, so once at the top, we found a pull-over to check - luckily no damage was seen; I think I may have just flicked up a small rock.

After this the roads became much narrower and started to climb steeply up the mountainside, with lots of hairpins.  We were soon into and above the snow line, with large drifts along the road.  I was starting to get a little concerned as we continued to climb.  In many places the barriers were small or non-existent, with nothing between the edge of the road and an almost vertical drop many hundreds of metres down to the torrential river.  I’m not great with heights, so the combination of narrow roads and no barriers was not good for my blood pressure!  Luckily the traffic was light so I was able to drive further into the middle of the road for much of the drive.  We eventually topped out at Puerto de Tarna, 1490 metres above sea level.  We stopped for a breather - and for me to attempt to lower my heart rate!  The journey down the other side was just as ‘interesting’, with a large number of hairpins, but at least it was downhill which was easier.  We finally made it to the aire at Posada de Valdeon and parked up.  I plugged in electric and we enjoyed a welcome brew.  It’s in a lovely spot, surrounded by rocky mountain peaks and high pasture.  They had the usual rules about not putting out chairs, which was a real shame, considering each pitch was separated by wooden fences.  We had a walk around the village with the intention of eating out but, for some reason, we didn’t have a nice feeling about the place.  It’s a lovely, well-kept village but it just didn’t feel welcoming.  You know that bit in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film, where they walk into the courtyard of the Baron’s castle - nobody’s to be seen but they know they’re being watched, with shutters and doors closing.  If felt like that!  So, despite the long journey and great views, we both decided to move on.  

The journey out was similar in parts to the one in, but the last 30km were along a narrow road at the bottom of the ravine, with rocks overhanging the road in some areas.  Despite the winding narrow roads and lack of forward visibility, many cars still overtook us on blind bends, causing us and the traffic on the opposite side to brake sharply.  If only I’d been able to fit those missile launchers to Nido’s roof!  Our stop for the night was at a parking area just outside the town of Santillana del Mer.  We parked up, changed and walked down the hill into the village.  Declared a national monument in 1899, Santillana has preserved its lovely ancient stone buildings and cobbled streets so well, it looks artificial.  It has embraced the tourist trade, so is overflowing with grockle shops selling tourist tat and local produce.  We popped into one restaurant intending to eat and ordered a bottle of the local cider, which is placed in a contraption you have to pump, which then pours the cider from height  through a thin spout into the glass in order to add oxygen - it’s a messy job!  The menu wasn’t great though, so we drank up and moved on.  We found another place across the way and ate in there instead.  On the way back to the van it started to rain, so we dropped into bed, tired but no longer hungry.  What a day!

Now *that's* a landslide!

Diversion across a bridge with no sides - and a hairpin I can't make in one go





Top of the world






Posada de Valdeon aire - beautiful spot but something strange about the village


The drive out - cars were about to overtake at speed!




Saturday, 21 April 2018

Mountain walk

Saturday 21 April 2018 - Day 48

We’re still at Entragu.  It filled up with quite a few smaller campervans last night, many of whom were up this morning ready to go cycling, climbing or walking.  The mountain bike hire place next to us was doing a busy trade too.  Despite the increase in numbers and the Spanish habit of staying up late (unlike us, tucked up in bed with a good book by 2130!) it was very quiet last night.  When I walked down to the panaderia this morning though, there were few people about.  The door was closed but the lady baker was about to open and I was the first customer.  The bread was a bit heavy (maybe yesterdays?) but the empanada was excellent. She showed me a choice of chorizo, tuna and tomato and dulce (sweet) - I bought the chorizo.  You can see the size of it from the photo below, with my phone alongside it!  We took half on our walk and will enjoy the remainder for breakfast tomorrow.  Switching on my phone, I had a text and email for a Mon SAR (Anglesey Search & Rescue) team call out ‘heads-up’, with the possibility of helping Coastguard Search and Rescue to find a missing person.  I responded as unavailable and had a message around midday that they’d been stood down.  I’m looking forward to getting back and continuing my training to become a qualified Search Technician for this excellent voluntary organisation.

There was high cloud today so the sunshine was hazy, but it was still warm.  This was ideal as we had a walk planned.  There are some well-marked trails and today we were following one up to Cueva Huerta, which would take us up the mountain to not far off the fast-receding snow line.  We packed half the empanada, two oranges and a couple of water bottles.  I also carried a small first aid kit, an orange survival bag (old habits die hard) and a walking pole to wave at any grumpy dogs.  The first part of the walk took us to the village of San Martin, bigger than Entragu and buzzier - plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants.  We carried on and were soon walking along a dedicated path, about the size of a single track road, passing through old forest and pastures with cattle, sheep and goats, lulled by the lovely sound of cow bells.  On the way up, Cathy was ‘plopped’ on by a bird - when I stopped laughing I kindly wiped it off!  We walked through the village of Las Vegas (much quieter and smaller than its American cousin!) and reached the beautiful hamlet of Riellu.  We walked past very old wooden houses with the customary covered balcony, some of it open to sit out in summer, some enclosed with long narrow windows for the cold, snowy winters.  A few old chaps were out gardening in wooden clogs and it really did feel like we’d stepped back in time.  After this the path started to climb.  The last 2km were quite tough, up a steep, narrow path, occasionally blocked by fallen trees.  But we carried on and eventually topped out on a wider, more level path, with the snow line above us and some lovely old shepherd’s huts in the pasture.  The path dropped a little and we passed through a tunnel in the mountain to reach some picnic tables at Cuervo Huerta.  There are a large number of accessible caves in this area and tickets were available, but we were content to sit at one of the tables and eat our welcome empanada and orange lunch.  We decided to follow the winding road back down to avoid the steep descent and rejoined the path back in Riellu.  It was then just a matter of retracing our route back through San Martin (where I jealously watched people enjoying a beer sat outside the bars!) to Entragu and the van.  We walked just under 18km, about 13 miles, much of it steeply uphill, so we’re quite chuffed with that.

A cup of tea went down very quickly and I prepared and cooked some chicken on our gas BBQ, while Cathy boiled some new potatoes and made a salad.  The silence as we ate was testament to our hunger and, after washing up, the shower was very welcome.  We sat outside in the warm until 1900, when we had a phone call from the owners of a house sit we’d applied for in France.  We had a quick chat with her, so we now have a house sit to look forward to next month - about a week in a converted water mill near Limousin, looking after 2 ponies, 2 cats, 2 chickens, a dog called Freddie and a cockerel called Dave!  It’s in an area surrounded by lakes so some wild swimming may be on the cards, plus we’ll help out by doing some gardening for them.  We hope their large swimming pool will be available too!  It’ll give us a welcome break from the van and then allow us about a week to slowly make our way back up to Calais at the end of May.

It’s still quite busy here on the car park, with lots of small campervans, mainly young families with small children.  It’s lovely to see them all go off cycling or hill walking, with even the little ones wearing their own rucksacks - start ‘em young!  We’re just about re-hydrated after a few cups of tea and I suspect we’ll sleep well tonight after the walk.  We’re moving on tomorrow, probably staying inland to another mountain area deep in the Picos de Europa region.  The weather’s looking a bit changeable - showers and possible thunderstorms - but it’s the same at the coast, so we’ll go with our plan.

They like their empanadas large around here!



A doer-upper.  Beautiful wooden balconies


Viva.....!!

"Snigger...!!!"

Outside dhoby shack


Old houses in Riellu

Horreo - traditional grain stores, off the ground to keep vermin at bay


The last 2km were steep

Topping out near the snow line - lovely old shepherd's hut


Lunch with a view

Riellu from the road

Eaten in silence - we were hungry!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Bear country

Friday 20 April 2018 - Day 47

Yay - it’s the weekend!  Nido’s parked up in a beautiful free aire in Barrio Entrago, surrounded by lush grassy fields, trees and high mountain ridges; the tallest of which in the distance are still capped with snow.  There’s a fast flowing, white-water river by us.

We enjoyed our breakfast with a sea view this morning and a lovely drive to this place.  The green fields, trees, small villages and winding roads reminded us of a cross between mid-Wales and the German Black Forest.  I know I’ve said it before, but this part of Spain is really beautiful and unspoilt and certainly an area we’ll return to.  We’d planned a couple of days inland in the mountains, so this stop was perfect.  The village of Entrago is quite small - houses with land growing their own vegetables, a few small bars and restaurants and a panaderia.  The aire is actually a large car park and overlooked by the Guardia Civil station; they regularly drive around so I don’t think we’ll have any problems here.  Although the service point (to empty the loo) is permanently closed, there’s another service point in a village called San Martin just 1.8km up the road.  But there is fresh water, toilets, showers and a sink to wash clothes/pots.  This is a very popular walking, cycling and climbing area and I think the grass area behind where we parked (with wooden picnic benches where we ate dinner) is probably used for camping in the summer.

Entrago is within the 300 sq-km protected area of the Cordillera Cantabrica, known as Parque National de Somiedo.  Comprising five valleys descending from the 2000m heights of the snow-covered mountains we can see in the distance, it’s characterised by its lush woodland and high pastures dotted with thatched shepherd’s shelters - we can hear cowbells on the hillsides above us.  It’s also the major bastion of Spain’s small remaining brown bear population.  Each valley has lots of marked cycling and walking trails.  In one corner of the aire is the Entrago end of the Senda del Oso (Path of the Bear).  It’s a 20km walking trail along the course of a former mine railway, through fields, riverbank woodlands, villages and canyons, finishing in the village of Tunon.  We decided to walk some of this today.  We had high mountains on both sides, plus the raging, white-water river running some distance below us.  It was a beautiful walk, with loads of wild flora and fauna; Cathy saw her first ever bee fly!  She also found some wild marjoram which went into our dinner. The walk passed rock faces with climbing pitons embedded high above our heads and we did see a couple of guys climbing.  We also passed through a few long tunnels, water dripping on to us - very cooling after the hot sunshine.  We turned around about 1.5 hours in and reversed our route back to the van; a really enjoyable easy walk.  

Dinner was rabbit paella, finished off with some of the prawns we bought yesterday, eaten outside at the wooden table and benches just behind the van.  The rest of the evening we sat watching the mountains (no bears seen but lots of birdlife) change colour as the sun set and listening to the fast-running river.  Tomorrow’s promising to be an even hotter day, so we plan to walk in the morning before it gets too hot, this time climbing up towards one of the ridges.  Well, that’s the plan.

Beautiful place to stay


 

Any bears in there?
 


CLIMBING!



That could ruin your day if you timed it wrong!




Rabbit and prawn paella

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Wild camping in Cadavedo

Thursday 19 April 2018 - Day 46

Nido’s wild camping at a car park above the beach at Playa de Cadavedo.  It’s a lovely, quiet spot, down a narrow winding lane, surrounded by cliffs.  There’s plenty of room to park, with picnic benches, BBQ pits and even a fresh water tap.  The beach is mainly large pebbles, but sandy when the tide’s out.  There’s only us and one small camper van here; the waves are loud as they roll the large pebbles below us.  The sun’s set behind us and we’re enjoying the view out to the sea and jagged rocks along the coastline.

It was warm and sunny when we woke this morning and the bread man unexpectedly turned up - bonus.  We swapped a few messages with Nicola and Chris as they took Ivel the Cat to the cargo area and they prepared for their flight to Washington DC; they should be there by now.  We’re both proud and happy for them and pleased they’re so independent, but we felt a little sad today that we won’t see them for quite a while. Still, Skype and WhatsApp will keep us in touch.  We said our goodbyes to Graham and Lynne; it’s always possible we’ll bump into them again as we all slowly head north.  I’d plugged in some co-ords for a stopover in Cudillera, but we needed some groceries, so stopped at a large Mercadona supermarket on the way.  It’s always interesting to see what’s being sold in foreign supermarkets and there’s some really nice produce and very cheap too.  Amongst the usual stuff, we bought some cooked large prawns (which we enjoyed for lunch) and some rabbit (imagine that in Morrisons!) for a paella tomorrow.  With a late lunch we haven’t bothered with dinner - we really need to eat a bit less and exercise a bit more at the moment!  The recent poor weather hasn’t helped, but now it’s sunny we’re determined to get out and walk a lot more.  We’re also taking a break from alcohol - it’s very cheap here and easy to have a drink every evening, not a good idea.  So we’re currently enjoying ‘fake news’ G&Ts - tonic water with lemon peel and crushed juniper berries - not too bad!

We spent some of the afternoon down on the beach, intending to have a swim, but again the rough waves put us off. I have a healthy respect for the power of the sea and there’s no RNLI in Spain to rescue those that take risks.  The rest of the day was spent reading in the sunshine.  Cathy went for a walk later on, passed the small mill and up a track to a lovely wooden cottage with garden, overlooking the beach.  Tomorrow we’ll continue to head East, skipping along the coast while the weather’s good.  Or we may pop inland to do some serious walking, particularly as we’re very close to the Picos de Europa mountain range.  Let’s see how we feel in the morning!  

Wild camping at Playa de Cadavedo






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