Les Trois Escargots

A growing family of snails.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Somiedo Park

After a couple of days' heavy rain in Galicia, we were glad to get into sunny Asturias. With the van full of bikes, surfboards and accumulated junk, it wasn't very pleasant living in the damp van. Someone had mentioned a huge hunting reserve (yes, such things still exist in Spain) called Somiedo, so we turned inland. After a couple of hours, a workman stopped us saying that the road was closed until 5pm. We looked to the left and saw a swimming pool. That was our enforced stop sorted.

We reached the town of Pola de Somiedo in the early evening and, after a week without showering, Albane insisted on stopping at the campsite. I spluttered a bit at the extravagence, but after a 10 minute hot shower, I wasn't quite so vocal. We checked out an exhibition on the Brown Bear project in Northern Spain and picked up a map and trail information from tourist information before dinner.

The next morning was as clear as we could have hoped and the heavy dew evaporated as soon as the sun warmed the ground. We drove up a winding road through a stunning landscape of hay fields, peaks, rocky ridges and woodland. It was somehow softer than the landscape in Courel. A Dutch van coming the other way smashed my wing mirror and didn't stop, but we picked it up off the road and fixed it back in place. There was a kaleidoscopic view. Having parked, we walked up the valley on a dusty far track, gaining height steadily, before reaching a lake at the base of an amphitheatre of cliffs. We settled in the shade of a bush and the afternoon passed quickly in the warmth and silence of the mountains.

On the way down, we passed a sign beside a field reading "If it appears to you that you can cross this field in 8 minutes, be warned that my bull, Brinco, can do it in 4". There was no bull in sight, but we weren't going to risk it!

After a second night at the campsite, we set off early into a nearby valley and started climbing a gorge before the sun got too high. Laid with cobbles, it was an old access to the high pasture, though it would have taken a fair amount of effort to pull a cart up or to get a laden cart down. We took it slowly and reached a dirt track, contouring up the main valley, after about 45 minutes. In the alpine pastures, we saw old stone buildings called branhas where the hay was laid to dry and animals were housed during the cold winter months. The roofs, thatched with brrom, looked like the droopy hats of smurfs.

We wandered through clusters of branhas and cut hay fields before settling in the shade of an oak for a long lunch. Albane had a little siesta while I pondered the tough lives that people must have led in the region before roads, electricity or running water. It was a lovely landscape in the blue sky of early summer, but I imagined that the wet autu,n and cold winters would be more challenging.

From Somiedo, we headed back to the coast and, despite the surf being clean and the sun shining, it was just too small to tempt me in and my decision was vindicated as we watched surfers sit for an hour in the shallows waiting for 'the wave' that never came. A detour for wine in southern France meant that we arrived back in Brittany with nearly 100 litres of wine. All for personal consumption........


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