Spanish Ramblings

In ‘92 and ‘93 Chris and I spent some time in Spain. On the first occasion we spent a few days in Matienzo before moving on to the Picos de Europa.  We found our way to Fuente De and camped the night at a camp site that was sparsely occupied when we checked in but bursting at the seams in the evening. The next day we went up into the mountains assisted for the first couple of thousand feet by the use of a
telepherique which lifted us up through a hanging cloud layer. From the station we followed a track further up coming to an area of abandoned mines. We followed tracks until we passed a mine entrance below the summit of Llambrion. The track deteriorated into an unstable scramble on scree like rock, this over a substantial drop. We retraced our steps through this area of naked rock scenery. There was a spectacular view as we swung back down towards the valley.

The next morning we drove on towards a gorge, Gargantua Del Cares, we stopped and camped in a field just before Cain, already amongst the towering mountains. On to Cain where we took to our feet intending to walk to a village shown as Püente Poncebos some 8K away. There was a broad road like track and another one leading down to the river. We took the river track and all went well foe a couple of K. Then the track just stopped, there was just the river and high above us to the right was the main track. This was not without its problems, a couple of areas of loose soil and rock, but after a while we found a way up. Near the top we came across a large cave entrance partly walled up. On investigation it proved to have no depth and was used as a sheep or goat refuge.

Having gained the track we were met by an incredulous couple of Spaniards who found it hard to believe that we had climbed up from the river. On towards Poncebus we discovered we had no water, I obtained some from a culvert, a grievous and stupid thing to do. On reaching Poncebus we found a few houses, a cafe, a welcome drink of tea and retraced our steps. A pleasant days walk between the steep mountain walls of the gorge.  We camped again on the same site, next morning the trouble started. I was quite ill. Despite this we moved on to towards Pamploma intending to stay there for a day or so and then move onto some French caving areas. It was not to be. Towards the evening I recovered but during the night Chris became ill. The next day she became worse and I had to take her to hospital, an undertaking not without its problems given my total Spanish vocabulary of “por favor” and a slip of paper with the hospitals name on it. Eventually a motorcyclist guided us to our destination. Chris now spent an interesting five days on a drip.

The weather became even hotter during those few days and as soon as Chris was fit we rushed back to England and the blessed dull skies and lower temperatures.
Last year we returned to the Picos. First we visited a lake, Largo de Ia Ercina, a large pond at 1106 metres. Accompanied by Chris’s son and daughter we headed for a night in the mountains. A refuge was shown on the map, the Pidal Vega de Arlo but we intended camping. After a few hours of pleasant walking we came across the refuge which was being renovated.

It was deserted but open, we found solar powered lighting and pumped water supply, we decided to stay in the hut. Brew time, great, no-one had brought any matches, we tried the boy scouts trick with sticks - no good. Recriminations reigned. We came across a portable petrol generator, inspiration struck! Using the pull cord, the spark plug lead and a camping stove we had a flame. Soon the fire was burning in the grate and the meal was doing its thing on the camping stoves. (There must be a moral about giving up smoking here)

The next morning we reached the summit ridges of Jultaya at 1940 metres. We found that we were looking down into our old friend the Gargantua del Cares. Whilst on the tops we saw chamois on the tops and watched, alerted by the sounds of rushing rocks as they rushed down the steep scree towards the gorge. As we retraced our way we stopped to look at three shaft entrances. In one there was a plaque in memory of an English caver who had died in the cave. A cave of considerable depth unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the cave or the caver.
We descended to the lake and camped after being introduced to the Spanish way of dealing with their cider. A procedure involving maximum distance between glass and bottle whilst pouring. The really expert locals holding the bottle high above their backs and the glass low on the side.

The next day we returned to the Gargantua and part way along went up a side valley to the village of Bulnes at about 1100 metres. A settlement of a dozen or so houses, three of which purported to be pubs, although the whole place seemed to be closed. Apart from animals and one aged woman who appeared, deserted but not uninhabited.
The Picos seem to be rather like the English Lakes in that although the distance from place to place is quite substantial the area could be traversed over the tops (the tops being rather higher). A great area for walking, I hope that we will be able to return. Does anybody know anything about the caves in the area?


Dick Wade

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