Trip Start May 06, 2010
Trip End May 25, 2010

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Villa de Cabrales

Flag of Spain  , Asturias,
Sunday, May 23, 2010

ARENAS DE CABRALES MAY 23RD Arrived here yesterday after about an hour’s drive from Ribadesella on the coast. Arenas is a small village in the centre-north of the Picos de Europa, a short range of almost alpine mountains, only about 20km from the Atlantic coast. Arenas is beautifully situated, surrounded by mountains, with a small river, and is a busy base for hikers wanting to stretch their legs on the many trails into the Picos. Consequently, despite its small size, Arenas has a decent selection of small hotels, pensions and restaurants to keep the intrepid walkers fed, watered and bedded. I deposited myself at the Villa de Arenas (after having inspected four others) where, after inspecting four different rooms (!), I got a lovely room with big windows, a small balcony with mountain views, tiled floors, spotless bathroom (with window!), for 30 Euros - about US$38. After a quick lunch, I headed south about 6km to Poncebos which is the base for a 1.5 hour steep hike (400 metre ascent) to the miniscule village of Bulnes, population about 20. Until 2001, that path was the only access to the village; then the government decided to build a funicular in a tunnel through the mountain, ostensibly to give the villagers easier access to their homes. In reality, it provided access for hordes of day-trippers who spend enough money on drinks and souvenirs, that the villagers no longer need to bother about tending sheep or cattle on the high pastures above the village. Heidi would turn in her grave. Fortunately I got there about the time that the last funicular headed down, so the crowds had left, and I could enjoy the peace and quiet of the village, almost as it used to be.

Today I hiked the Garganta del Cares: a hike of about 12km each way through a spectacular gorge above the river Cares, with soaring peaks on either side. The path was originally made between 1915 and 1921, in order to build and service an aqueduct that was built mostly in tunnels through the mountain, in order to bring water from higher up the river, to a hydro-electric station near Poncebos, an amazing feat of engineering. Apart from an initial climb of about 200m near the beginning, the path is mostly level, but is narrow and clings precariously to the side of the mountain, with no barriers between you and a drop of two or three hundred metres to the river rushing in the valley below. The path ends at another tiny village called Cain, surrounded by soaring peaks, but connected by narrow roads to the outside world, and fotunately blessed with three or four restaurants, where I fortified myself for the return journey with water, a ham & cheese sandwich, and two glasses of beer. I surreptitiously removed my boots and socks under the table, and hung my socks on the arm of the chair next to me; an hour later they were dry and ready for action again. Unfortunately, being a popular hike, and it being a Sunday with perfect sunny, dry, mid-20s weather, I was by no means the only hiker on the trail. But despite that, it has to rank as one of the best hikes I have done.

Many restaurants (outside Madrid) have set menus including starter, main course, dessert, bread and wine or water for 10 to 15 Euros (US$ 13 to 19) - pretty good value. Last night I ate a la carte and ordered a bottle of house wine which was 4.50 Euros - dirt cheap, I’d say (And it was quite drinkable). Going for goat for dinner tonight.

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lmcfarland on

Absolutely gorgeous scenery. This is a region of España I never knew existed.

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