Walking through the Cordillera Cantabrica(GR 109 and Picos de Europa) and the Saja Besaya reserve(GR 71)– a long distance route
The journey along the GR 71 is best done with camping equipment as part of the enjoyment is staying at mountain refugios. It would not be too difficult to find places to stay as an alternative to taking camping equipment. For another account of the GR71 including ideas as to where to stay if you are not camping see this website https://stevebarhamramblingman.wordpress.com/category/walking-hiking-rambling/spain/picos-de-europa-spain/
For the GR 109 by contrast I have tried to find reasonably priced places to stay each night. These are noted against the account of each day. The cheapest places to stay in Spain are described as Albergue, or Hostal or Pension or, in the mountains, refugio.
I in fact travelled with a bivouac. Whilst camping is not allowed in the Spanish National Parks, in broad terms you are allowed to bivouac provided you don’t pitch your shelter until 7.00 in the evening and are away by 7.00ish in the morning. Tents of any sort, no matter how small are not allowed. Obviously, you will find the walk easier if you are not carrying all this stuff which is why I felt it important to ferret out a way of doing it without.
Northern Spain(particularly the North face of the Cordillera Cantabrica) is famous for often being misty and wet. On the positive side, this is why it is so green. The Spanish often get very depressed by this and will say that the weather is terrible when in fact it’s just a bit misty and cool and an ideal day, in my opinion, for getting up their steep sided mountains. The Spanish government website for the weather in Asturias is http://www.aemet.es/es/eltiempo/prediccion/comunidades?k=ast&w=&o=pais
And in Cantabria
I also like the El Mundo site which will give you a prediction for a particular town.
These trips require a lot of maps. I ordered them all from Spain. Although there is a massive charge for postage the maps themselves are much cheaper when bought locally and, if you buy a lot, this more than offsets the postal charge. You can order them direct from the National Geographic Institute https://www.cnig.es/cambiarIdioma.do?lang=en . In the search box enter the place name for the map you require, or the number using Arabic numbers(i.e. the numbers we normally use) rather than the Roman numbers I have used in the second half of the reference. When completing your purchase, if you are asked for a Personal Identification Number just put in your National Insurance Number. Or you can buy it from a good Spanish map shop e.g. Casa del Libro. This is the contact page. http://www.casadellibro.com/atencion-al-cliente/consulta-dudas If using this option, I suggest to write to them in English listing the maps and books you want. The Cervantes bookshop in Oviedo is a wonderful place and stocks all the maps (1:50,00 and 1:25,000) for Asturias(but not for other provinces, though I am sure you could order these through them), The Adrados maps for the Picos de Europa and so much more besides. It’s contact details are-
Doctor Casal 9, bajo 33001 Oviedo tf. 985 219 255 www.cervantes.com email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want an overview of the terrain you might find another Adrados map useful. Cordillera Cantabrica Asturias Y provincias Limitrofes. 1:200,000 or the map for Asturias in the series “Mapas provincials de España” published by the Instituto Geográfico Nacional – also 1:200,000
I have taken these from all over the net and cannot vouch for their quality except where I state in the text that I used the GPS file attached to the daily account. There is a very large file for the entire GR 109 on the Spanish Government website
But this would have been impossibly large for my GPS system to handle.
I have given details of this when I found buses or trains. Note that at ALSA stations they will not give you details of other local bus routes even if they pull into the ALSA garage. You could be left with the impression that there are no other local buses. There almost always are such services and you should make enquires with local people and or Tourist Information.
Also when searching on the ALSA site, unless you put in the official start and finish stations, you will not get any details of the bus you are looking for. So, even if the ALSA bus does in fact stop at the village you are starting from, if it isn’t the head stop, the website will tell you there is no bus.
Taxis are reasonably cheap.
Most people you meet will not be able to speak English. A few will speak French as well as Spanish. I’m sure you could manage without but it would be good to pick up a bit of basic Spanish. The first 5 cds of the Michel Thomas Spanish Course provided all I needed when I started out on all of this. Since then I have progressed, partly as a result of the many lovely people I met who persisted in understanding my halting Spanish and who appeared to enjoy the experience!
Overview of the walks described
There is a lot here and it would take most people a few holidays to get through it. I initially set out to describe the GR109 which in itself is 27 days of walking. I had come across this whilst doing another walk in the Cordillera Cantabrica and set out along it only to discover that when I arrived at the end of the first walk I tried that there was nowhere to stay, no bar or restaurant and no shop or bus. The general opinion seemed to be that using the GR109 as a long distance path was not practical because there were so few places to stay. Yet it was beautifully waymarked and had signposts and regular information boards. Most important of all, I travels through magnificent countryside. I decided to do a bit of research and to return to the path the following year prepared to camp if I could find no other alternative, but hoping to collect the necessary information for others to do the trail with a little less uncertainty. I hope others reading this will add to the information where they can.
Having started to research the GR 109 my attention was caught by the GR 71 which makes a logical prelude to the longer path. I have added the details for this path also.
I got home and looked at what I had done this year and noticed how easy it would be to cut across the Picos de Europa from Potes through to Arenas de Cabrales thus adding several days in this magical region. The paths and the hostels I recommend are all ones I used very happily last year (2014). I did not, however, do the walk down to Puente de Poncebos or stay at the hostel there. None of these walks are particularly difficult.
How crowded are these tracks?
I noticed that almost the only people walking in the Picos de Europa were Spaniards (and there weren’t many of these). The rest of Europe is missing out! As to the other two paths, I met only one other rambler during 24 days of walking.
An alternative route to Santiago
Finally, the Camino Francez is packed out with people. Many walkers would like to find alternative routes to Santiago. This walk from just above Santander through to the junction with the Camino Primitivo at Berducedo is a fine alternative for part of the route.
I have not yet done the final week of walking from Barzana through to Berducedo(where it connects with the Camino Primitivo). That will have to wait `til next year. I’m pretty certain that a bivouac would be necessary on this section, but we’ll see.
Journey along the GR 71 Barcena Pie de Concha to Potes.
Maps required. These are all 1:25,000. I would advise against trying to use the Spanish 1:50,000 maps for walking. The latter are quite diagrammatic.
83-I Molledo, 82-II Los Tojos, 82-I Tudanca, 81-II Potes.
I didn’t find a single bank (or post office) along this route until I reached Potes. I cannot recall any grocery stores either. Possibly Barcena Pie de Concha has both but don’t count on it.
Monday 25th May.
Day 1. Barcena Pie de Concha – Barcena Mayor.
GPS file from http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=4261404 (not the file I downloaded. I hope this is better! Press descarger to download GPS file)
I arrived at Santander airport at 10.00 a.m. and walked into the nearest suburb Maliaῆo. (For this you head to the roundabout at the end of the road outside the airport and cross the bridge.) This proved an ideal place to get myself ready for the trip. It has an excellent compact shopping centre(compare and contrast Santander) and from there I was able to post a pack of maps to poste restante (Lista de Correos) Cangas de Onis. I use the Lista de Correos in order to minimize the amount of paper I am carrying. When I reach the post office I have sent stuff to I send back the maps for the section I have completed and pick up the parcel of maps for the next section.
I use a spirit stove and so bought meths at a hardware store (ferreteria). Meths is known as “alcohol desnaturalizado” (ethyl alcohol) but is also sold under the name Alcohol de Quemar which has pictures of camp fires on the label. I bought Alcohol de Quemar and this was very good, extremely easy to light and lasted well. I also picked up some groceries and a Spanish SIM. There was even an internet shop where I set up my Rebtel numbers (for contacting the UK cheaply)on the new SIM. The owner of the shop, a Colombian, was very keen to use his excellent English with me.
Maliaño is also on the FEVE line that drops you an hour or so later at the beginning of the GR 71 in Barcena de Pie de Concha. This is a nice little village with a couple of bars and places to stay. The cheapest places to stay in Spain are described as Albergue, or Hostal or Pension.
If you want to stay here, consider Pension Casa Ferrero, owner: Franco Martinez Visitacion TELÉFONO:942841017 address: Barrio La Plaza, S/N. (I did not visit this place)
I arrived at 4.00 and made my way to Tourist Information. The woman there told me I couldn’t bivouac on the mountain because there are so many wolves in the area, there are boar and deer around as well she added. If, however, I refused to be frightened then it would be best if I made my way to the flat area at the top of the mountain ( around Campo de Obios) as before then there are too many cattle around for it to be comfortable. (I think to myself, why aren’t the farmers worried about the wolves eating the calves if there are so many of these fierce predators around?)
The climb was up a beaten earth track and was long and often steep. The weather was getting worse and worse. Before all that though I passed through Puyajo and met some really nice farmers herding curly horned cows. They also agreed that camping would be possible at the top of the mountain. All the hours that I was climbing I was passed by only two cars both going in the opposite direction to myself. The second driver seemed to think I was completely mad to be heading up in the weather conditions. It was clear to me that the biggest danger to a camper were the cattle. When I popped out at the top, just under the power lines, I think at Mazorguero, I had left the last herd behind and found myself in the teeth of a wind and rain storm. The cows would undoubtedly have too much sense to follow me up there given the weather. I fought with the wind to erect my bivi. Once inside it felt very cosy but very noisy. I slept fitfully and was up with the grey dawn.
Tuesday 26th May
Day 2. To Barcena Mayor and on to Los Tojos
GPS files at http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=4261446 (Barcena Mayor to Saja)
http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1254458 (Barcena Mayor to Saja)
It was still very windy and everything was engulfed in thick mist. There was plainly no point in making the side trip up to the peak. As I descended the curtains of mist parted. There were wonderful hazy views of the valleys below which appeared and disappeared. Filigrees of mist were rising and swaying over the landscape below. I had decided to use one of the GPS tracks I had downloaded from the internet but shortly after I left the rough road, the shortcomings of following such a track became apparent. The lad who had created the file had wandered everywhere and had constantly doubled back and I followed his every deviation and short cut. Me and my shadowy guide got to a scary moment above Barcena Mayor where the landscape plunged away but then he retraced his footsteps and we snaked down the next section eventually reaching the path down to village. I did not like this place which seemed ruthlessly “curated”. It is a carefully groomed product for the tourist industry. It may be beautifully restored but it felt totally inauthentic. I bought expensive soup that tasted as if it had been reconstituted from a packet. I then pressed on to Los Tojos.
Note that just after K8 on the road you turn off and the map shows you following the second turning right off the track you have joined. I discovered that this was no longer usable and that you should in fact take the first track off to the right after crossing the river.
This was a lovely woodland walk and I went up pretty high once again. I was tempted to wash in the stream but still had hopes of finding accommodation in Los Tojos. Just before I entered the village I took note of an abandoned holiday home whose overgrown garden I could use as a bedroom of last resort. As I walked up the main street I asked a lady coming in the opposite direction about accommodation. She told me she ran one of the local hotels (around 40 Euros a night) but also an Albergue if I would prefer that. This cost 5 Euros.
Strictly, I think you are supposed to produce a YHA card but she didn’t ask me about this. I have to admit that with my big pack I had a little difficulty in keeping pace with her up the gentle incline of the High Street. The albergue was a decent plain place with a warm smoky smell to the dark interior. It had a good hot shower and basic cooking facilities (i.e. an electric hob). There were no cooking pots, crockery or cutlery. I avoided using the pile of mattresses in the corner and a similar pile of blankets. There were a couple of restaurants in the centre. At 6.30 I was able to eat in the Meson La Bolera.
I received first a full bottle of red wine, then a benediction of beans and smoked meats – the famous soup Fabada de Asturias. This was followed by a fricassee of entrails and finally the smooth bland taste of curd cheese laced with honey. The whole cost me 12 Euros. My glass of casera (a private addiction) was on the house. The Meson had a dark shadowy interior. To my right was an old dresser full of bottles of wine and with hams hanging from a beam just in front. On the left a fire blazed surrounded by a few friendly locals. (Even in late May the evenings can be cold in the mountains). I slept like a dog for nearly 12 hours.
Wednesday 27th May
Day 3. Los Tojos- Refugio de Bucierca
GPS file http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1255018 (Saja – Tudanca)
It was a beautiful bright morning. As I walked out I passed a group of men standing in characteristic pose leaning in towards the conversation on the long thin staffs they carry.
Despite her assurances, the Señora at the Meson was not up serving breakfast when I tried the door at 8(I think that if I had named a specific time she would have been ready and waiting for me). I however, succeeded at 9.00. She told me that she had been involved in running the Meson for 26 years. She had missed out on her education and certainly there would have been no chance of attending University. Her German cousins speak so many languages but this was not an opportunity she had had “de paca” and she sighed.
I set out at 10.30. I was not hurrying along that day. The whole enormity of walking with a pack was coming back to me. It was, however, an easy walk up the road to Colsa. I thought I heard water running close by and looked around as I wanted to refill my bottle from spring water. In fact it was the sound of very distant cowbells. At the edge of Colsa I stopped by the village spring which had been roofed in as part of an old stone Lavabo. As I approached the shimmering green gold reflections from the water as it played over the ancient stonework gave the air a three dimensional quality. A perfect dandelion parachute greeted me at the door. From there it was a lovely woodland stroll downhill. Just as I entered the woods I passed a small chapel dreaming away amongst the leaves and then it was on to Saja. As with most villages in this area there is a good fountain here. In the case of Saja it is in the square in the second half of the settlement. There was no bar in the village itself but there is a nice looking Meson on the next bit of road you take and this if very close to Saja.
I followed the very quiet road for a couple of kilometres to just past km 13 and at this point the forest started. I passed an interpretation centre but was told for some reason that I could not understand, that it was currently closed. The forester I spoke to though told me that the Refugio (Refugio de Bucierca, marked on map) near the top of the mountain was open and that it would take me 3 or 4 hours to get there, all of which was totally correct. He said there was water up there and this was only partially correct. I don’t much like walking through woods because I find it boring. If you like woods, this was a lovely walk and given the heat of the day I was thankful for the shade. After about three hours I popped out into meadows on the top of the mountain and quickly found the refuge which is a few metres off the GR71 itself. A fellow walker told me to skip the refuge and go on another hour the “Casa”. I decided to take the bird in the hand and the following morning proved this was the right decision. The Casa he was referring to seemed only to be a barn and I would have had a much less comfortable night.
The refugio is in one end of a large approx. 1960 barn. This sounds unappealing but the place has a dark primitive charm to it. It reminds me of the old cottage I stayed in as a child in 7 Banks Northumberland that too was half barn half house.
Inside to the right, you find a fireplace and a sink which no longer functions. The tap has no handle. The cowherd I met said that there was problems with the pipework but drew my attention to the nearby cattle trough. (This is on the GR 71 itself). It is filled with stagnant water and there was no way of accessing the ballcock in order to release a fresh flow of water. I was glad that I had carried 2 litres of water up with me.
In front of you there is a large wooden table which stands before a piece or raised flat flooring which is the sleep shelf. On the opposite side of the table is a wooden bench. The window contains a variety of panes of glass including one repaired with a fine diagonal line of putty, Each gives a particular flavour to the view beyond of a green horizon and an ever-changing sky. As I gazed out the sun picked out an area of mountainside opposite revealing its beauty. A car struggled by up the earth track.
There are various hooks in the ceiling and from one of these I suspended my food bag.
A gray blanket of fog was rolling down from the peak above me and the view of the hills on the other side of the green cup into which I was gazing had a milky quality. Cow bells sounded incessantly. The fog obliterated everything as it approached and the temperature dropped dramatically. I noticed the heights were foggy last night too. After supper, I used a handful of hawthorn leaves to scour out my cooking pot and sacrificed a small quantity of my water. Because of the cattle, there is nothing that grows to any height up here except thorns thistles and nettles.
A Language soup is filling my head the whole time I walk. So far, apart from with the Colombian in Maliaño, I hadn’t spoken a word of English since arriving.
Thursday 28th May
Day 4. Refugio de Bucierca-Pejanda
GPS file as above and http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1255707 (Tudanca – Pejanda)
I slept very well and woke to find a red dawn glowing through the window. An hour later the cowherd arrived. No doubt it had been his car going past last night.
The walk across to Tudanca was very pretty, with enormous views over the green slopes of the surrounding mountains and down into deep shadowy valleys. There were cows everywhere.
As shown on the map, the path takes a sudden determined right turn at Collada de Branalegua and at this point it is not very clear on the ground. The signage though is reasonable provided you keep your wits about you. Within a couple of hundred metres though you are back on a strong earth track headed by a sturdy gate post, which you then follow through to Tudanca. I was just approaching this village on a reasonably steep concreted track covered with gravel when my feet shot from beneath me and I fell forwards full length. The rucksack rammed my mouth into the ground but then thankfully fell to the side and swivelled me round 180 degrees. I lay there for about 10 minutes trying to stop the world swimming. My teeth felt badly jarred.
As soon as I reached Tudanca, I had a coffee and washed my face. The barman was bad-tempered but a couple of streets later I came across a pharmacist who was very kind and dabbed me with iodine. She spoke English. “The road to Pujando is prettier than the mountain track anyway” she advised. I was feeling too shaky to embark on another mountain crossing. It was too early to eat at the various alternatives in Tudanca so I stopped at a bar in La Lastra and had a beer and some lunch there. (There is a health centre in this village incidentally).
The climb up the barrage was pretty and the road was extremely quiet, (you cannot walk along the section of road running along the dam) but the lake itself I found disappointing. The fact that the waters were so low gave it a rather muddy desolate appearance. There are a couple of restaurants/bars in the village immediately before Pejanda. (This was either La Laguna or Callecedo.) In Pejanda I got a nice room in Casa de Molleda.
The bar there looks interesting. It specializes in local folk music. I however, was too tired for any of that and went to bed early after a good simple supper at 6 in the evening. (25 euros for the room and 12 for the supper). I woke in the middle of the night feeling sick and put this down to delayed shock.
Casa Molleda, Posada Bar-Restaurante, Apartamentos. 39557 Pejanda, Valle de Polaciones, Cantabria. Telf. 942 729 008 or 942 714 254 Mobile 636 222 704 http://www.posadacasamolleda.com/
Friday 29th May
Day 5. Pejanda-Refugio on track down to Anienzo (note official path would be to Potes via Cahecho. GPS file not operative after the church Noastra Señora de la Luz)
GPS file http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1260231 (Pejanda – Potes)
They left me out a thermos of coffee, bread and jam and I started out at 7.30. There was a heavy mist which I was glad of as I clambered up and up as it kept things cool. I filled up with water in the very pretty village of San Mamés. The workmen told me to avoid the water from the fountain at the beginning of the village and to take from the one in the middle. As the morning went on the mist thinned and occasionally parted to reveal charming vignettes. Eventually, as I reach the long dramatic ridge facing the Picos, it lifted completely. This was one of those views that make a whole holiday worthwhile. Undoubtedly the climb would also have had nice views and would be definitely worth coming back for. There were the sharp fantastic shapes of the Picos in one direction and, turning towards the slopes that were closer to hand, these were embellished with stripes of purple heather. I plunged on and eventually found myself approaching a long narrow headland at the far edge of which was an old stone building roofed in slates. I could not resist walking out to it. How many centuries and through what storms had it stood sentinel? It felt a much holier place than the church below – Nuestra Señora de la Luz.
Here though, a lot of effort had been put into making travellers comfortable and welcome. There was a roofed area providing shelter, a fountain with a tremendous head of water arching out of it and an excellent sign telling one exactly where each of the paths led. I set off down the GR 71 towards Cahecho where there is a small hotel.
http://www.casalamadrid.com/user/index.php and also accommodation at Fuente de Somave. For a group the latter would be cheaper.
However, within 5 minutes I found my way blocked by pack ice pouring down from the crests. I took the alternative, desperately steep stony path, down towards Anienzo. On my way, I discovered a beautiful Refugio where I stopped for the night. The Picos raised their snowy heads in the distance behind the shelter and the hills in the foreground were a riot of purple heather and yellow broom. It was set in a green calm meadow with a powerful fountain pouring into a trough. On the opposite side of the cart track was a steep narrow path leading to a small natural bathing pool. I felt the snowy breath of the mountains once the sun sank and hurried inside the dark dusty stone hut. Sadly there was no sleeping platform here and no real window either. I was vaguely aware of the stealthy steps of some animal at the threshold in the middle of the night. The inky sky above me was full of stars when I went outside.
Saturday 30th May
Day 6. Anienzo-Potes along the road.
I set off at around 8.00 into a beautiful morning. The path continued to be very steep. There were wonderful effects as the morning light penetrated areas of deep shadow. Blue flowers and white umbelliferae glittered and glowed with light above grass still awash with the shadows of night.
Alarmingly, it was when I reached flatter ground that I had my next accident. There seemed to be nothing difficult about the surface where I slipped except a rather deep area of dust which sent me flying forward again. I concluded that my shoes did not have sufficient grip and I would have to get my hands on some proper mountain boots as soon as possible. I decided to head for the small town of Potes in the hope that I would get there before everything closed at 2.00 for the weekend. If there was nothing there I would have to take the bus into Santander. I zipped through the next 10 kilometres – all on an extremely quiet road, and reached Potes just before midday. Had I not been keen to get to town so quickly there was one path up from Anienzo and a tarmacked side road a little later on, that would have taken me quite quickly back up to Cahecho.
In Potes, to my amazement, I found a small shop in the centre selling absolutely top quality outdoor equipment including Meindl boots. The place was besieged with people when I arrived. My eye immediately latched onto the Meindl Vakuum and with the help of the bubbly and very resilient shop girl and a bit of advice from a knowledgeable fellow customer, I walked out 20 minutes later with a size 8 ½ and a couple of pairs of mid calf length socks to match the quite high cuff. They were easily the most expensive boots in the store. For the record this shop was open again later that afternoon and also on Sunday morning.
I booked into the cheapest pension in town for 2 nights. (The Lombraño at 20 euros a night). Miraculously, the TI officer had no compunction in providing me with all the prices and picking out the cheapest.
I had to stay to Monday in order to send my old shoes back. I had just missed the post office by 5 minutes.
That afternoon I went up to the San Torribo monastery, thus actually technically completing another pilgrimage. It has a peaceful cloister but a rather dull church. One side chapel contains the famous relic of the Holy Cross. It was locked when I arrived but ten minutes later a priest arrived with a party of visitors. They went in and I followed. I found his way of handling the relic very matter of fact. I then strolled along to the Michael hermitage with its view of the Picos and down a side trail to the hamlet of Congarna. This was a green shady walk with plenty of views of the mountains. Returning to the monastery I discovered a small path leading up to the hermitages above. This lead to a truly beautiful place, a narrow ridge culminating in a small church. It felt breathtakingly high up there in a jubilation of green with the Picos soaring beyond. A path in the opposite direction beckoned through woodland to cave hermitages and I would have so liked to have taken that road but by then I was too tired.
Back in town I went to mass and learnt that tomorrow would be Pentecost. I enraged 2 old ladies by leaving at communion. That night there was a big disco in town. I put in my ear plugs and went to sleep. Nothing, not even the town rocking til 3 in the morning could keep me awake.
Sunday 31st May
I wandered back towards Ojedo looking for breakfast. The touristy centre was dead. I found a small modern hotel, (just past the big supermarket and on the opposite side of the road). where I was invited to join the hotel guests at a buffet style meal. This was very good and only cost around 5 euros. The honey was amazing - dark and smelling of beeswax. I returned later to buy a kilo (8 euros). I then went to an amazing ferreteria I had discovered the previous evening. This is run by Chinese people and contains all sorts of household goods including some splendidly inappropriate religious objects. There I bought a plastic jar so that I could safely send the honey back to the UK.
I went to church again. It was packed and in pride of place was a row of little girls and boys – all candidates for confirmation. I had seen them all parading around outside the church earlier in the morning. The Priest, a very nice, warm man was in high good spirits. We all sang with great gusto. It is much more fun visiting a church full of enthusiastic participants than when it is empty, cold and half-lit.
Later in the afternoon I did the town trail. This is a really pretty place and it is well worth having a few hours off to explore it.
Transport from Potes to Panes.(Note there are not many buses!)
By the way, on the timetable X stands for Wednesday.
See also Cantabrian public transport page.
Alternative expedition completing the GR71 and then crossing part of the Picos de Europa to join the GR 109 a little later at Arena de Cabrales.
Note there are no banks(or post offices - correos) in these high mountain villages. Potes and Arenas both have banks and Potes has a proper post office (post offices generally only open up to 14.00). Arenas has a limited post office service running from a location described as la bolero. http://www.cabrales.es/directorio-municipal
Sotres has a couple of very small shops selling some groceries.
For most of this you will need the Adrados Ediciones map, Picos De Europa Central and Eastern massifs. 1:25,000. From Puente de Poncebos down the road to Arena de Cabrales you will need the MTN25 Carrena MTN25 56-I (Besnes to Carreña).
Day 1. The GR 71 continues on from Potes to Bejes (I have not done this walk)
http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1260672 (Potes to Bejes) Maps MTN25 56-III and 56-IV
Day 2. and from Bejes to Sotres (I have not done this walk)
accommodation Albergue Peña Castil telf. (34) 985 945 070 Móvil: 629 820 226 email@example.com http://www.picosdeuropa.net/penacastil/
gps file for route http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1263360 (Bejes to Sotres)
Days 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.
Sotres is a superb base to start an exploration of the Picos de Europa.
Day 3 For example the fine walk around Macizo de Andrada for route see http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1286464 ,
Day 4 and the walk over to the head of the teleferique above Fuente De. For route see http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1715174 )
Day 5 and possibly 6 You can walk from Sotres over to Bulnes via Collado Pandebano. There is a mountain refuge at the Collado which can supply lunch coffee etc. as well as dormitory accommodation. (base for exploring path up to the Uriellu peak) This is the Refugio Terenosa tel. 630 552 016 or 984090992 https://www.facebook.com/Refugioterenosa
Once arrived in Bulnes there is another excellent hostel - Albergue Peña Main http://www.turismoasturias.es/en/organiza-tu-viaje/donde-dormir/alojamiento/albergues/albergues-turisticos/pena-main telf. José Manuel Martínez 985845939 y 646373526.
Day 7 and possibly 8
From Sotres you can either walk or take the rail link (expensive and no view) down to Puente Poncebos. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/spain/poncebos/hotels/hostal-poncebos
From there an exploration of the Cares Gorge can be made
Day 9 and you can carry on the next day down to Arenas de Cabrales and pick up the GR 109 from Carrena.
GR 109 Camino Natural de la cordillera Cantábrica. Asturias Interior
Sources of information
Spanish Government website
This is a very informative website. The links to the various local councils at the bottom of each page lead you to the relevant website where you will find tourist information.
There is also a guide book to the GR109.
GR 109 Asturias Cordillera Cantabrica Asturias Interior. Edita: Prames ISBN 978-84-8321-343-8
This is generally considered not to be much use. It divides the path into the same sections as the website and prefaces each days walk with a diagram showing the distances to be covered, height gained and lost. Level of difficulty and a short resume about the nature of the path and the area. There follows a detailed description of where you should turn and photographs at each such point.
It contains no information as to accommodation or facilities such as bars, restaurants, shops, bank s or public transport.
Very occasionally it was of help. I tore it up, retaining the detailed descriptions and photos where it seemed the navigation might be tricky and retaining each daily resume page.
It includes a pack of 28 maps detailing each stage on the 1:50,000 map. Occasionally this provided a useful overview and I also used it to trace the routes on the 1:25,000 maps which I bought. I do not trust the 1:50,000 Spanish maps.
In general the path follows wide beaten earth roads and is well waymarked with both red and white strips and with signposts at fairly regular intervals. Although I took GPS information for the majority of the walks I only needed to use these on 3 or 4 days. There are files for all the stages on http://www.gpsies.com/userList.do?username=SenderosGR&d-5037238-p=4&language=iw
They are listed in reverse starting on Page 4 of this site. I discovered this after downloading individual stages from a variety of other sites. I have included the various downloads on each day that I actually took with me as they might provide additional information or an interesting comparison.
Once again, banks and post offices are not to be found in the majority of villages this route passes through. Quite frequently there are no shops, bar or restaurants either and no accommodation other than in a Casa Rurala or Casa de la Aldea which are really the equivalent of a British holiday home and not for overnight stays. (Some do accept one night stays so it is worth enquiring). Where I found any such amenities I have mentioned it in the text.
Monday 1st June
Stage 1 Panes – Alles distance 17.8. height gained 631 metres lost 389 ms
maps needed Mapa Topográfico Nacional de España 1:25,000 (MTN25) 56-II Panes (Panes to Mier) MTN25 56-I (Besnes to Carreña)
GPS file from http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=8747100
I started with the post office visit in Potes. This was enormously expensive as the parcel I was sending home containing my old shoes and a pot of honey was over 2 kgs. I then took the bus to Panes. I had originally planned to walk a large section of the defile. This was truly spectacular and I was glad that I was not on foot as I do not think this would be particularly safe.
Panes is an extremely dull place though on the plus side it does have a bank, a post office and several grocery stores and cafes. It also contains a museum dedicated to a local form of bowling “bolos”. Unfortunately, this was closed when I visited. It also houses the information centre. After a fruitless search for information I set off to make the crossing over to Mier. After a couple of kilometres back down the road I had come up on with the bus I turned off up a pleasant winding mountain road at Puente Lles.
As I reached Bores a lorry driver stopped and asked if I knew what I was doing. “Lady, this is a mountain region, you shouldn’t be wandering here! Go back to the main road and walk round to Alles that way. You won’t make it over these mountains. Look at the mist. Ask that local man over there!” He was very voluble and I couldn’t understand everything he was saying so I sought the advice of the villager as suggested. He assured me I would be fine. This wasn’t the last time that someone took it upon themselves to tell me that as a lone women I shouldn’t be wandering around in the mountains!
On I went past a rotting grand house, up into the mist and the rain. This section would have been very beautiful had I been able to see anything. I am pretty certain that I passed another refugio. At last I saw Mier below me. At Niserias there were several hotels though two of them looked shut. Casa Julian was open but I thought the place had a rather closed in feel to it and that I would prefer to continue on to Alles so I didn’t enquire.
Searching on the internet I note that both of these cost around 50 Euros a night minimum.
The route passed through Bejes which is a lovely and intriguing village with no roadways as such, just the old stone walkways. At the local 2 star hotel, (which looked lovely) I was told that a room would cost me 50 euros but that there was no possibility of breakfast or of supper that night as the following day was their day off. She also assured me that there was nothing at Alles, not even a bar(She was not telling the truth).
I was not prepared to pay that sort of money and carried on determined to find a spot to camp in the woods. This I did, balancing on a small area of flat ground beside ruined houses just outside Alles.
Subsequent researches lead me to believe that I could have obtained a room at Casa Juana for 20 euros.
This is on the road up to Besnes from Niserias.
Tuesday 2nd June
Alles – Carreña
Distance 16.4 kms height gained 534 lost 539
Map needed MTN25 56-I Carreña (Besnes to Carreña),
gps file from http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=6112108
Another beautiful morning and as soon as I entered Alles I found a bar and local shop combined which was open. Beside it was a defunct Pension. There was no toast to be had so I ate madeleines and drank milky coffee with a touch of Anis(really you should try it. They add very little Anis but it gives a nuttiness and roundness to the taste of the coffee. The magic phrase is “con un poco de Anis”.) The climb down from behind Alles zigzagged over an incredibly steep slope which was alarming for me after my two falls. Once I reached the stream level all the markings stopped and I found myself clambering over another mountainside towards a rather less steep slope to regain the road immediately below. I figured that there would be access from the moor to the roadside farm I could see. When I got there I discovered that the hoped for farm gate led into a yard dominated by a large and mettlesome bull. I worked my way through a hedge and slid down to the road. So far, 2 kilometres had taken me 2 hours to complete and the sun was blazing above me.
I trotted down the road full of hope and then up a green alley firmly signposted. Once I got to the intersection of the two rivers however all signage and all but the vestiges of a path on the ground disappeared. I found all paths blocked about a kilometre later apart from one which led me northward back towards the road. A passing postman told me I had reached Cau and advised that I should return to the low path. That though, was not happening. I took the road which was actually very beautiful with lovely views unlike the dark green dungeon I had been struggling through before. However, the lower path is quite an intriguing green lost environment – a bit like living in an underwater world. Had I used the GPS file I would have undoubtedly had greater success and many would enjoy this experience.
At Rozagas I asked for water and was offered a lift round to Carreña by a concerned lady who thought the day too hot for walking. She had a point but I refused.
At Arangas I had late lunch at a roadside bar and they advised that I detour to Las Arenas rather than trying the mountain crossing to Carreña which would involve a lot of climbing, unadvisable in heat. In Arenas I found a very nice cheap pension immediately beside the tourist information booth. This cost 15 euros. There is plenty of reasonable accommodation in this village.
Had I continued to Carreña I would have stayed at the Albergue (15 euros)
Again, this village offers other possibilities for accommodation and both Arena and Carreña have shops and are on bus routes. Arenas has a Bank with an ATM.
Wednesday 3rd June
Stage 3 distance 19.02 height gained 690 lost 647
Maps needed MTN25 56-I (Besnes to Carreña) Carreña, MTN25 55-II Iguanzo (short sections around Asiego and Ortiguero) MTN25 Benia de Onís (Molino de Ricao to Beceña)
GPS file from http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=8046767
I caught the 7.00 bus for the 10 minute journey up the road to Carreña where I breakfasted at the high street bar. It was a lovely walk initially up through woods. Once the path narrowed the signage stopped (at the crucial left hand turn as it happened.) Remembering the previous day, and lacking the relevant 1:25,000 at this stage I got out my GPS system. This worked like a dream and got me over this awkward section. The Map reading was further complicated by the fact that I was constantly having to swop between two maps.
Down, down I went to Molin de Ricar a muddy uninspiring place. After that things got better as I followed a balcony path for a bit. That afternoon I passed one of the few remaining working mines – just outside Ortiguero where I had lunch in the local bar which is a few hundred metres off the official path. Unfortunately, the mine dominates the view for quite a time.
After Salce(by now I had escaped the mine) there followed a long and rather nice narrow dirt track through to close to Avin. Once again the mist came down and blocked any view I might have had. There was a long steep descent down a concrete road to the village where I knew there was accommodation. I asked a woman who was gardening about a place to stay and she took me to her friend who has a very pretty and large old village house with a Horrero and a bread making outhouse. A room here cost me 25 euros (normally 30 including breakfast). La Corrolada, Casa de Aldea Avín 33556 Onís Tlf. 618913130 or 985844185. I felt privileged to spend time in this beautiful traditional house and the owner was very nice.
Around the corner is an Albergue where no doubt cheaper accommodation in a dormitory could be found.
Tfno: 985 844 189 Móvil: 608 470 054 firstname.lastname@example.org
The village is very pretty despite having the main road running along one side. I ate at the roadside restaurant - cheap but rather unpleasant. Unfortunately, back at the Casa de Aldea, the bed was rather harder than I am used to.
Thursday 4th June
Stage 4 Benia – Cangias de Onís
Distance 20.4 height gained 665 lost 687
Maps needed MTN25 31-IV Benia de Onís (Molino de Ricao to Beceña), MTN25 31-III Cangas de Onís, (Llenín – Romillo)
I left at 7.00 without breakfast. I knew this was going to be a long stage because there was a considerable amount of climbing. At Beceña a distinguished old lady beating a carpet over an upper windowsill bent towards me and commiserated on the weight of my pack. The day consisted entirely of small roads which were mostly tarmacked. It was well waymarked and there were nice open views, of the surrounding countryside and the Picos de Europa. There was a lot of climbing. By mid afternoon canicular head had set in. It really began to get to me shortly after I had passed the extraordinary Palacio de Labra with its ultra modern, ultra large statuary. I decided to cut the rest of the mountain walk and head down through Càrdes to the main road. (I am not sure in retrospect if this really saved me much time or effort. Having reached the junction above La Pasada there wasn’t much more climbing to do anyway)
There were great views of the Picos throughout the day but not a single bar. At the main road I waited fruitlessly for a bus and in the end walked into Cangas de Onis. I spent a lot of time rehydrating. The weather forecast was dismal so I decided to take the next day off, thus giving myself plenty of time to collect my parcel from the Post Office and send another back to the UK. In the afternoon I planned to visit the local shrine at Covadonga.
With the help of the Tourist Information Office(on the main street) I booked into a tiny room in the Bar y Pension de Gijones. (20 Euros a night) Mercado, 1, 33550 CANGAS DE ONIS / CANGUES D'ONIS, ASTURIAS telf. 985848137
I ate terribly greasy salmon a la plancha at “Restaurant la Abuela”.
Saturday 6th June
Stage 5 Cangas de Onís – Villamayor
Distance 23 height gained 462 lost 358
Maps needed MTN25 31-III Cangas de Onís, (Llenín – Romillo) MTN25 30-IV Arriondas (Viabaño-Cardes)
I started off with a long beautiful river walk with mist rising off the water. I visited the monastery of San Pedro de Villanueva. This is a very slight detour from the GR 109. To get there you stay on the side of river you have been following instead of crossing the little bridge at La Vega de Caseros, and carry along the road for a couple of hundred metres. You will find a beautiful old church of honey coloured stone with lovely capitol carvings in the porchway which tell the story of Favila, the second king of Asturias(after Pelayo). The whole thing is explained in a nearby panel. If you stay in Cangas it would be worth walking out here for the opportunity to be shown round. This happens around 7.00 each evening after mass. Ask tourist information for details.
I discovered that the GR 109 was following the Camino de la Reina for the day. This was the route taken by Queen Isabella II of Spain in the 19th Century on her pilgrimage to Covadonga. It also follows the route of a Roman paved road.
In Romillu I came across a bar hidden away at the back of the village run by the very delightful Seraya (my spelling) who was proud to use her English. After that I made my way to the village chapel (San Lorenzo) from where the path plunged down towards the river again. It was a pretty journey. Outside Llames de Parres I found the church of San Martin Escoto dreaming in the fields. This is mostly 12th Century but with parts from the 8th Century. Judging from the name, I suspect that San Martin might have been one of the many Irish scholars who travelled to Europe as pilgrims and teachers at that time.
It was easy to miss the turn the path takes just before the bridge. If you miss it you end up in a minute or two at the railway station at Soto de Dueñas. Retrace your steps over the bridge and find the obvious path on the opposite side of the river. (It is waymarked)
By the time I reached La Piñera I was very aware of the industrial sprawl that lay below. At last I descended to Villamayor. The only place to stay was Hotel Benidorm which was fully booked. I ate two rolls containing stewed beef – very good and returned to the nice woman in the nearby bar for the rest of my supper. She had the time to give me advice. Hotel Benidorm would be an extremely convenient and inexpensive place to stay but book ahead! This is the website.
http://www.infiesto.com/benidorm/ tele: 985 707 111
985 707 643 E-Mail: email@example.com
985 707 643 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do travel through to Infiesto as my contact at the bar advised,(only 5 kilometres away) then I was very happy on an earlier occasion, with my stay at Hotel Venezia. (20 euros for single occupation)
I, however, decided not to take the evening bus through to Infiesto as there was no guarantee I would find reasonably priced accommodation there at that time on a Saturday evening. I headed out for the hills and found a small nice camp spot in the woods seemingly far from the crowds.
At 10.00 on the dot the big rave started. First a few hesitant bursts on a side drum then the bass drum joined in and before long the whole group was rocking. I could hardly believe my ears. Once again I stuck in the earplugs and slept perfectly fine.
Sunday 7th June
Here I put two shorter stages together. I stopped short of Fresnedal but had the weather been better and had I not been carrying bivi, sleeping bag etc. I think I would have been able to reach the hotel at Vegarrionda. If you are travelling with others it seems to be that you might be able to break the journey in Espinaredo at the Casa Rurala I have given details of or indeed at another in this village. The main difficulty with a casa rurala is that they often stipulate that you have to stay for a minimum of two nights and that you have to hire the whole house. They are the equivalent of a British holiday home. The place I have given details for seems happy to accept a booking for one night.
Stage 6 Villamayor-Espinaredo
Distance 13.4 height gained 727 lost 520
MTN25 30-IV Arriondas (Viabaño-Cardes) MTN25 Llerandi (very short section to Porciles) MTN25 54-I Arenas (Porciles - Collado de Peñamayor)
Stage 7 Espinaredo – Fresnedal o Vegarrionda
Distance 13.4 height gained 580 lost 587
Map needed MTN25 54-I Arenas (Porciles - Collado de Peñamayor)
http://master.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=8929854 (this gives Villamayor – beyond Fresnedal to Puente Miere)
I was up reasonably early and walking along the road towards that day’s mountain crossing. A couple of old ladies whizzed past me in their car travelling in the opposite direction and I got a fleeting glance of shocked stares in my direction. At the first village, Les Mates, I found a bus stop that informed me that there was one bus out or in per week. This left on Monday morning and got you to Infiesto where you would have a few hours frantic shopping before catching the return journey at 13.00.
Having foolishly left replenishing my water supply until I reached the last village before the climb (Cardes), I realised that my path only briefly touched its outskirts and there was unlikely to be a public water source. There was a good looking fountain in the previous village, Valle. I was lucky and filled up at a farmhouse but it would be better to use the tap in Valle.
I easily found my way down to Porciles and made the steep descent down to pretty Espinaredo where I discovered the excellent Meson Vizcares. It seemed there was nowhere to stay, and certainly not at such short notice, but I ate well and left with a big hug from the owner a large but still comely lady from the Dominican Republic. Towards the end of our conversation she began to think that she could almost certainly persuade a friend who was currently out for the afternoon, to take me in for the night. It was, however, only around 2.30 in the afternoon and I was high on an excess of coffee and decided that I would prefer to press on and try to get a bit ahead of my schedule.
Mesón Vizcares, Espinaredo. (food not accommodation) Telf. 985 92 35 30 Mobile 619 62 19 05
Looking at Toprural website ( http://www.toprural.co.uk/Cheap-holiday-cottages_Espinaredo_0_194663_bv.html )there seems to be a number of holiday homes available in Espinerado of which, if you were travelling in the group, this one seemed one of the most suitable for a night’s accommodation.(Casa Carreño)
I climbed on a little winding road up, up into the hills again. The weather was worsening and a big fog was sweeping in. I passed a sign advertising Casa Delia in Omedal. http://www.toprural.com/Casa-rural-alquiler-%C3%ADntegro/Casa-Delia_19031_f.html
That might be a good idea. I thought. On the edge of the village an old lady in an upper window hailed me. I enquired about Casa Delia. She seemed quite shocked at the suggestion and her manner with me was rude. I wandered down the village and passed Casa Delia, no-one answered my knock.
This plainly wasn’t the direction the path was taking so I doubled back and asked a passing couple where the red and white signage took off from. They too were very unhelpful. The man told me that I certainly wasn’t capable of finding my way over the mountain. “Why, a man had tried just a little while ago. He was certainly more experienced than you but he had come back saying it was quite impossible and this evening it’s very misty. You won’t manage it.” By this time the first nasty old lady had joined the group. “You must walk back to Espinerado and then you can walk from there to Infiesto.” They advised. “I’m not going to do that. I’m certain I am perfectly able to find my way on the mountain” I replied. Well said the old lady “In that case it’ll be a night on the mountain for you.” She looked very pleased about this.
I set off not in the least bit worried about their threats. After all I had a perfectly good bivi with me. The path was extremely muddy and for a long time followed an old Calzada Romana. There was one slightly tricky point near the ruined hermitage of San Lorenzo on top of the hill where there was no trace of the path on the ground. The fog was extremely thick by this point. I walked on a bearing (backing it up with the GPS track I had downloaded) and within 300 metres I came across a strong carreterra.
On and down I went skirting some small villages and ploughing through more deep mud. There were cows everywhere. By then I was looking out for a campsite but this had to be away from cattle. At 8.00 in the evening I decided I had to find a pitch as soon as possible as the light was fading. I could barely hear any cow bells at this stage. I was out on the mountainside and saw a ledge below me that was protected by a small tree and was flat. Once down there I discovered that the tree was growing around a narrow but very deep hole and that there were other such holes around. I worried all night about a visit from cows but in the morning I could see that there was a hedge preventing them from wandering in my direction. I think, but don’t know for certain, that the holes in the ground meant that they were not allowed to wander freely over this bit of the mountainside.
Monday 8th June
Stage 8 Fresnedal-Melendreros/Fayacaba
Distance 15.2 height gained 628 lost 282
Maps needed MTN25 54-I Arenas (Porciles - Collado el Cordal), MTN25 Llangréu/Langreo (about a kilometre around Fayacaba. Path takes another 2 km loop into this map on stage 9)
GPS file from http://ca.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=1521515
I was up before dawn and shortly after setting out found myself at the point where the path takes a decided right turn down to Fresnedal. Once again there was no clear track on the ground. This was one of the few occasions when the photos and description in the official guide were useful. These last few kilometres into Fresnedal seemed exceptionally long and there were further navigational problems. Once through the village, I had a wash and brush up at the spring and then had to rely on my GPS device to locate the very steep narrow path down to the road. Sadly, the roadside bar was shut at that hour.
Though I didn’t walk on to see it, the accommodation the guidebook talks about is a further 2.6 kms up the road towards Infiesto. This is the website. http://www.casacueto.com/hotel.php
There followed a pleasant walk along a small road with the river running beside it. The ground rose gradually and there were several points where I could have stripped off and had a wash in a shallow pool. From around La Focalla the ground rose very steeply and the track took several hairpins. Once I reached La Llama a very pretty landscape opened up before me, very green but with steep interestingly shaped slopes and rocky outcrops. From there I descended for a time until the track climbed once again up to Collada de Penamayor(This is shortly after the GR109 parts company with GR 105).
There were some wonderful views from here though, sadly just before I reached the village of Fayacaba a heavy mist descended. Rounding a corner I found myself only a few metres away from a large bull who was standing pensively with his back to me in the middle of the path. I climbed up above him and he looked in my direction with an expression of puzzlement and then started moving slowly down the road I had hoped to rejoin. I beat him to it and scarpered.
I looked carefully at all the buildings in Fayacaba as I passed them though it seemed fairly clear from the map that the hostel was a kilometre of so on the other side of the village. At a triangular green a roadsign announced its presence but it wasn’t until I looked behind and up a bit that I actually saw it – a large yellow building, partially obscured by a tree. By this point the warden was standing on the veranda and enthusiastically waving at me. I had rung the previous night to book a bed, supper and breakfast. All of this cost me 24 euros. Hire of a towel 3 euros. Packed lunch (which lasted me two days cost 9 euros).
Albergue Fayacaba, Tel. 654 561 445 email email@example.com http://alberguedefayacaba.com/
The first thing was to air my bivi heavy with water after camping in the fog the previous night. One of those incredibly brisk mountain winds familiar in such zones in the evenings and early mornings had picked up. Me and Jose struggled to pin the thing to the clothes line. It streamed away above us water shooting off the surface and within a quarter of an hour it was completely dry. They had provided me with some soap powder to wash my clothes which were the next items up on the magic drying line.
At six o clock I sat down to what was without a doubt the nicest supper I had throughout that spring journey through Spain. Freshly made Russian salad, gorgeously presented, then a fricassee of small portions of chicken and rabbit accompanied by boiled potatoes and mixed greens (hurray no chips!) For dessert a custard tart flavoured with elderflowers. The red house wine was very nice. Jose told me that the smell of elderflowers is one of the memorable things about walking in these mountains at this time of year and he wanted to capture it in his cooking. I slept well and knowing that the next stage would not be particularly demanding I didn’t have breakfast (which was also brilliant) until 8.00.
Tuesday 9th June
Stage 9 Fayacaba – Entralgo
Distance 14.2 height gained 271 lost 564
Maps needed MTN25 54-I Arenas (Porciles - Collado el Cordal), MTN25 Llangréu/Langreo (about a kilometre around Fayacaba. Path takes another 2 km loop into this map on stage 9) MTN25 53-IV Pola de Laviana Puente de Arco – Collada de Pelúgano)
GPS file from http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=giygbbjiytxxefsm
The breakfast room was full of the smell of a freshly prepared tortilla with potato onions and chicken which Jose filled half my sandwiches with. Marie Luis and Jose come from Valencia. They only took over the hostel last December. In my backpack, along with the sandwiches, was nestled a large and delicious Valencian orange.
There is no need to take the road down to Melendreros. You carry on to the south east on map 54-I. That morning, after a short walk amidst trees, I arrived out in the open again with a big view of wonderful rolling green countryside punctuated with great cliffs and a natural tower of stone. It was an easy road to navigate. The rain didn’t start until I dived into the tree level, roughly on the edge of map 53-IV. The Navigation was a bit tricky just before the village of Pando largely because of the problem of working out which of the paths on the map I was actually following. My GPS system came out again.
I took the riverside walk from Puente de Arco into Chalana and discovered that Casa Tino, where I had booked, is now known as Prau de la Chalana. This cost me 28.50(breakfast included) and was absolutely fine. The supper was a little expensive but there is a pizza place nearby so no need to buy supper at the hotel if you want to economise. Nearby, over the pedestrian bridge that crosses the big road, was a tourist information office. They were not really able to help me though they tried their best. The officer assured me there were no mountain refuges in Asturias. There is no shop or bank ATM in the immediate area. I would have had to walk into Pola de Laviana to find these, some 4 kilometres away.
Prau de la Chalana, Hotel, restaurant, Address: Antigua Carretera 33987 Entralgo, AS-252, 33987 Pola de Laviana, Asturias, Spain Phone:+34 985 60 21 22
Wednesday 10th June
Stage 10 Entralgo – (Beyo/Bello) Cabanaquinta
Distance 18.6 height gained 726 lost 641
Maps needed MTN25 53-IV Pola de Laviana Puente de Arco – Collada de Pelúgano) MTN25 78-II Cabañaquinta (Pelúgano – beyond Santibáñez de Murias)
The owner of the hotel is a lovely, fatherly man. Luckily, he arrived to unlock the exit door just as I was about to panic. I had started rather later than usual (8.30) but this had the advantage that I could benefit from my free breakfast before setting out. What a difference 2 pieces of toasted bread and a milky coffee make to the day!
Unfortunately, or fortunately I needed the loo shortly after starting out and popped into the Posada de Entralgo, another Inn, which turned out to be a lovely place. They have a magnificent collection of old radios in the bar and a very determined looking black lacquered piano in the adjoining room complete with a complete set of flame throwers (triple branched candle holders if you will). It would take some courage to take charge of that instrument. The Senora laced my black coffee with a generous quantity of anis and I was away. On the doorstep stood a pair of the characteristic wooden shoes still worn in the area. One of my companions at the bar shuffled into these just as I was also preparing to leave.
The weather was very misty as I set out but the owner at the Prau de Chalana had explained to me that I shouldn’t be put off by the forecast as weather forecasting could never be exact in Asturias. “Every valley has its own weather system.”
I climbed on a small road, up and up into the clouds. Pola de Laviana was soon spread out before me in the hollow of the hills. It made a fine picture - a distant industrial sprawl shrouded in misty magnificence and framed by its own power lines.
At the top of the climb, just above Pomarada I spotted an inelegant figure outlined against the horizon. He had a red face and a pair of ears that stood out amazingly far. A red furled umbrella hung from the back of his collar. He stood there totally motionless surveying the emerging view of the valley below as the mists lifted. When I drew level with him he expressed his outrage and bewilderment at the fact that I, a woman, was out on my own and in such terrible weather.
At Pomarada I refilled my water bottle. The tap water from the hotel had a dead taste to it as tap water so often has. This spring water was delicious. Like many village springs it had been repaired and smartened up in the ‘50s. Then I clambered on up towards Pico de la Felguerina. I soon left the tarmac surface for an earth path. That day there were many hawks hovering above the hillside profiled by the veiled sun. At one point I counted 15 in the patch of sky immediately above me. All the while I was drinking in wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
I reached a flatter area just before the point where the path narrows where there was an Area Recreativa (Area Recreativa de Campo Felguera http://www.asturnatura.com/turismo/area-recreativa-campa-felguera/1876.html )including a spring in a small stone building and another small building housed a chapel. There was also a house on the site which I guess would have been the bar (now closed down) that I found referred to on a webpage about this facility.
The picture in the guidebook seemed to imply that the path shortly after this was due to disappear over a vertical face of rock. Happily this was not the case though for a good while it was narrow and required scrambling skills. There was often a steep drop to one side and an uncompromising slope to the other. I was glad that I had a good deal of experience on exposed paths in places like Fagaras, Romania and at no point felt out of my depth. It took me 20 minutes to negotiate this scrambling part of the way and another 40 minutes to slither and slide upwards to the Collado Doñango. Once up there, although there was no path on the ground, the way was surprisingly well marked on large stones. (Basically you have to make for the house round the other side of the slope where you initially arrive – beyond the fuente Doñango). After that I was whirling down through the hairpins in the track. There were wonderful views back towards Penamayor and the surrounding mountains. This was an outstandingly fine walk.
The village of Pelúgano was a final delightful surprise. As you approach it you have one of the great classic views of a Spanish village. Before you spreads layer upon layer of terracotta roof tiles and above these the belfry of the church. At the first house a woman in the compulsory pinafore was sitting sewing on the veranda. She assured me that there were no rooms to hire in this village. She advised me to go to the bar in Levinco and enquire about buses or trains into Cabañaquinta. Unusually for Asturias there was a Bodega on the way down. In the lower part of the village I also spotted a bar.
The enormous mine is not really apparent until you reach “ground level”. At the bottom of Pelúgano I was button holed by a woman who I think must have been speaking Asturianu as I could understand remarkably little. She seemed to be saying that I must be the daughter of the Queen (Elizabeth I assume). She found this very funny.
I caught the train into Cabañaquinta which is an unattractive town. It is designed for working people not tourists and initially I could see no evidence of anywhere to stay. I stopped a woman and asked if she knew about accommodation. She was very helpful and took me to her friend who hires out tourist apartments. These cost 40 euros if all you want is a bed but for an extra 10 euros you have access to a kitchen area including a washing machine, a hob and a microwave and nice sitting room. I was thus able to cut down my costs by buying supper in one of the two supermarkets in town (they shut at 8.00). It was also a chance to replenish my cash supplies at the Liberbank ATM. Had I been half an hour earlier I could have visited the chemist (shuts at 7.30)
I was just getting ready to shower and had taken off every stitch when the doorbell rang. Outside I found an angry French cyclist and a Spanish man who was trying to help him. I had the task of conducting a French/Spanish conversation. The Frenchman was outraged that there was so little accommodation, particularly as he had cycled quite a few extra kilometres in the hope of finding somewhere. They wanted to know the price in my apartment which they thought too high. The Spanish man said he’d probably get a better deal at the bar just opposite the station and they headed off. The next morning I enquired at the bar as to the price of rooms. 20 euros. If you are on your own this is probably the right choice but if you are with someone else I think the tourist apartment would be better value and cheaper since you don’t have to buy a meal.
I settled down to drink too much wine, but after all, to do otherwise would be wrong particularly with a fine bottle of Rioja on the table.
Llana, Apartamentos Turisticos, Doctor Fleming 14, Cabañaquinta, Aller Telf 985 494 680 Mobile 646 018 094 firstname.lastname@example.org www.apartamentosllana.com
Bar Villablanca, Francisco Cabrera, 12. Cabañaquinta (immediately outside the station) Telf. 985 49 50 67
Thursday 11th June
Stage 11 Cabanaquinta – Santibanez de Murias
Distance 13.3 height gained 700 lost 601
Map needed MTN25 78-II Cabañaquinta (Pelúgano – beyond Santibáñez de Murias)
GPS file from http://www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=2373648
I caught the 8.33 train back to Levinco. By that time in the morning the Bar Villamayor was in full swing but when I reached Levinco the bar there was shut. Bello was OK. It has a nice traditional shop that stocks amongst other things, lentils, rice and stock cubes. It is not possible (permitted was the word he used, which I found strange) to stay at the Posada and it is not envisaged that this situation will change in the coming years.
It was a stiff climb up to Coto Bello. Unfortuately I was climbing into mist so saw little of what I am sure was a magnificent view. This was confirmed when the mist fell like a shawl from the shoulders of the mountains as I reached the top. It was gloriously beautiful. The mists thickened again as I walked down. I passed an information panel with a picture of what I was missing – a very large view of a long range of peaks. The route down was different from the one I had anticipated when looking at the map and most of the trail marking was provided by a new cyclist trail. This was initially confusing as I searched around for the GR 109 markings around Coto Bello. On the way down I passed an old farmer sitting out in the mist with his cows and the bull. It looked a bit like a primary school conversation circle. The route did not in fact enter Murias at all but went via Villar- an extremely small, pretty hamlet.
In Santibanez I was tossing up between starting the climb that evening and camping or trying to find accommodation in the village. I was greeted by a nice customer at the bar. I broached the subject of accommodation. The Hotel at Morea was mentioned again and various ideas of hitching or bussing around the countryside. The hotel at Santibáñez, La Estrella de Cuaña, has closed and I passed on the news that I had been told in Cabañaquinta that the one at Morea had also folded. The bar man said he could put me up if I didn’t mind waiting whilst he prepared the room. He would charge 15 euros. I was delighted. He agreed to serve supper at 6.00 and I told him I really didn’t care what the menu was. (The price was 10 euros) The bad news was that the forecast was for rain for the next few days.
The young girl serving behind the bar was called Deelady. She had been born in the village but informed me that she was from the Dominican Republic. She took me up to the room and threw open the window her face shining with delight at the beauty of the view. She and Manuel, the owner of the bar, were singing along unselfconsciously to the tracks on the player.
The Bar at Santibáñez de Murias, Asturias. Manuel Agassan, telf. 657 561 855 email email@example.com
The owner of the place I stayed in Cabañaquinta suggested I tried the following possibilities in Murias. I could not contact them by phone but they might also provide accommodation and if you were part of a group they might be more suitable.
http://www.lacasaruralenasturias.es/casa-rural-murias-aller.php This is Casa la Siera 984280110
http://www.inforural.com/vercasa/complejoruralvalledemurias/tarifas This is Casa Valle de Murias.
Friday 12th June
Stage 12 Santibanez de Murias – Campomanes
Distance 25.7 height gained 916 lost 1243
Maps needed: MTN25 78-II Cabañaquinta (Pelúgano – beyond Santibáñez de Murias) MTN25 Pola de Lena ( beyond Santibanes de Murias to Zureda)
I started out at 7.00. It was a long trudge uphill. I didn’t reach the top until gone 12.00. The first hour and ½ was the steepest. The mist seemed to recede as I climbed higher. The forestry men passed me in their van and stopped and asked if I wanted a lift.
It’s funny how people’s negative comments play with your mind. Nice man’s worry that I would get lost in the fog kept coming back to me, especially when it thickened for 20 minutes or so. The way marking was however reasonably good though mostly absent if there was no realistic alternative. The wind picked up as I reached the top where an astounding view opened up. There were so many mountain peaks appearing and disappearing in a sea of mist. Turning in the direction I was to travel the bare hillside was ablaze with purple heather and broom. Lower down the slopes a slightly scented white heather had been most common.
For an hour or so I walked on an almost level path constantly wondering at the view. Then I hit tree level and the descent proper started. At one point there was an optional route up to an old roman camp and shortly after that the GR 100 that had been with me since the peak, branched upwards to the right, as did the cyclists’ track(I know that the latter emerged at Sotiello, a couple of kilometres after Campomanes, as I saw the information panel there). There followed for me a very stiff descent on the GR 109 over loose stones. This was an exhausting experience. I suspect that the GR 100 (Rua de Plata) has an easier gradient and I believe it also reaches the Campomanes area.
One plus point of the route I took was that I got an amazing view of the extraordinary train line that runs past Linares. The map is littered with its infrastructure – tunnels and loops everywhere. I was amazed to see a goods train surging up a frighteningly steep slope. When I reached the station I checked the timetable and found there are 3 passenger trains a day – all of the long distance on the route Leòn – Valladoid. One day……….
There was another piece of testing descent down to Casorvida where a taxi pulled out of drive beside me. What a fool I was not to stop it. Those last 4 kilometres including a frightening stretch along the N630 highway, were painful. Happily as soon as I got into Campomanes I saw the beloved “P” sign which stands for Pension. It cost 18 euros a night and this included a service wash and dry of your clothes. There is also a little kitchen which has a microwave and tables and chairs. The owner is a nice man, Roberto Garcia, who is a philosopher and keen trainer of young cyclists. When I met him, he was very worried about the weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday as he had an event planned.
I had an excellent supper at “La Rua” restaurant the fish soup was magnificent. Bar La Rua, La Divisa. 28-Campomanes Tlf. 689 88 04 64
Details for the Pension. Hospedaje Senda Del Huerna, Avda. Del Huerna, 8. (Go in the street door and climb up to the first floor. Mr. Garcia’s door is the one on your left) 33620 Campomanes, Asturias. Tlf. 985 49 64 47 Mobile 675 65 45 50. He speaks French as well as Spanish. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Opposite the hostel there is a grocery store and a bank with an ATM very close by. There are several bars. I liked Bar d’ Mary particularly. This bar opens very early in the morning.
Taxi Campomanes 608 78 26 08. Campomanes also has a railway station that will get you into Oviedo and or Gijon or, in the opposite direction, to Puente de Fierros.
There is also a bus service into Pola de Lena.
Saturday 13th June
I had decided to take the day off after yesterday’s big effort and to consult Tourist Information about accommodation in the villages I would be passing through over the next few days. I had breakfast at Bar d’ Mary and took the bus into Pola de Leña. This seemed a nice town. The timetables for buses back was shrouded in mystery though someone at the bus station assured me that the local council did run buses from the stop outside the town hall. I walked in the direction of Tourist Information and found a market setting up. One stall that consisted of little else but wrap around pinnies particularly attracted my attention. In the doorway of the Information Office was a notice. “We regret any inconvenience but Tourist Information has been moved for this weekend to the Pre Romanic Information Centre at Santa Cristina.” A nice lady told me in French that this was only three kilometres away back towards Campomanes. I set off happily enough as, given the mysterious nature of the bus service back, walking seemed the best option anyway. My only regret was not having more time to explora Pola. I am happy to report that several local buses passed me as I walked along.
At TI the pretty dark haired young woman at Tourist Information wore bright pink lipstick with style and conviction, a fact that endeared her to me. She told me she was really only there to talk about pre-romanic architecture. I explained that I had walked from Pola to find her and in the end she was very helpful and gave me two numbers for Casas de Aldea in Llanuces. She also suggested a couple of Albergues close to Barzana that would be of use on Monday night as an alternative to going into Barzana itself. My part of the bargain was to take a tour of the exhibition with her. She explained this all most beautifully and enthusiastically in voluble Spanish. (There are also panels in English. It was all much more fun in Spanish though). She showed me how big Asturias was around the 8th and 9th Centuries AD and talked about its importance in preserving and promulgating learning. After the Reconquista she told me the story goes that the king made a rule that every householder should leave their door open so anyone could enter. In this way he hoped to build up friendships in the community and an openness with strangers so that the Moors and Christians no longer felt the need to conquer one another. She was so good at filling me with enthusiasm that I shot off immediately to climb the hill up to the church/palace known as Iglesia Santa Cristina. What a strange secret place. A Ghostly, fascinating building, was it a palace, a chapel or a harem? A statue of some saint plonked behind the altar looked jarringly out of place.
Back at Campomanes I prepared for the climb over to Llanuces and went round to “La Rua” for another excellent supper. What kind dignified people these two women are. The weather looks pretty uncertain so tomorrow I will go to Oviedo. I rang one of the numbers Tourist Information had given me in one of the small villages at the end of the following days walk. “Oh no, the women who owned both houses, said “It wasn’t possible. You will have to go to Oviedo” I couldn’t follow her reasons for not being able to accommodate me. No doubt it was the usual thing, the accommodation was for parties staying at least 2 nights. I explained I was on foot and asked if there was anywhere I could camp in the village. “Oh of course,” she said “Any of the villages in the area would allow this. She gave me a name to ask for and assured me that this person would show me where I could camp. I was very encouraged by this.
I rang the Albergue Municipal in Arrojo. This hostel would be useful as an alternative to staying in Barzana(particularly if you have made the crossing from Llanuces towards Salcedo/Barzana) or as a place to stop after leaving Barzana. The numbers in the current Tourist Office Guide are, however, no longer relevant. The first one does not connect and the second puts you through to someone who no longer has any connection with the Albergue. The up to date telephone number is 671028648 and the email address is email@example.com. This link will get you through to a website. http://www.quiros.es/albergues-y-otros-alojamientos
Sunday 14th June
I took the train to Oviedo and I set off down Calle Urria as usual and once again marvelled at the Rococo masterpiece you walk past almost immediately. There was the hotel sign in the neighbouring building which had always intrigued me. This time I turned in and enquired the price. 25 euros. Within a few minutes I was settled into a third floor room in Hotel Alteza, not such a grand building as the neighbour but still pretty nice and I subsequently discovered, one of the cheapest places to stay in Oviedo. The furniture was slightly battered but it was perfectly comfortable and the shower was copious and hot.
I breakfasted in Café Traslacerca (traditional bar with a lively hard working bar woman) and then set out for another pre-romanesque set of buildings which had been recommended by the lass in Pola. – Santa Maria de Naranco and Iglesia de San Miguel de Lillo. They were also well worth a visit though not so striking as Santa Cristina. I had supper at another of my favourite places Bar Lìto. This establishment fascinates me. It is so old fashioned it still has an old manual till. As you enter the generous curving surface of the wooden bar greets you with its generous band of blue and white tiles around the side and bottles stacked to the ceiling. A couple of gas lights top the central pillar though these have been unused for years. I always seem to be the only customer. I read an article on the wall which said that it was one of the oldest hostelerias in Oviedo (81 years in 1995) and that the present owner, Lìto brought Gijones cooking to Oviedo. Lìto himself kissed my hand when I bade them farewell.
Café Traslacerca, Jovellanos 5, Oviedo (just below the Cathedral Square) Tlf. 985 225 342
Bar Casa Lìto, Altamirano, 11 Oviedo +34 985 22 02 25
Hotel Alteza, Urria 25, take lift up to floor indicated, from 25 euros telf. 985 240 404 can be contacted on email via its partner hotel – firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also an Albergue run by the Youth Hostel Association Residencia Juvenil Ramon Menendez
Avenida Julian Claviera 14 Tel. 985969570 email Rmenendezpidal@asturias.org
Between 22 and 30 euros.
Cervantes bookshop – where you will be able to buy all the walkers maps for Asturias and also has a lot of walkers guide books. The guide book to the GR 109 was not on their shelves the last time I called in. Doctor Casal 9, bajo 33001 Oviedo tf. 985 219 255 www.cervantes.com email email@example.com
Monday 15th June
was largely spent sorting out practical matters such as phone cards and I took the early afternoon train back to Campomanes hopeful that I would be able to set out for Llanuces the following morning. The sky got blacker and blacker as I approached the little town and it didn’t take me long to change me plans. Tuesday I would spend exploring Gijon.
Tuesday 16th June
I popped into bar d’ Mary for early morning coffee and then headed out to Gijon on the 7.56. I devotd the 1 hour 20minute journey to administration. The woman at T I spoke beautiful English and recommended that I explored the Cimavilla area of the town. I was fascinated by the groups of old people who were largeing it around the square and park outside the San Pedro Church.
The San Lorenzo beach and the views of the Bay of Biscay are stunning. I returned via the streets that ran parallel with the beach and found many gems of late 19th and early 20th Century buildings. Everything was in a slightly dilapidated state. There is an enormous statue of Christ on top of one of the 19th Century churches in the centre and this dominates the view of the town from the park at the top of Cimavilla. I also visited the Roman thermal baths. Some bits of wall paintings are still visible. The Romans would come charging up their via Calzada, bits of which I had been following as part of the GR 109. They would then relax in these baths and continue on to the next roman encampment (perhaps the one at the top of the mountain above Campomanes – Pico Boya) The lights failed halfway through my visit but really such places are much more evocative in the half light.
Wednesday 17th June
Stage 13 Campomanes – Llanuces
Distance 25.4 height gained 1305 lost 803
Maps needed MTN25 Pola de Lena ( beyond Santibanes de Murias to Zureda), MTN25 77-II Bárzana (Valle – La Fabrica)
I set off at 6.00. It was still moderately dark. The dogs barking echoes and amplifies under the arch of the motorway as I leave the village. Bats flicker and somersault in the dense blue of dawn. I stupidly took the wrong road at Sotiello. I charged ahead to Espinedo instead of turning right and added another 5 kilometres to the journey. I told myself off for not taking a taxi from Camponanes to Valle which had been my first plan.
Valle when I eventually reached it, was a most attractive small cluster of houses plus a spring and the inevitable Horrero. ( The hamlet is just a few hundred metres off the GR 109). The cart track proper (as opposed to the tarmacked road) starts off from just short of this hamlet, and whilst, just like the last stage of the 109, the first few kilometres are the most demanding, I found the climb much less tiring than I had anticipated. I emerged at last out of the woodland to the astonishing view at Majada Fidiechu. Great peaks soared in all directions, and this experience continued for the rest of the day, with further views of different peaks opening up at every turn.
I met one other walker out for the day, the first and only fellow rambler of the entire trip!
If you are following the guide, at Punto 10 (shortly after Las Chafarizas) the route that is now waymarked is the alternative less steep route (alternative 2) though it starts with 100 metres or so of steep and terribly broken up track. The original route was marked by an arrow on the road in loose stones. From there it appeared to be marked with small cairns. I saw the exit point and this probably works if you prefer an earth track though I think it would be steeper. However, once past the steep broken section the waymarked path follows a delightful balcony path fringed with trees but with frequent good views. When you arrive at the road you will find, a few paces in the opposite direction to the one you will take, the first fuente since Valle (There was a good one at Zureda too). There was still 7 kilometres or so to walk before Llanuces and the first 3.5 of these are on a steady but slight upward slope. The minor road continues as a beaten earth track from the junction with the main road and will eventually lead you to one of the most interesting tumuli in Asturias at Alto la Cobertoria. This, in fact, is where the following day’s walk starts though I was unaware of either of these facts on the day I made my walk. The walk along the minor road is a pleasure and even the main road is quite appealing as you gaze into the vast amphitheatre wall of Mortera de Llanuces and Peña Padre.
At last I heard the distant barking of dogs and realized that the village I was looking for was nearby. I entered via a Casa de Aldea but no-one was around. I asked a group of workmen for my contact but they said that he was away at work. They summoned a local woman who spoke some English and I explained that I wanted to pitch a bivi. They all agreed that the Campo de Iglesia (Church Field) would be the ideal place. She led me down to a beautiful ancient church. The campo had been newly mown. She then took me a little beyond the church perimeter to find an ancient fuente surrounded by mint and feathery horsetails. The entrance was guarded by fearsome nettles. The water gushed abundantly and crystalline just as it had done for centuries. The trough was delicately embellished with little iridescent green water weed. In the depths tadpoles of all sizes squiggled. My new friend was a teacher like me and said that if others wished to stay on this site they had better write to the Alcalde (Mayor) of the village. This website gives the name and post codes for Quiros. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quir%C3%B3s
I ate, washed at the fountain and fell asleep to the clatter of heated Spanish conversation in the street above me and the baying of dogs.
A little further on from the official end of this days walk (Llanuces) is the village of Santa Marina, Quiros(4.5 kms to be precise). This has a bar/restaurant – El Rubio - that has been very much recommended to me. One possibility would be to walk on to this restaurant, eat supper and then walk the final 1.7 kms into Barzana for the night. If you plan to do this it would probably be wise to take a taxi from Campomanes to Valle in the morning thus cutting a compensating 5 kms from the beginning of the walk.
Bar El Rubio, Address: Calle Santa Marina, 0 s-n, 33118, Spain Phone:+34 985 76 84 81
Rooms in Barzana with Maria Jesús Rodriguez García, Carretera General, No 23, 2nd floor, Barzana de Quiros, 33117 Asturias, Telf. 985 76 84 36. See notes below as to prices and how to get there. There is also a hotel but this is a lot pricier and were full when I rang.
If you reach Barzana this way and want to do the walk across the mountain between there and Llanuces, I would suggest that you take a taxi up to Salcedo and on to the top of this road at Techera. From there you can do the walk in reverse back to Llanuces and drop by to Restaurant El Rubio on your way back into Barzana. This cuts a lengthy and not outstandingly pretty descent from Techera to the main road when doing the walk in the westwards direction. The other alternative, of course, would be to take a taxi back to Llanuces and walk from there. The final option and probably the easiest from the point of navigating, would be to take the taxi a bit further up to the T junction between the country road QU5 and the AS 230( you will have used this junction on the previous day’s walk) in order to take the track over to the dolmen and from there follow the GR 109 above Llanuces down to Barzana.
Taxi Campomanes 608 78 26 08.
Public transport in Barzana http://www.quiros.es/transporte_publico This page also gives taxi numbers.
Thursday 18th June
Stage 14 Llanuces – Barzana
Distance 16.6 height gained 584 lost 997
Maps needed MTN25 77-II Bárzana (Valle – La Fabrica), MTN25 52-IV (Mortera de Muriellos – La Fabrica)
GPS file from http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=wpoxqowsnukpvxhm
I woke at 5.45 tired even after 8 hours sleep. The GR 109 sign board at Lllanuces proposed 2 possible routes to Barzana, one 23 kilometres long, would I think , lead back to the Alto de Cobertoria and then double back over the mountain to above Llanuces. The other, just over 15 kms long, takes a short cut directly upwards to meet with this path as it passes above.
The signage was pretty terrible and to make matters worse it was not easy to work out on the map quite where the path goes. I lost time casting about for the route and then stupidly, lost even more time by taking the path, through a private finca, eastwards, back towards the tumulus. By contrast, the signage on the upper path once I found it was mostly very good, though ambiguous just before you head westwards over the shoulder, walking away from the small pond and towards Mortera de Muriellos. This was a point where the printed guide was useful. Within a couple of minutes of this you meet the first of the carreteras which will eventually lead you down to a tarmacked road just above Salcedo(starting at Techera).
The whole of this walk from Llanuces was delightful with many fine views of the surrounding mountains. I found the steep descent on the tarmac gruelling. Make sure not to miss the shortcut down that cuts out some of the zigags.
The day was hot by my standards and ideally I would have taken a day off after the long demanding walk over from Campomanes, but obviously this option was not available. I would have waited for the 5-o-clock bus on the other side of the main road immediately you reach it at El Quintal. However, I was in such a dehydrated state I had a desperate need for a bar. Accordingly I set out for Barzana which was only a couple of kilometres away. That last two kilometres seemed to last forever but once there I found an excellent bar just diagonally across the road from the bus stop. I drank a chilled Casera and ate tortilla and icecream. As an afterthought I asked the woman serving if she was able to provide habitaciones. “No”, she replied, “but the lady above me does. Her name is Maria Jesus. Go and have a word with her.” I nipped up the steps and found her waiting at her garden gate in the usual blue check pinny. It was an excellent clean establishment with several bedrooms. The bathrooms are shared. A room costs 15 euros a night but the nightly price drops to 10 if you stay two nights or more. I took her card.
Maria Jesús Rodriguez García, Carretera General, No 23, 2nd floor, Barzana de Quiros, 33117 Asturias, Telf. 985 76 84 36.
To get there you head for the bar diagonally opposite the bus stop and go up the concrete steps to the right to reach Señora García’s front door, passing the entrance to the accommodation on your way. i.e. the door you want is right at the top of the steps behind the garden fence.
The bus back to Oviedo cost 4.30 euros. The bus company is T. Bimenes SL. This is a site that gives the timetables. http://www.estaciondeautobusesdeoviedo.com/index.asp?MP=4#Bimenes
The local authority site on the subject of public transport is also useful and points out that since 30/6/15 the bus is no longer direct. You have to change in Caranga. I suspect this is a situation that changes depending on the season so keep an eye on the website.
http://www.quiros.es/transporte_publico This page also gives taxi numbers.
Barzana has a bank with an ATM, a health centre and a place where you can pay to get on the internet. This site has a lot about the amenities and incidentally about some casas rurales. http://www.casasprieto.com/0803-concejo-quiros-asturias.asp