Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cycling in Asturias 3: The mountain lakes

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Cycling up to the mountain lakes: Enol and Ercina, near the Western Massif in the heart of the Picos National Park forms part of the toughest challenges within "La Vuelta"  the Spanish cycling tour. This is the third time I have cycled up to the lakes.

There are several routes I enjoy cycling from la Pasera that help me prepare for this yearly challenge. One of these routes is a circular tour that takes me up to "El Fito" viewing platform at 680 m high, within the Sueve mountains that offers stunning views down the Asturian coast and towards the Picos mountains. Approaching El Fito from the north side is a tougher route as you gain the altitude over a shorter distance.

On this occasion, I approached the climb from the south side. I cycled along the river Sella until I reached the town of Arriondas where I took the road up to El Fito, this is a road where every year an international car rally takes place during May.

Whilst cycling up this road the hard work is more endurable due to the natural beauty of the deciduous forest it runs through, the sound of the river water rushing down in the valley below, the numerous birds and the luscious vegetation and flora you can appreciate as you peddle...hard.

Eventually, the northern pine tree and eucalyptus become the main tree on the mountain while the scenery opens up in front of you to reveal the car park at the base of the rocky outcrop where a few steps take you up to the viewing platform. Depending on the weather, you may encounter herds of the Asturcon horse, a semi wild and rather small horse that has its stronghold within these mountains.

The way down is a vertiginous free ride until you reach the coastal plane near the stunning beaches of La Isla and Espasa. The temptation is to take a small detour and enjoy the quiet beaches at this time of the year before taking the quiet coastal road that would eventually take me back to Ribadesella and back home. Once I have done this route, I feel ready to cycle up to the lakes on a day the weather is not forecast to be too hot.

Cycling up to the lakes is always a challenge but not as difficult as when you do it for the first time. My younger brother joined me this time. We took the train from home to Arriondas town so that we would only have just over one hour cycling before we started the 12 km, 1100 m ascent that would take us to the lakes. We did it non stop. As I have done it before, I knew what to expect but still had a moment when I was tempted to turn back and we were only half way up and about to face the toughest part of the ride, the La Huesera incline. Overcoming tiredness and 90 minutes later, we reached the lakes with a big euphoric smile on our faces and a great sense of achievement. The distant snow covered peaks were shrouded in cloud and after we rested and took in the scenery, we started the return - 90 Km we cycled in total.

After a nice shower and bathing our thighs in cold water we were ready to go out and celebrate our achievement. We intend to do it all again next year if you fancy joining us. For us it is a question of enjoying the experience and I would not like to do one of the several competition many join during the seasons.

We will be doing it all again next Spring so... Get your bike out and begin your training. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gate stops and other new mosaics

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We now have two new mosaic gate stops. Gradually our collection of mosaics is growing. Luis is now creating several sculptural pieces in an effort to expand his repertoire and develop his mosaic making skills.

Gate stops

Here are a couple of pictures of smaller pictorial mosaics he has recently completed. Commissions taken should you be interested in a present for yourself or a loved one....

You can see a full gallery of his mosaics here: Gallery.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Walking in Asturias 12: Torres.

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Asturias is a region with several mountain ranges that offer not only different types of walking but also a diverse flora and and fauna to discover and enjoy while you walk.

This circular walk takes you along the mountains that enclose a wide valley next to a ski station, San Isidro. This is a walk about one and a half hour's drive from La Pasera past the city of Oviedo and along one of the several Asturias mining valleys before you reach San Isidro ski station.

The mining community shows signs of an industry with high unemployment due to changes affecting mining industries but the valley itself is a beautiful one where nature slowly is regaining its hold.

San Isidro comprises of few privately owned chalets, few hotels and several  apartment blocks with ample car parks to cater for the Winter crowds in search of snow. Personally, I think the architecture resembles that typical of the communist era in Russia but on a positive note it helps you to focus on the natural beauty within this part of Asturias.

Once you leave the car in the rather deserted settlement, Torres is a circular walk where you can climb several of the many peaks that enclose the valley and before you head towards the limestone ridge that eventually leads you up to Torres peak where the rock formations and lichens growing on them are stunning.

On this instance we decided to climb some of the additional peaks offering good views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. At the top of some of the peaks, we encountered some letter boxes indicating name and altitude. At times you may find a little note left behind by a walker providing details of their particular walk leading up to the peak, the weather conditions on that day and on occasions, contact details of a particular walking group.

There are peaks where instead of finding one of these letter boxes you may find a Nativity set left behind by a person or a mountain walking group. At times, there are walks advertised by one of the local walking groups for people to participate in a particular walk the group plans to do to replace the Nativity set after is deteriorates with the harsh weather condition. There are walkers who specifically climb certain peaks in order to photograph the letter box or Nativity set you may find at the very top.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

A stroll down to the coast

An almost daily walk for us involves walking on one of several paths or caminos (country lanes) that lead to the coast. We are lucky in-so-much we can choose one of many routes, each with something different to offer. There are some wonderful finds along the way no matter which route you take.

As the crow flies we are about 1 km from the coast but as there is no direct route it takes us about 20-40 minutes depending which way we head out. If we stick our head out of the bathroom window we can just about see the sea, on a clear day, in winter, in the right light...If we ever sell we'll call it a sea view ;-)

With a mountain backdrop, the coastline near home is spectacular. With dramatic limestone cliffs, cuetos (pasture lands studded with rocky outcrops), small wooded areas, apple orchards, old Asturian houses, small flocks of sheep, goats or cattle, horses, an abundance of wildlife, flora and birds, there is always something to observe and savour.

As the seasons pass,  on daily walks, there is ample opportunity to observe the changing landscapes and get to know our environment a little better. Looking back, it is surprising how much we have both learnt over the years by seeing something new such as a plant or bird, deer or tree, insect or building and researching it on our return. The Internet is great for quick ID and information but there is something rather special about sitting on the terrace with a set of reference books, a cup of lemon verbena and a camera full of photographs.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Cycling in Asturias - Luis and the lakes annual challenge

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We have always enjoyed days out with the bicycle but cycling in Asturias is something that took me some time to get used to when we arrived at La Pasera. We were used to cycling along fairly flat paths that were well defined and signed posted but when we started cycling in Asturias we had to get used to the numerous hills and mountains that had to be climbed and navigate the lack of well defined and poorly signed posted off road paths.

Taking into account my poor sense of direction and map reading skills, I resorted to concentrate on road cycling on secondary roads that hardly get any traffic. In addition, cyclists in Spain have the same rights as any other road user and drivers are very used to cyclists.

Cycling from La Pasera is a rewarding activity with stunning scenery that takes you along unspoiled coastal areas and up roads offering magnificent mountain scenery. I would now miss not having the challenge of a climb and the free ride on the way down which is exhilarating.

After finding a good local cycle repair shop where I recently had my bicycle serviced, I have started my training in readiness for my yearly ride up to the mountain lakes, one of the toughest sections of "La Vuelta" or cycling tour of Spain.


Saint Antolin

My training programme will last about two weeks and will entail a series of circular rides starting from home of about 50 Km and a climb of about 600 m. I do not tend to time myself but each circuit takes me about 4 hours. This training will prepare me to cycle up the mountain lakes in the heart of the Picos National Park with stunning scenery and beautiful alpine flowers coming into blossom at this time of the years. I did the same circuit last year and really enjoyed it albeit a tough one.

Spring 2012

As Ian will be away, this year my youngest brother, Ruben, is joining me just before the Easter holidays and we aim to cycle about 100 Km  and an ascent of 1100 m (of which 1000 m in just over 12 Km).

My first training ride is a coastal route that takes me along two of my favourite beauty spots of the Asturian coast: Saint Antolin and Torimbia beach.