There are roads that wind high into the mountains and then there are roads that are very windy and steep going high into the mountains. CrossCountry Bob learned early all about driving those types of roads in his early years in the wilderness areas of British Columbia. So no problem in Spain, right? To be clear…yes and no…more or less…same but different. Clear?
The high roads in Spain are not designed with snow in mind and this allows for sharp switchbacks and steep grades (sometimes at the same time). Still not a big problem until they pretend that the road is wide enough for two cars to pass (usually but not always). So CrossCountry Bob learned (quickly) exactly how close the right wheels were to the edge (and the drop). Go slow and ease past when required. Note, however, that winding corners entice some Spanish drivers to sneak ever closer to the back bumper. Almost as if there were magnets in the cars activated by steep grades and sharp corners. CrossCountry Bob is used to it now and has realized that maintaining a (very) minimum distance must be one of the first lessons taught in Spanish driving schools (even on the autovia (freeway), they will often kiss your rear bumper, signal, pull into the passing lane, go by, pull back in while seeming to almost kiss the front bumper. Wheee!
Oh, by the way…there was, of course, a public market in a village on the way. Paintin’ Peggie found a pastry that made her tongue vibrate. It was an Asturian village so there were a few wandering about in the traditional local clothes and more kinds of cheese than one could try with daily sampling for a year!
Where was CrossCountry Bob? Oh, yes, climbing high into the Picos on a steep, winding road. An absolutely stunning climb, from sea level up to the Lakes of Covadongagos at 1,134 metres. Not super high, but over a short distance, the road must climb fast.
In high season, you can’t drive your own car on the last, fun 11 kilometres up to the top. But now, in early November, you can and although not crowded, the road was still respectably busy. Reaching the top, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie saw why. A green oasis with sweeping views.
Even way up here, the green is liberally speckled with deposits from…
Hiking up to the ridges away from all the people lower down was the smart move. Paintin’ Peggie could draw, CrossCountry Bob could write on the iPad and the cows could approach and observe, their bells tinkling (yes, seems a bit like Heidi in Switzerland).
Then (there is always a then), two mountain bikers stopped nearby. Then a hiker appeared from the other direction. Then they said hi to each other. Then it turns out the hiker and bikers were from the same country (image CrossCountry Bob’s surprise!) and that meant, wow! Let’s talk (loudly) about this, that and the other irrelevancy (with volume progressively increasing). All of this not far from Paintin’ Peggie, prompting her to eventually use the words ignorant and idiot in the same sentence.
After ten minutes of excited chatter, Paintin’ Peggie and CrossCountry Bob yielded the floor (the mountain) and moved on. You can’t change the nature of this type tourist is one of the sad, little truths that travel has taught CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie.
Soon after movin’ on, CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie wandered into quieter terrain and settled down to taste the vast expanse of land and sky.
A little later, CrossCountry Bob noticed with amusement that not everyone prefers “nature”, even here, as he watched a young lady of eleven or twelve demonstrate her boredom by repeatedly kicking a robust ball of horse dung (no can to kick up here) as she trudged downhill with a scowl behind her oblivious parents. Then a clean kick and the horse dung leapt ahead, passing the parents in looping bounces. That earned the young kick artiste a parental glare which she returned instantly with a roll of the eyes and her hands shoved even deeper into her jean pockets. The world keeps turning.
Way high up it was still relatively warm but a drifting, cooler breeze told CrossCountry Bob it was time to begin the trek back to Llanes. The downhill drive was smooth, only the odd driver too panicked to go close to the edge, causing CrossCountry Bob to slow to a crawl so they could sneak by without tearing off the side mirror (Europcar Rentals wouldn’t have been too fond of that result no matter how CrossCountry Bob might try to explain).
And so the last day in the Picos of Europa came to a close. Perhaps fittingly, at the base of the mountain road, there was the obligatory church (CrossCountry Bob has lost count of the number of old, stone churches in Spain but their solid beauty is not diminished by number).
And shortly after passing that church (stopping at these massive, medieval churches ended in Lourdes (remember?), CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie were back in Llanes
It was dinner in “el apartamento” by choice, the food on the table by 6 pm. CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie can’t wait till 8 most nights, too tired, and even if 8 pm was doable energy wise, 40 straight days of restaurant food would leave CrossCountry Bob and Paintin’ Peggie groaning and bloated (the wallet would be the opposite, profoundly empty and thin). So, eating in made everyone happy (except the restaurants that couldn’t raid CrossCountry Bob’s wallet).
Dinner menu that night: Mussels, fresh of course, green salad and red Rioja wine.
Nothing more needed except for the mandatory “el postre” (dessert), wisely purchased on the way home from one of the pastelerías ubiquitous in Spain.
See you next time. Bedtime now after another busy day in Spain.