Sunday, September 11, 2016

Besande - Col Alto de la Varga

GR1 Sendero Historico day 3.
Distance: 31.8km (86.8km), time spent: 09:03.
Waymarking: Good.
Weather: Still sunny and an almost clear blue sky, hot.


The walk continued in the same vein as the last two days. With an open landscape where the contours and contrasts formed a backdrop for the trail. Once again did the weather present itself from its best and yellow-scorched grass, sparse green vegetation and grey mountains formed a sharp distinction against the blue sky. It was a marvellous walk, which could well serve as an explanation for why I am doing exactly this. This is why I walk, a liberating sense of leaving the daily life behind you and immerse yourself in the simple, but thus greater joys.

Besande in the morning, standing on the other side of the small river on my way from the village.

Do you have to sacrifice something to experience this? Difficult to give an easy answer to that, it does not feel like that, although I feel that I might have paid for this with sleepless nights. It was the same during the night in Besande as in the previous night; despite that it was quiet and that the temperature was good, I still just lay twisting and turning. This time however, to my joy, did not the sleeplessness put any limitations on my energy during the day; I felt that my body had begun to adapt to wander again.

Valverde de la Sierra with Peña Espigüete looming above.

Where I would end the day at, I had not the faintest idea about in the morning. I leisurely ate my breakfast inside the tent, but after I had packed my belongings together and was ready to head out on my third day, I was invited in to the house of those who had let me camp outside. To begin the day with great hospitality must be said to remedy the sleepless night well, I kindly declined the offer of red wine (a little bit too early for that), but gladly accepted the coffee and some pastries. In winter, there can be a lot of snow here, I was shown some videos from the area around when it had well over a meter of snow, much more than what I had associated with Spain.

View from Collado de Cruz Armada, Valverde de la Sierra below.

At the foot of Peña Espigüete lies Valverde de la Sierra, the mountain dominated the walk to the small village, and even how nice the surrounding scenery was, it was nigh impossible to take my eyes away from the towering figure that approached dangerously. With the mountain looming above me and the village, I knew that I stood in front of the steepest climb of the day, up to Collado de Cruz Armada. A quick look at the clock, told me that I probably had been correct yesterday that I would have arrived too late at the pass.

You will not come any closer to Peña Espigüete (2150m) on the GR1, as you will at the top of the pass, located at 1596m. It towers above you, a grey wall. The voices in my head wanted me to consider climbing up to the summit, but I was content of letting Collado de Cruz Armada be the highest up I came and sat down to enjoy the views. Could this last? Still, this part of the Picos de Europa is probably not even the best of what the area has to offer.

Peña Espigüete up close.

I came down to Camporredondo de Alba with a yearning to be back, would like to still be up there. Up on the ridge that I had walked on after climbing up to Collado de Cruz Armada, I have weakness for ridgewalks like that. To walk higher up overlooking the valleys below, while still preserving the feeling of being in the mountains. This ridgewalk was no exception, a long and wonderful trip saturated with views, but which gradually descended.

Walking through Camporredondo de Alba, shady trees in the middle of the village.

Now the similarities with the day before began to appear, little sleep and a walk to a bigger place (being the end of a stage in the guidebook), where I ate lunch and then continued walking to find a place to camp. In the guidebook, John Hayes is suggesting Prioro as the end of stage two and Camporredondo de Alba as the end of stage three. As with Prioro, I made just a short visit here, having lunch. As yesterday, the heat also felt higher when I left the village. And yes, what I had for lunch was a bocadillo, and since it was hot, both a coke and a cerveza con limon.

Approaching Embalse de Camporredondo in an open moorland, Peña Espigüete now more the west of me.

Not only could I enjoy the sight of mountains on this day, after having left a few litres of sweat behind in the valley after Camporredondo de Alba and passed through a moorland, the Embalse de Camporredondo ensured a refreshing diversion for my eyes. Now lay Peña Espigüete more to the west of me behind the lake, Curavacas (2525m) to the north. Horses and cows were grazing at the water's edge. The moorland continued around the lake, past Triollo and up towards the small hamlet of La Lastra. After La Lastra, I tested the GPS track of the trail that I had downloaded. Instead of following the red and white blazes that you find along the trail, I followed small waymarks on the screen up to Col Alto de la Varga, it worked perfectly.

Embalse de Camporredondo with Peña Espigüete in the background.

Col Alto de la Varga would prove to be where I ended my walk on this day, but at first, I was unsure. Given the distance, I had walked more than enough for the day and what awaited me of good places to camp within reasonable time until Embalse de Ruesca was uncertain. To camp at the pass however felt a little bit insecure, a little bit too close to a busy road, and once again, the most suitable places to pitch a tent was full of cow and horse dung. At first, I could not quite decide whether I should put up the tent here, continue down to the narrow valley below or find a place to stay. The pass would have been a nice place to camp at, with nice views, if it only had not been for the road nearby and all the dung.

The drier delta at the eastern end of Embalse de Camporredondo, a cow is watching my movements, Curavacas behind.

Continue walking now did not feel that tempting, when I had first resigned to stop for the day, I could feel that I was tired. The thing that tipped the scales was the sound of barking dogs approaching. I decided to get down to Cervera de Pisuerga. Now for some words about trying to arrange for a taxi to pick you up when you does not know the language good enough. Not so easy. I called a hotel in the town and first inquired if they had an available room, this part went smoothly. Explaining that I wanted a taxi also went fine, but to explain where I was located was however worse. It was perceived as the opposite, that I was in Cervera de Pisuerga and wanted a taxi to the pass I was at. Finally, I got help from a couple who had stopped at the pass to enjoy the views from the viewpoint.

An open moorland with yellow-scorched grass up towards La Lastra.

While I was waiting for the taxi, I dried my tent. I could not quite let go of the thought that I should have stayed at the pass, but now the decision was made. Fortunately, the taxi driver spoke pretty good English and from South Korea, I had learned to appreciate these 'small adventures' away from the trail. The taxi ride down to Cervera de Pisuerga was long, but nice.

As soon as I had finished walking, I noticed that I was tired. In Cervera de Pisuerga, I did not do much other than relaxing in the restaurant of the hotel, El Roble. It actually suited me perfectly. Okay, I did take a quick walk around the block, but beyond that, I did not see much of the town. I will however come here again tomorrow.

Drying the tent at Col Alto de la Varga while I was waiting for the taxi.

It was not the end of the day that I had first imagined, but I was quite pleased with it actually. Cannot say that I did not enjoy getting a shower. The hotel room was nice and I ate a good dinner in the restaurant, tapas. I also looked forward to a good night's sleep in a bed. Another fantastic day.

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