Friday, September 9, 2016

(Prologue): Puerto de Tarna

The GR1 Sendero Historico is an about 1250km long trail that crosses the northern part of Spain just to the South of the Pyrenees. The trail starts from Puerto de Tarna in the Picos de Europa and ends at the shores of the Mediterranean in Sant Martí d'Empúries. Originally envisioned as a coast to coast walk of Spain, but Asturias and Galicia did not join into the vision since they already had enough routes to administer (it is still fully possible to undertake such a journey, by connecting some small local routes between Oviedo and Puerto de Tarna to the Sendero Historico and the Camino Primitivo and Finisterre).

Hiking on the trail, you will be brought along the history of Spain from Roman times through the Middle Ages to the civil war. The trail takes you past abandoned villages, desolate areas where remnants of history can be seen in the many castles, forts, ruins, villages and churches you pass by. As well as walking beneath the shadow of the towering Pyrenees to the North with its majestic mountains. It takes a long journey to get to another long journey, though fortunately, I do not have to walk that journey. However, getting to Puerto de Tarna, the starting point of the GR1 Sendero Historico trail, is not that trivial. So, the easiest things first, getting to Oviedo, where there should be buses that goes up to the pass.

Map of the GR1 Sendero Historico trail from Puerto de Tarna to Sant Martí d'Empúries.

I had little trouble getting to Oviedo; instead it was acquiring the necessary items for my hike that proved to be the most difficult. The items I talk about are a gas canister for my stove and food supplies (should be easy to get in a city the size of Oviedo). From my hometown of Oslo, I flew to Gatwick and spent an all too long and infinite boring wait for the next flight to the Asturias airport. Given the late arrival at Asturias, I had chosen to spend one evening and night in Aviles, giving me an excuse to take a look (however short) at that city as well.

The facade of a backyard in Aviles, seen from the hotel.

Aviles itself appeared to me to be kind of worn and scruffy of a sort, but the historic centre was very nice. The weather was grey, but that only made the evening in the old town of Aviles more atmospheric, which went by in a pleasant way with tapas and some cold cerveza's to quench the shaking feeling of not quite knowing what you have embarked upon. The thought of the long journey that lies ahead of you, is almost as difficult to fathom, as it is to come to terms with.

The Plaza Espana in Aviles.

The morning after, I woke up to Asturias day and with that celebration, the problems came sailing. Something that I should not discover until I was in Lugones, after taking the bus there from Aviles. In Lugones there is a Decathlon store from where I should be able to buy a gas ganister for my stove. Given the celebration, every shop are closed, which also applies to the food stores. Now what? Postpone the departure up towards Picos de Europa? Would have posed no problems, if it were not for that I already had booked and paid for my hotel there.

One of the narrow streets in the old town of Aviles. Notice the pilgrims scallop on one of the pillars. The Camino del Norte goes through Aviles. I cannot deny that the sight of the scallop brought back a couple of memories and a slight urge to forget about the GR1 and instead just continue walking on the pilgrimage to Santiago.

This first, of many, problem on the trip was solved when I found a gas ganister in a store consisting of any trinkets available and run by foreigners, of all places. The gas canister however, was not of the ordinary kind, significantly larger and bulkier than the preferred type, and will therefore take up more space in my backpack. Alas. Food supplies though, the second problem, gave me bigger worries. No food stores open, but the tourist shops in Oviedo was. Not entirely elegant as food for a hike, but an expensive tourist pack of cured ham had to do in the emergency. Then all of a sudden I passes by a small food store, which given its size is allowed to be open. There I find all the food items that I need (pasta, soups, chocolate and all other simple pleasures you bring with you on a hike) and can satisfied walk on towards the next problem.

View down the valley from the hotel in Campo de Caso, Hotel Rural Reciegos, a pleasant and small hotel with a very friendly hostess.

Since it is Asturias day, the buses also does not go at the same time as usual, so the departure that I had in mind to get me to the hotel in Campo de Caso was no longer available. Instead, I take the bus to Lallana, rather uncertain of how to get me further from there. I get to share a taxi together with someone else a little bit up the valley and then get the taxi for myself the rest of the ride up to Campo de Caso. The ride up became more expensive than originally planned, but I arrived at my destination in the end.

The centre of Campo de Case underneath a grey layer of clouds.

The bus- and taxi-ride up was of the kind where you can only lean back and enjoy what you see, feel the thrill of slowly getting higher up into the mountains, feel the thrill of what awaits you around the next corner, see how the area you will be starting from look like. Once arrived, I can finally just relax. The only thing remaining is to prepare the backpack for tomorrow. Outside, the clouds rests heavily over the landscape, but even though a lot of it are hidden, it is not hidden well enough to not reveal that it is in a striking mountain area the trail is starting from. I however have some fears that it will be a grey day to begin in. Now it is only atmospheric.

An old commercial on a wall in Campo de Caso.

I have to eat dinner down in the village, but that only gives me a short and nice stroll on a path down to the small place. I sit outside on the terrace of a local bar and restaurant, darkness about to descend. A cold Ambar on the table, a new beer that I have not tasted before, good. Quiet. What awaits me tomorrow? Heavy rain? Fog? Sun and blue sky? What awaits me the next two months on the way? Questions that I cannot answer. I go inside and eat a relatively good dinner. Follows the lights alongside the path back up to the hotel again. Butterflies in my stomach.

The hotel I stayed at also runs a cheese factory where the make the Casin cheese. Quesería Redes.

Next morning I wake up to an almost clear blue sky and the breakfast standing ready at the table. Up to Puerto de Tarna, there is another taxi ride. Once again sitting and looking curiously out of the window, where the taxi meanders upwards on small mountain roads past small hamlets and mountain farms. Who lives here? I disappear up into fog, up into clouds and my morning hope of beginning my hike underneath a clear blue sky gets a solid knack. The ride up is still cool though, gnarled and twisted trees disappears in the clouds around me. As if they desperately clings to life so high up.

At the beginning of the trail, Puerto de Tarna.

Then we emerges up above the clouds. At Puerto de Tarna, the air and visibility are clear, not a cloud in view in the direction I am going. They are left behind me to the North. The light and colours are remarkably. It is a little bit chilly. I pay the taxi driver who turns and disappear down into the clouds again. Alone at the top of the pass, with 1250 or more kilometers to walk in front of me among the ghosts of the GR1 Sendero Historico.

Collado del Pando ->

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