Monday, September 12, 2016

Col Alto de la Varga - Estalaya

GR1 Sendero Historico day 4.
Distance: 29.7km (116.5km), time spent: 09:58.
Waymarking: Good, but a little bit difficult in Arbejal.
Weather: Great.

Last night, I instantly fell asleep and slept well the rest of the night; the decision yesterday of substituting the tent for a bed did at least pay off in terms of sleep. Today's walk did not make such a big impression on me as the previous wonderful days, what I anticipated of the upcoming days was probably quite high. Again there was no specific plan for where I would be going to, and according to my original plan, there was not much that I could do to keep up with it. However, I was certain that I would leave the Picos de Europa behind me during the day.

The Plaza Mayor of Cervera de Pisuerga in the morning, quiet and empty.

It might have been tempting to just continue on the trail directly from Cervera de Pisuerga, make it simple, bypass the walk from Col Alto de la Varga. Someone would then certainly said that I will miss the walk along Embalse de Ruesga, but the truth was, I was actually a little disappointed about that part of the route. More on that later, first I had to get myself back up at the pass again; bowing to the temptation was no alternative. Before the taxi ride back up again, some time went past looking for a place in Cervera that was open early enough for breakfast. I found no places; instead, I ate some of the food that I had in my backpack. Shortly after leaving the hotel, the taxi driver pointed to a bar that was open.

Walking down from Col Alto de la Varga, Peña Redonda the most prominent peak in the background.

Back at Col Alto de la Varga, everything was the same as yesterday, except that the sun now was on the other side of the firmament. On the way down towards Cervera de Pisuerga again, I got to experience some of the things that I was really uncertain of with the hike. Would the shops, accommodation and the places where I could get food be open when I arrived? When I arrived in Ventanillo, I had a strong urge to get me a cup of café con leche, but the restaurant was not open. In Ruesga, all the bars and restaurants were closed due to holiday.

A house in Ventanilla, the entrance to the backyard was a stately gate, but the houses looked worn.

Thus it was not the most memorable start of the day, I passed through the two small villages Rebanal de las Llantas and San Martin de los Herreros before I came to Ventanillo. To walk along the waterfront of Embalse de Ruesga was something that I had been looking forward to today, but disappointingly, the largest part of the route went on a path where the lake was hidden behind bushes. I could enjoy some views of the lake in between, but my expectations of being able to enjoy the sight of the water unimpeded while walking was not met.

Embalse de Ruesga.

Perhaps just as disappointing was my own decision not to jump into it, to go for a swim. Nothing to say when it comes to cooling down in the heat, there were several opportunities in the windows that appeared to the lake. The best view of Embalse de Ruesga, I actually got from the dam on the east side. Above the lake is one of the most famous paradors in Spain, the Parador de Cervera de Pisuerga, known for its great views, but down from the water, the exclusive hotel looked more like a bulky anomaly above the trees.

Santa María del Castillo in Cervera de Pisuerga, the church is from the 16th century and built in a gothic style, once upon a time a medieval fortress.

I started the day in Cervera de Pisuerga and coincidences would cause that I ended the day here as well, then it was just fittingly that I spent some time in the small town in the middle of the day. Lunch and resupplying. And a long-awaited café con leche. A long break.

Everything got better after Cervera, with some few and minor exceptions. The walk to Arbejal was a pleasant stroll through a park and alongside a small river. After the village, the trail continued on what could be called a pleasant path, where I maybe took a final farewell to Peña Espigüete, to yet another missed opportunity for a swim. In Arbejal however, the route was not so easy to follow, even though it was a small village, and I ended up going a little while on a variant of GR1 that was an alternative for cyclists until I found out that I had taken a wrong turn.

Embalse de Requejada.

At Embalse de Requejada, I finally got the walk along a lake that I had wished for; I became almost seduced by the path along the water, a clear and distinctive undulating line between yellow grass. A lovely stretch that started at the remains of what looked like an old lookout tower. On the other hand, I could do without all the barbed wire that I passed by later and the cumbersome gates through them. Barbed wire feels like an abomination along what should be a peaceful route.

One way of getting past one of the many annoying barbed wire gates, put the backpack on top of the gate, walk through and lift down the backpack again. From the trail near the end of Embalse de Requejada before Vanes.

After the small village of Vanes, I left the GR1 and followed a local route up to a lovely and peaceful place in the woods, in a way it felt a little strange that the trail does not go this way. Surrounded by trees stands an old oak, El Roblón de Estalaya, known as el Abuelo (grandpa). The tree is supposedly 17 meters high with a diameter of 10.6 meter, the age is unknown, but apparently it should be over 500 years old. It was a wonderful oak. Rays from the sun was projecting through the trees. There was a perfect campsite just beyond the clearing.

El Roblón de Estalaya (el Abuelo), a more than 500 years old oak in the woods above Estalaya.

And I would have loved to camp there, but there were two things that stopped me. One, it is high time to wash the clothes I walk in, especially the socks. Dirty and stiff socks wears and tears more on your feet than what you think. Two, it is prohibited to light a fire next to the tree, understandably. Now I would only be using my stove, but here I choose not to break the prohibition. It would probably go fine, the chance of starting a fire with my stove would have been relatively small; but if I were to start a fire that consumed the old tree, I would be inconsolable. I went down to Estalaya, where the hotel of course was closed.

Overlooking Vanes and Embalse de Requejada.

The last thing I saw from Estalaya before I got in the taxi was the top of el Abuelo, its crown sticking up from the trees high up on the hill. Then it was back to Cervera de Pisuerga and the same hotel as before, although I had misunderstood and thought it was closed (it was just the restaurant). Fell slightly into the same trap as yesterday, tired and in Estalaya, I was not allowed to pitch my tent.

Dinner in Cervera de Pisuerga in the Plaza Mayor.

And thus did I end up in Cervera again. Apart from the same feeling as yesterday of giving up too easily, I was not feeling very low of that reason. My walk has just taken a slightly different turn than what I had anticipated. I ate a simple dinner in the Plaza Mayor, a platos combinados that gave me a lot of food for the money. It was a nice moon in the night sky, quite a lot of people out and hence a pleasant atmosphere. Not so bad that either. I am not so fussy about where I stay the night, it is the walk and what I see on it that is important to me. Today was nice, but not as exciting as before.

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