Friday, September 16, 2016

Corconte - Pedrosa de Valdeporres

GR1 Sendero Historico day 8.
Distance: 29.0km (239.5km), time spent: 08:45.
Waymarking: Of varying quality, not marked in the beginning, better later on.
Weather: Miserable in the beginning, rain and fog, lifted for a short while, before turning grey again.

Today, at least, I was back at the GR1 again, after nearly two days where it was impossible to follow the trail. Some few kilometres after Corconte, the route was supposed to come back to life again, and again supporting the hikers, it quickly turned out that it was not that easy after all. It was a miserable weather outside, where Embalse de Ebro blended almost completely with the clouds, grey and dismal, and the route vanished into the fog.

Mist lies heavily over the hills above Corconte and Embalse de Ebro, on my way up the alternative route along the road to the war memorial where I should be able to join the trail again. On the other side of the small valley lies the road that became my alternative to the alternative route.

I had already been waken up early in the morning by the sound of rain outside the window. When I looked out, it was to a world without colours. The temptation to just crawl deeper down into my bed and continue sleeping for the rest of the day was big, which I wondered that the people at the place had done, they did not appear at the time we had agreed upon for breakfast. I got cold just by looking out while I was eating my breakfast, but out into the heavy and despondent weather I had to go.

War memorial above Corconte, shaped like a pyramid.

The GR1 continues from Corconte, but true to tradition in Cantabria, the trail will not be marked and is in addition almost impassable. The recommended route was to follow the road up to a war memorial on the hill above Corconte. On the way there, it was cold and miserable, and wet. The fog engulfed the hills above. As above, so below, Embalse de Ebro was nowhere in sight. Nor was I able to see the route on my GPS. Gradually I understood that it was only the first section of the route that I had, even though I had loaded up the remaining six sections to the GPS as well. This upset me quite a lot; I recognize that I will come to have problems later on the trail because of this.

I got problems already here at the pyramid-shaped war memorial because of it. The path from here was supposedly still impassable, the alternative was to go on the top of the hill above it and get down to the trail later. Without a GPS to follow the route on, this became difficult, for no hill was to be seen, it had disappeared in the fog. I sought shelter inside the pyramid to find out what I should do. Not daring to try to find my way in the thick fog, I decided to go back down on the road and then follow the road that I could see on the other side of the valley up again. The road would meet the route later, according to the map in the guidebook.

A small cabin engulfed in the fog at the ridge above Puerto de La Magdalena.

Up at Puerto de La Magdalena, the waymarkers suddenly appeared again, I was back on the GR1. The weather however, had not gotten any better. Walking through the wind farm it was still sour, the windmills walked over and past me, and no view through the fog until the end of the ridge. Then suddenly landscape emerged out of the mist, but even though the visibility was better, I went right past where the trail left the road I had walked on. It was only a little later that I realized that I may had gone too far, it was difficult to see the waymark where the trail left (it leaves the road next to a yellow sign pointing towards 'Dolmen de Ahedo' on).

Trees emerging out of the mist.

In the small village Ahedo de las Pueblas there were signs of blue sky. The people in the local bar, El Corral de Los Gallos, welcomed me warmly. Here I got coke, white wine, chips and olives, and a t-shirt with the name of the village on, in children size. To receive both physical and mental warmth felt good after the cold and wet walk today. So far, this has been a fairly solitary walk, I have yet to meet another walker on the trail, so the hospitality I meet in the villages I pass through are welcome.

Although the windmills went at full speed, they did not manage to blow away the clouds. A walk through a misty landscape among giants.

I could continue from the village under an almost blue sky, but when I got closer to Pedrosa de Valdeporres, the dark clouds came drifting back again. So the good weather did not last long, but long enough that I could see Canales de Dulla in the horizon. Again I was left to myself, with only the cows as company; there were no lack of them. It was quiet, if it was sound, it was coming from the wind. In the small hamlet of Busnela there was no one to see, no one to hear, except my own footsteps.

Once again, I missed where the route left the gravel track I had walked on and continued on a path. I went a long way down, almost all the way to Torre Castillo en Cida, before the alarm in my head started ringing. As earlier, the waymarks were obscure. Later at a junction, the signpost, which showed where the different paths went to, was dumped inside the thicket, quite fitting given the waymarking in the last couple of days. Some light rain came dripping through the woods when I went on a pleasant path down towards St Martín de Porres and Pedrosa de Valdeporres. At the small chapel of Ermita de la Ribera there was a fragile silence, no trains on the narrow gauge railway below.

I received a warm welcome in the local bar in Ahedo de las Pueblas, with wine and snacks.

In Pedrosa de Valdeporres, I'd had enough of the day and got myself a room at La Casa Engaña, a language school that also offers accommodation, it was a lovely place. The place is run by Milie and Duncan; as in Corconte, I am the only overnight guest. The village is nestled beneath some cliffs, which hides Canales de Dulla from view. Of services in the village, there are several bars, a small shop and a bank, but no places that serves larger dishes other than the traditional pintxos.

A break from the disheartening weather, in the quiet landscape between Busnela and Pedrosa de Valdeporres. Canales de Dulla is dominating the background scenery.

According to Duncan, I could get dinner in the next village, just about a kilometer away, otherwise it could be that the bar lying next to the train station could arrange something for me. I was content by just having some beers and pintxos at the bar, it worked fine for me. It was relaxing as well, I could just sit still and pay attention to the evening life in the village, where people gathered at the local bar (well, one of them) and talked, played cards, discussed.

A closer look at Canales de Dulla, grey clouds has again overtaken the sky.

I also had to consider what to do tomorrow. Duncan had checked the weather forecast for me, there was to be no respite in the bad weather until Thursday, a week of rain that is. It will probably not be that bad, but I was a bit discouraged by the views of the weather ahead. The problem was tomorrow. Duncan believed that if it rained a lot, it could mean that it would be difficult for me on the other side of Canales de Dulla. There are several channels running down from the mountain, which the water will follow. These channels gathers at the bottom, where the route will be crossing them, with a lot of water it can be hard to get across. He recommended me to take the path that went on the south side of the mountain instead of the north side, which is where the GR1 goes. At this time, I now felt that I had deviated too much from the original route that it was little tempting to again having to leave the route.

A cross in the wall of a small house in St Martín de Porres.

When I sat together with Duncan later in the evening with a cold beer, I had made my decision. Instead of going south of the mountain, I would follow the GR1 to Villamartin de Sotoscuera, and then leave the trail to see the church-caves of San Bernabé (Complejo de Ojo Guareña). After visiting them, return and walk to the ravine and take a path leading down to a road. According to the map in the guidebook, I could bypass the difficult section by following the road to Quintanilla Valdebodres.

Rainbow seen from Pedrosa de Valdeporres.

On a day where the weather was miserable and the walk as a result offered little of views, it was the hospitality that I met who warmed the most. It should be said that even if it was cold and miserable over the ridge with all the windmills, there was some part of me that truly enjoyed it was well. Just to walk and feel the weather on my body, walking alone through a windswept landscape, alone with giants in the mist.

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