Wednesday 1 May
Thursday morning it was freezing cold as Alf and I stepped out of the van for his morning ‘constitutional’. We were high up (1130m) in the mountains in the village of Riaño. All thoughts about the temperature quickly disappeared when I saw the amazing view that I published a few days ago. We had parked up, the afternoon before, on a lakeside aire with no facilities but an exceptional location!
Riaño is a ‘new’ village, built by the government in the 1980s to house the inhabitants of ‘old’ Riaño and six other villages that were about to be submerged beneath the waters of an enormous reservoir created to meet the needs of Madrid’s growing population and also as part of a hydro-electric project. The reservoir is surrounded by stunning limestone peaks that appear to glisten in the sunlight.
Wednesday morning, Wendy and I walked Alf to Oyambra beach and met five or so groups of pilgrims already on the road, marching westwards, meanwhile Andy and Lesley had taken Rio for a 5K run and when we returned to the campsite were doing yoga on their mats in front of their van (A & L not Rio that is). Just another normal morning in the Foskett household!
Our route to Riaño took us south through the Picos del Europe. The road, barely wide enough to take our vans, squeezed between steep cliffs in a landscape that could have come from a Tolkien novel. Despite the scenery it was only a gentle climb to the village of Potes, but then it became steadily steeper, the vans dropping down to 2ndgear on some of the hairpins, until we reached the top and began our descent into the region of Leon. I don’t know if Leon is a poorer region than Cantabria, but the road surface was immediately poorer, and it was a rough old ride into Portilla de la Reina where we stopped for lunch and to let our brakes and clutches cool down.
And so on to Riaño for the night.
No expense had been spared in building Riaño. it had great facilities, sports centre, including a wrestling arena for the local brand of grappling, large well-designed houses, apartments, shops and bars that flanked the graceful streets and they had even gone to the bother of relocating, stone by stone, three of the village churches. It may have been because today was a national holiday (Labour Day) or it could have been because Riaño, like many other villages, has suffered from young people leaving for the cities; but it all seemed a bit empty and soulless. The authorities seemed to have been trying a bit too hard to keep the local culture alive as there were plenty of interpretive boards around the place explaining what used to happen before the flood. We met an old guy with a scythe who was cutting the grass on an embankment opposite his house. In the era of the strimmer I am sure there was no need for him to be doing it, but I felt that he was doing it to keep his hand in and as a reminder for him of how things used to be.
We stopped for a drink at the only bar that was open, until the bitter wind forced us back to the shelter of our vans and Wendy’s excellent lasagne, carefully preserved all the way from Derby.
If you happen to be in this part of the world, Riano is definitely worth a visit!
P.S. We are just below 43° North and so are now the furthest south we have ever been in the camper van!
P.P.S. Some of the photos in this piece are Andy’s. Now we have got our act together with sharing pictures, there will be more of them in the future.