Friday 24th May – Day 29
We have left the coast and driven inland to the mountains, the Cordillera Cantabrica, and the tiny hamlet of Buyera, just south of Villanueva on the AS-228 (I have put this level of detail in because this is a place you must visit if you are anywhere near her in the future). We are parked up on a large car park by a swimming pool (closed until July), a bike hire shop and a bar.
We have come here because of the Senda del Oso, or the Path of the Bear, which is just a foot note in the Lonely Planet guide to this part of the world. We (the four of us) consider it a ‘must do’ place.
Back in the 19thCentury, as Spain was slowly waking up to the Industrial Revolution, they built a small railway here to carry iron ore down the valley to Trubia to be used in the armament factories. In the 1960s the railway was decommissioned as the mines shut and then in the 1990s the track was converted into a cycleway and foot path just as they have done in Derbyshire. The only difference being, this is like the Manifold Valley Way on steroids! The hills are three or four times the size and crowd in closely on the trail with steep cliffs pretty mush the whole way. We cycled the 16 kilometres from Buyera to Entrago and passed through spectacular gorges, underneath frightening overhangs and through loads of tunnels, some so long they were brightly lit so we could safely see the way. The most amazing feature was the Desfiladero del Teverga, a chasm so tight that the river could hardly squeeze through.
As it happens, we stumbled across the best route, from north to south and back again, as we climbed 290 metres on the way out in a steady, hardly noticeable incline and so there wasn’t much pedalling on the way back.
Apart from what the guide book rated as one of the best cycle routes in Spain, it is also famous for its brown bears. It is reckoned that there are 250, and rising, wild bears living in the mountains around here. The rapid recovery in the population over the last decade has been credited to the work of the local Bear Society which runs a bear sanctuary just a kilometre or so from Villanueva and had the only bears that we saw on this trip. As we emerged from one of the tunnels, we also saw four griffon vultures circling high overhead.
Entrago, our turn around spot, was a quiet little place, just a couple of bars; but there were also more apple orchards, another sign that we were in sidre country.
On the way back the dogs were let out of their chariots to have a run for the last couple of kilometres and this was a chance for Rio to try out his new boots. As he has got older he has developed a tendency to limp sometimes when walking and Andy thought it might be to do with his paws getting sensitive so he bought him a pair of boots (Rio that is, not himself). When Rio first tried them on, he began to walk like an astronaut taking his first steps on the moon, but he quickly got the hang of them and was galloping around like a two-year-old. They have made a big difference and he made easy work of the rest of the journey back to the vans. That’s good news, as we have a big walk planned for next week, and we won’t have to worry about Rio’s paws on the gravel.
We are stopping on the car park tonight and have been joined by four other vans as we wait for the beef stroganoff to cook! After towing the dog chariot 32 km, I will have no trouble sleeping.