Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amongst the peaks...Part 1

With a 5-day weekend in front of us, Joseba and I spent the last few weeks desperatley trying to find a great deal to somewhere in Scandanavia to spend the vacation days.  In the end, we didn't find anything there (we will save it for another trip) and decided instead on something much closer to home - the Peaks of Europe (or picos de europa as they are called here).

A National Park site of almost 65,000 hectacres, Picos seemed like a great weekend getaway and so Friday morning we jumped in the car and started the 3-hour journey west towards the Spanish province of Asturias.  This famous Park, the largest not only in Spain but also in Europe, was originally the first National Park in the country.  Starting as a small park area around the Mountain Covadanga in 1918, it only recently (1995) became as big as it is known now.  And, its so named they say because it is the first things sailors see when approaching Spain from the sea. 

We chose to stay in a town called Cangas de Onis, which is quite popular in the area and allowed us access to good trails, as well as neighboring towns and various activities.  Joseba and his researching skills secured us a good hotel deal that came with a kayak ride down the River Sella - one of the rivers that snakes through the gorges of the Picos.  When we arrived to our hotel - La Posade del Monasterio - we were shown to our rustic room.  In a stone building, on the top floor, our room was beautiful with its wooden floors, handmade nighttables and wardrobe alongside a half-stone half-mustard painted walls all under the wooden slanted roof that had a large skylight the let us gaze at the blue sky.  We would have been happy to take a quick siesta but hurried off to paddles ourselves down the river.
In Arriondas, the starting point city of the kayak trip, we suited up - me in a swimsuit and tshirt and Joseba in his wetsuit and a tshirt and grabbed our paddles and headed down to the river.  After a extremely fast explanation of how to row correctly the guy gave us our container with our lunches and we stuffed the camera and cell phone in and bobbed into the water.  Joseba kayaks quite often and so I wasn't quite worried that I had zero experience.  With me in front and Joseba behind, we floated quickly down the river, carefully making sure we were counting the four bridges we needed to pass before the end of our 10 kilometer (6 miles) trip where the guy was waiting for us. 

With the blue sky above (which was slowly getting cloudy), we made no effort to rush and instead took in the gorgeous scenery.  Along the way, Joseba taught me the correct way to row, we stopped for our chorizo sandwiches and tuna empanadas and took some fun photo sessions - one in which Joseba is staning on the kayaking rowing and kind of looks like a Native American rowin a canoe.  Because I'm not yet a kayaking pro, I kept pouring the water after rowing on my left all over my clothes and hair.  By the end of the 3 hour trip my entire left side was soaked and my arms were a bit sore. We rode back to the starting point in a van with the boss who recommended us some good places to go after we showered and dressed to take advantage of the good weather while we still had it.

So, our next stop was the Mirador del Fitu - a viewing area atop a mountain not far from where we kayaked.  From here, we could not only see the stretching mountains but also the ocean and the small villages scattered throughout the valley floor.  With the clouds rolling in, the sun only managed to shine on the peaks of the highest mountains, giving a shadow effect to the rest of the range that was breath-taking.  From one far-off village, we could make out one stone house with a fire going and the smoke rising into the air, colliding with the standing fog. 

With night making its way, we decided to take the winding road back down and along the way were accompanied  by a group of goats crossing the road and a cow eating the grass along the side of the road.  With the next day in mind we ate a hearty dinner and went to bed relatively early so we could be ready for a day of hiking.  Nestled in our wood cabin with the covers pulled tight, we happily went to sleep after a great first day of vacation.

I'm writing this on Tuesday night, and we just arrived today, so I am quite tired, so will only leave you with our first day activities.  More to come on the subsequent adventures soon!


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