Day 19: Asturias – Inland to Nirvana!

Saturday, July 16th .

Blog-log: Kilometres from ‘Go’: 4563.0 (272 ridden today)

Location: Camping Lago de Somiedo

I had a bad night in the Camping San Rafael, truck traffic persisted all night and I probably ate too well in the transport café/restaurant!  But at least this meant I got up early and was on the road around nine. I stayed on the N 624 highway rather than going up onto the new autovia, the A8. But the road was so boring, with straggling ugly villages and no scenery to speak of I quickly changed my mind and before I knew it I was approaching Navia, where it was time to head inland. The little that I saw of Navia was a disappointment; I had imagined a pretty fishing town but the steelworks just at the end of the little estuary completely spoiled the scene, both with its own ugliness and with a hideous blackening of the water and mud flats in the inter tidal zone. I quickly forgot about this, however as the road that I had searched for, the As 12, wound upstream, leaving the river and quickly gaining altitude in a series of ever more sharp curves – a sensational ride!

It's not just The Spanish Biker who struggles to capture the grandeur of the Asturian landscape - panaoramic video to follow!

The Asturian mountains are notoriously green as the weather from the Atlantic system gets bottled up there by the high Picos de Europa just a little way to the east – making the rain come tumbling down! The mountains themselves are much more grand that their height would suggest – by Spanish standards at least. I think this is partly due to settlements, which are located on shoulders of mountain rather than in the valleys or on the heights, as occurs elsewhere. This is a very ancient pattern as was evidenced by the excavated remains of the pre-Roman village of Castro de Pendia, which occupies a similar spot.

The other feature of the Asturian mountains is that they shelter the interior to the south from the worst of the weather, making both the plains of León and the southern flanks of the Cordillera Cantabrica arid – as I was to find at Parque Natural de Somiedo, which is a special nature reserve due to its unique biosphere – and my goal for today. I was also heading into the territory of Matthew Copeland, an acquaintance Ted, whom I’d ‘met’ on the Adventure Bike Rider’s Forum. Matthew and Ted have ‘mapped’ 6,000 kilometres of trail riding which Matthew uses as the basis of his guided ride business: Asturias Bike Tours. We had hoped to meet and over the next few days our paths played a sort of cat and mouse game right around the Cordillera that was never to allow us to have a ‘face-to-face’, sadly!

In the meantime I stopped at the oddly named town of Grandes de Salimes as it was a natural break – I was glad of the coffee that I had there! The next stage, on the As 14 as far as Pola de Allende, wound up and over the Sierra de Rañadoiro on yet another ‘Ace Ride’! This ride is seriously flawed, however, as it is on the Camino de Santiago de Oviedo, which is evidently very popular! Time and time again I would round a right-hand bend, tucking well in to the hedgerow to find small knots of pilgrims covering into the gutter for fear of, what must have seemed to them, two wheeled Armageddon bearing down on them! I got used to this and approached all blind corners with more caution than usual, but that long, meaningful, penetrating stare, especially from the women, that unnerved me more than a little!

I was followed on this ride by a group of bikers who didn’t seem to be in a hurry, and I idly wondered whether this was Matthew leading one of his road rides. But we never coincided – our ways parting, so it seemed, at Pola. Sadly the ride was marred by worsening weather, and it fact I went into the cloud as I approached the summit at Puerto del Palo, so I have no idea what the view was like nor any photographs to record the moment!

Adveture bikes are very much in the minority in Spain where sports bikes dominate the market, closely followed by the custom scene.

After a horrible time riding into the teeth of the holiday traffic heading out of Oviedo on the AS 15 I was glad to turn off into the valley of the Somiedo river and enter the Parque Natural, despite a very narrow road full of Domingueros (Sunday drivers). But suddenly the sun shone and as I rode up into the Vall del Lago and my destination there – going up a series of seriously hairy hairpin bends in the process – to what I have decided is a location close to paradise. Moreover as there’s neither Internet nor mobile phone coverage there – I decided I was going to stay a while!

The Valle de Lago is a little world of its own - tucked away high in the Asturian mountains on their border with León
The 'Lago' in question is a large glacial tarn, some seven kilometres furthe up the valley
And the camp site was paradise too!
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