Day 20: León – Civilization Dawns!

Sunday, July 17th Camping Lago de Somiedo.

Blog-log: Kilometres from ’Go’: 4820.7 (257.7 today)

Today I had a brief interlude of the civilization in the form of Sunday lunch in the city of León with my Internet friend Dave, his lovely wife Maria and, even more civilized if that’s possible – in my honour perhaps, Maria cooked tradition English – roast chicken, two veg. and proper gravy! – a ‘crawl’ of some of León’s excellent tapas bars with Dave brother-in-law Avelinio by way of an aperitif!

Luckily I’d had a good washday when I arrived at the camping – as by now the weather was turning yet again! – and I was able to present myself chez Dave and Maria clean if not exactly stylish! The trip into the big bad city was another example of how well my luggage ‘strategy’ was. I have a set of Kreiger tack/tail bags and for this trip used the 5 litre as a tank bag, more or less permanently mounted to hold maps, compass, notepad and the all-important magnifying glass! When touring I carried the 20 litre bag as a tail pack stuffed with a quick change of clothes for when I arrived/departed the camp sites – nothing worse than pitching a tent in riding gear! – plus a change of gloves, a tiny foldable backpack for shopping, etc. and my swimming kit, which became increasingly redundant as the summer got cooler and cooler! The tail pack was also handy for all the things I inevitably forgot to pack in the large duffel as I struck camp, classically the washing line!

Expedition trim: the tailpack pushes my bum forward, actually putting me in a good riding posture! The waistepack contans all the essentials: documents, water, reading glasses, multitool, camera, mini tripod . . . - oh for the simple life of the Touring Biker!

But when I was on an excursion I used the tail pack for all my valuables while I was way from the camp – especially my MacBook! – the box of tricks with all the battery chargers, etc., plus, ever the optimist, the bloody swimming kit! Dave lives right in the centre of León and had been concerned about my leaving the bike on the street, one reason I didn’t follow up and idea to stay the night. Although his concern was genuine I suspected Dave was being a bit ironic, and when I arrived I was right – León is notoriously crime free! But I did remove the tank bag and all the various straps that run under the seat – it all needed re-jigging anyway as everything was getting a bit loose and sloppy!

Heading south over the Puerto de Somiedo the mountains of León beckon - Ace Ride country!

Back to the ride: I’d planned a round trip from the mountains, passing in and out of the Somiedo via the Puerto (pass) of the same name – more on that later. Once down on terra firma I headed west on the CL 626 as I planned to ride up to the Puerto de Leitariegos, which looks like a fantastic road (LE 497), but was thwarted by the worsening weather as the cloud cover came right down almost to treetop level as I approached Vilalino. So I abandoned this plan, fortunately at the junction of the LE 493, which was my route southeast towards León. I had had a surprise along the CL 626 as this area is heavy with remnants of the coal mining industry – which is actually still very much alive with a huge open cast mine on a mountaintop at Piedrafita de Babia, a strange sight indeed! As I passed through the township of Vilaseca de Luna with its blocks of tenement apartments and scratty workshops I wondered what life must be like here – I imagine high unemployment is endemic but there seemed to be strong sense of community, with the several bars belonging to peñas (social clubs) already doing a brisk Sunday morning trade – reminding me I was running late for my tapas!

The LE 493 is a dream – almost an Ace Ride – and the first part has been refurbished recently with small mountain villages being by-passed and lovely sweeping bends over bridges. As the road passes south east the landscape smoothes out and the villages get prettier, worth slowing down for a few seconds! I stopped for fuel and communications (no mobile phone at Camping Lago de Somiedo) at one called Pandorada, which means ‘Golden Bread’, and maybe it was!

On into León I rode the CL 623 south from La Magdalena expecting it to be horrible as it follows the Autovia, but in fact it’s a lovely road and I planned to take it north from there on my way home – mistake! I’ll leave León apart from a deserved mention of the delightful Spanish habit of taking a paseo from café to café, sampling each one’s speciality dish – all free with you beer (‘sin alcohol’) of course!

Just to rub in the pain of riding a terrible section of the C623 I had a grandstand view of the smooth looking AP 66 on the far side of the lake!

Back onto the CL 623 north of Magdalena what should have been a fantastic road was terrible – I’ve never known such a combination of a bumpy foundation with a truly horrible surface; at times I could only ride at 30 kms – and that wasn’t due to Dave and Maria’s hospitality! It is so bad that until it gets improved – which is a big if in today’s economic climate methinks – I actually recommend riders pay for the Autovia for this stretch!

But this was more than compensated for by the same road as it runs west of the Autovia (Junction 93). I quickly realized that this was an Ace Ride – passing up the valley of the river Luna in spectacular scenery and up over the Puerto de Somiedo as far as the pass itself. Here the route passes back into Asturias and the road is once again in poor condition. So riders using this as an amusing detour from a trip south may be better advised simply to turn around at the top, having stopped to admire the view, and ride right back down again!


Back at the campsite I caught up with a severe weather warning on the TV. Fortunately the camping has gear for rent – it’s used by serious climbers and walkers – so I was able to borrow an extra blanket for what turned out to be a freezing night. I also stocked up on the calories with a bowl of excellent sopa de ajo, which isn’t garlic soup as such, more like a rich broth padded with shards of rough bread – OK, there’s lots of garlic in it too!

Looking into the Somiedo Natural Park from the Puerto - better luck with the weather boys and girls!

One thought on “Day 20: León – Civilization Dawns!

  1. Greetings Oh Great Spanish Biker!
    Finally caught up with you – coupla months later! We ex-cyclists like to do our thing slow an’ steady. Your Grand Tour makes great reading!

    Just saw the pic of the pantano above, and more or less exactly where you stood to take the snapshot of the bridge are the buried (?) remains of one of the villages that were flooded to make way for the pantano. Couple of years back, during one of Spain’s recurrent sequias, the kids and I were walking at the very bottom of the pantano and stepping across a pathetic trickle of water: there was no other water to the left or right of where you were standing…

    The bank slopes down like that for a couple of hundred metres before levelling out, so I s’pose someone could calculate the depth of the water there and the volume of water involved.


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