This summer I spent a week bike touring around the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain. Click here for my other posts about the trip.
Posada de Valdeón is a tiny, sleepy town, stone buildings overshadowed by the huge limestone peaks of the Picos to the north. There is one main street, paved with large paving stones, and then a few little dirt tracks leading off it. A few hotels, a few little bar/restaurants and one shop, half a trekking shop selling poles and maps, half a supermarket with a small selection of tinned goods and shampoos. We had a huge breakfast – 2 coffees, 2 orange juices and 2 huge pieces of tortilla for only €11.
Posada de Valdeón is one end of the Cares Gorge walk (the other is to the north of the Picos). Without a car it might be the easiest place to start, as you can walk right out from the centre of the town – which we did. A lovely walk, beginning along the river and then gradually climbing up, the huge mountains of the Picos towering over us. We just did a little bit of the walk and then turned back in order to get cycling.
The route from Posada de Valdeón to Boca de Huergano (or Riaño) begins on a flat road beside a bubbling stream – when we did it, the sky was blue but we were in the shade of the trees. “Well, this is pleasant“, I said to James. Only a minute or so after I’d said that, the road turned a bend, we were hit by a headwind, and the gradient kicked steeply uphill to above 5%.
And there it stayed for the next 10km and hour of climbing, increasing to as much as 12%, as the clouds drew over and it began to rain lightly. It was tough going with the bags on the bikes but the rain cooled us down – one pedal stroke at a time, the trees rising high above us on either side of the road.
We reached the top where there was a viewpoint and the start of several walks. Not much to see from the viewpoint though as the clouds had rolled in with the rain. From the peak, there was a glorious descent – 5km steep and winding, and then a left turn onto another road before 10km gently rolling down the valley towards Riaño.
There’s a gorgeous blue lake at the bottom, which we then cycled along for 7km and over a few huge bridges. The lake was very low, in some places completely dry, and it was tough going. Cycling on a fully laden bike on a flat was quite frustrating – you go along expecting to go the same speed you would usually but you’re so much slower!
Riaño is a cute little town with cobbled streets on the lakeside. We stopped for a lovely lunch of croquetas and rotos con morcilla at Restaurante Punto y Coma, before a final easy 7km along the lake road to Boca de Huergano and our hotel, the lovely Hostal Tierra de Reina.
Boca de Huergano is a very quiet town, old stone buildings nestled beneath green hills, only a couple hundred residents, one farmacia, one tiny supermercado and a tabaco. The only place that accepted card for payment was the supermercado and the guy there seemed to have never used a card machine before, so intently did he study every question it asked. It felt like a village that hadn’t been touched by the 21st century.
Our hotel had a lovely garden with tables and chairs set out in the sun and so we whiled away the afternoon, reading and chatting. We were both still exhausted from the previous day’s cycle and so when we first arrived I was really dreading having to cycle the next day. A restful afternoon, a big dinner and a few glasses of wine sorted me out though and I was soon looking forward to the next adventure – Boca de Huérgano to Cangas de Onís.