Northern Spain, Poza de la Sal, Picos de Europa, Spain Week 80 4th - 6th November 2012
                 
As predicted, it rained at last.

We headed up towards the Col de Portalet. And thus to Spain.

We are sad to leave France as we've become very comfortable.

We've also recognised we need to spend 3 months in Morocco for Ali to remain within the Shengen visa rules then to leave Europe next April. So we'll aim to be in Morocco by the last week of November. 

 
The rain didn't even hint at turning to ice.

We saw a couple of vehicles coming the other way so guessed it was safe.

 
And so we arrived in Spain.
 
We'll try to avoid any mention of rain, Spain and plain in the same sentence!

It rained on and off for the rest of the day.

The best strategy is to drive.

 
Probably our easiest memory of Spain from our visit in 1997 (with children).

Villages on hills. With the church at the top of the hill.

The Cordillera Cantabrica is almost an extenson of the Pyrenees, extending westwards across the north of Spain. It includes the Picos de Europa.

 
But this time things to remind us of China.

A partially completed viaduct. Possibly for a rail line as it looks a bit narrow for a road. Though seeing other viaducts "T" pieces can be placed on top to carry a road.

 
And an old rail bridge, across river and road, with the line immediately disappearing into a tunnel.
 
We are in the middle of a very wide valley.

From the Pyrenees to the Cordillera Cantabrica..

 
Eventually we were driving parallel to a river and found a space in the woods between river and road.

Our first night in Spain.

 
A little rain in the night then clear skies.

We've escaped the major roads of the industrialised north by keeping a bit south, away from the coast, and are headed towards the Picos de Europa.

Purely by chance we passed through Poza de la Sal.

 
Salt.

With occupation from neolithic, Roman, medieval, etc. 

Salt was produced for a very long time. The settling and drying ponds have been renovated.

Under license from the king, of course. No doubt (in our minds) - taxed.

Some things are universal. We are wondering if there's a book on "The World History of Salt". Also how "Saxa" arrived at being a virtual monopoly.

 
The village is an interesting maze of half timbered houses and narrow streets.
 
Some have been renovated. Some are original.

Looks like the village is trying to improve its tourist image.

 
The church bells are all healthy.
 
There's parts of a wall that surrounded the village.
 
An old aqueduct carrying water from a spring.
 
The centre of the village from the medieval fortress.
 
We started walking up from the village but there were too many barriers for renovations. Made the maze of streets more of a maze. So we drove.

The fortress dates from the 10th century with most of it from around 1470.

 
Then we drove even higher.
 
Found ourselves driving across a plateau.

At around 1000 m above sea level.

Very draughty. Wall to wall wind farms.

 
And some woods (plantations).
 
Where have we seen rocks and formations like this before?

The escarpment just has to be caused by silcrete!

The geology has been changing faster than we can keep up.

 
The churches are very different to any we've seen elsewhere.

And every village has one.

 
Back to hills and mountains.
 
And reservoirs.

It took us a while to realise this was an empty reservoir.

We aren't sure if there's been a drought. We've seen a couple of reservoirs that have been low but not quite this low.

 
Upward again.

The road runs through a limestone gorge.

 
From the top of the Puerto de Piedrasluengas.

The geology has us beaten!

The outcrop on the right is limestone. The crown is a slatey grey. Possibly basalt but very unsure.

We encountered one description of the geology but struggled with the Spanish translation.

 
Limestone as the sun sets.
 
And the Picos de Europa in the distance.

This is our view for the night. There's little traffic - about one car per hour.

So we occupied the viewing platform car park and watched the sun set.

 
At 1355 m by morning it was snowing. Not a lot, but we moved to lower ground for breakfast.
 
Mist and snow always feels a bit  eerie to us. Particularly when there are no other vehicles around. 

Last night's view has disappeared.

On the way down we passed the snow plough spraying salt on the road.

And cattle licking the salt off the road. 

 
But once down a few hundred metres its back to rain.

As we drive through Potes.

 
The sun came out for a bit. Just enough to illuminate the church!
 
Up again to the Puerto San Glorio.

The green tinge to the limestone (we think) is lichen.

 
Around Posada de Valdeon the gorge is through conglomerate. Rock formed from boulders and sediment the last time the mountains were eroded.
 
More of the green tinge.

The supermarket at Potes was a bit inaccessible for us and we haven't seen any shops since.

Wrong season we think!

At times during the day we've seen signs for the Camino de Compostella. A much more interesting looking stretch than the water filled path beside the long straight road earlier.

 
The Arroyo de Mostajel.

Most of the animals have been moved to lower ground.

 
And the high peaks that have seemed so close all day but also so far away.
 
The roads follow the valleys and low passes.

The weather really isn't conducive to getting out and walking though the tracks look magic.

We thought we might be feeling our age but we haven't seen any other walkers. The only cars stopped by the roadsides have been those of mushroom pickers.

 
And so we looked back as we headed up to Panderrueda (1450 m).
 
Sadly, we are leaving the Picos de Europa.

We'd hoped to spend a couple more days here but warmer climes beckon. We are feeling soft.

The weather has been a bit kinder than our last visit (1997), we can see the peaks, but still we have mistimed it.

Maybe third time lucky!

 
So as we headed south we stopped beside Embaisede Riano for the night.

Not far from the town of Riano.

The reservoir is fairly empty.

So far so good in Spain. It seems to take us a few days in each new country to begin to feel comfortable.

Of course, overwhelmed by the scenic wonderland, we forgot to look at our altitude. 1120 m. A frosty night. Temperature inside dropped to 0C. Frozen outside.

 
Northern Spain Week 80 7th November 2012
 
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