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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

3 September 2017

Holiday begins

Riano

Riano

29 August 2017

Really it’s a bit of a funny way to behave on a holiday. Getting up before dawn, hanging out on cold, windy mountainsides in search of animals that may never (indeed, never did) show up, same in the evening, then a late dinner and early bed. And having to spend a whole day solving a camera battery problem doesn’t help.

So it did kinda feel like our holiday only began on the last day, when we had no commitments and decided to just go out and explore the Picos de Europa mountains. We stopped for breakfast at our favourite cafe in Riano (okay, the only one we’ve tried, but it’s always packed to the gills with locals, the tortilla is delicious, the tostadas cheap and covered in great jamon, and the coffee and juice excellent), took some scenic photos of the reservoir, and then headed off for a drive into the mountains.

Posada de Valdeon

Posada de Valdeon

Picos de Europa literally means “Peaks of Europe” which sounds a bit cocky, but then this really is a stunning part of Spain. I think it’s the paleness of the high mountain crags, satisfyingly bare of vegetation like a good mountain should be, with the lower slopes cloaked mostly in golden-green oak and beech rather than the more sober evergreens. Right in the middle of the Picos de Europa national park is the village of Posada de Valdeon, in a valley with the two main massifs on either side. We took a two hour ramble down the valley and back up again, and the views were so breathtaking that my camera just couldn’t cope. The photos can’t quite do it justice. More tortilla back in the village, and then on our way again.

We spent the afternoon looking for ibex, finally spotting three on rocky crags just before we decided to give up. They appeared out of nowhere, and disappeared again a couple of minutes later. You can look at a crag or mountainside, and have no idea just how many hiding places it contains. Next we went looking for wildcats again, and found another along the roadside, although we weren’t alone: two other groups of wildlife watchers, including the Wild Watching Spain folk, were also parked up by the road and watching the same kitty. They only started as a company back in 2011 and on mammalwatching.com there are only trip reports from around here starting in 2013, so it’s clear that this corner of Spain is becoming “known” for wildlife watching, and I have to wonder what effect that might have.

One more delicious meal at Venta de Escalona, and it feels like just as we’re becoming regulars we’re heading home. This area is such a great mountain backwater. More than an hour from the nearest good sized town, and little enough tourism that there’s only a scant handful of places to eat within a half-hour in any direction. Luckily one of them is great!

I shan’t blog tomorrow – we leave at dawn and just drive hard for four hours to get back to Madrid in time for the flight home.

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa


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