For our final few days in Spain we decided to ditch living in a car park and headed towards the Picos De Europa to do some hiking and relaxing. We treated ourselves to a room, with a real bed and a hot shower. Going in this direction also meant that we were closer to Bilbao to catch our ferry home.
Before heading to the comfort of a bed we camped one more night at a lovely campsite just on the outskirts of the village of Arenas De Cabrales. This was a really nice site and it was right next to a beautiful river. If you are brave enough you can take a swim in it, we just used it to freeze Jasons chocolate!
We managed to sneak in one last climbing day at Poo De Cabrales(cue Peter Griffin laugh hehehe), which is about ten minutes drive from the campsite. We really wanted to climb at Rumenes too but we just didn't have enough days left to do this as well. If you climb at Poo(snigger) De Cabrales on a clear day you have the treat of being able to see the famous Picos De Eurpopa behind you. There is a car par on the main road where you can pull in and take a photo of this view if you are not climbing.
It's a good job this was our final night camping as our tent started to fall to pieces. It felt like our bodies did too, everything suddenly started to hurt and ache. After months of sleeping on only exercise mats, it's like each muscle knew that it was going to get to sleep on a nice soft mattress any day. We packed up the next day and headed to a small place named La Hermida where we would spend our final nights. This is a very cute and small village. We'd heard about some natural hot springs so after putting our things in the room we headed straight there. Now we have been caught out a few times by Spains "hot springs" so we had our reservations about this. Thankfully we were not disappointed. "Hidden" under the bridge of the Balneario Hotel and Spa was an amazing natural hot spring. Flowing right next to it was the ice cold river that you could camp next to in Arenas de Cabrales. At first dip I didn't think I would be able to submerge myself under because it was so hot. However one of the locals informed us we were literally in the hottest spot and to move around. We were like Goldilocks," this one's too hot, this one's too cold but this one is just right!". This is exactly the treat our muscles needed, I was in absolute heaven! I even took a plunge in the river to cool down, it was so cold that it took my breath away, it felt good alternating between the two though.
One of the reasons we moved on from Teverga was because I really wanted to hike up to the famous Picu De Urriellu, so that is what we did the following day. Now this is Jasons absolute worse nightmare! He hates hiking, I think he is still scarred from the time we hiked up to stay with the Tibetan Nomads in Tagong. However because he loves me so much he agreed to do it!
The next morning we were up and out early, knowing that the hike would take us around 6 hours. We made one small mistake though, we should have stayed at the campsite in Arenas because to do the hike we had to drive all the way back there, which as around an hour on very windy roads. We parked the car just on the outskirts of Sotres and walked up the road to reach the start of the walk, this added an extra couple of miles on to the hike. It is possible to drive right to the start of the hike but we were not sure how good the road surface was and didn't want to cause damage to our car knowing we had to drive back to the UK a few days later.
The hike up to the Refugi Vega de Urriellu is 11km. Now don't be fooled by the short distance because it is tough. It is steep and there is no escape from the blazing sunshine. It is however absolutely stunning and totally worth every bit of sweat and sore feet. We hiked so high that we were above the clouds, my jaw was literally on the floor the whole time. The contrast of the stunning mountains against the vibrant blue sky was fantastic and they still had a layer of snow on them. This is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. As predicted Jason hated every minute of it. He was actually struggling to breath and was sounding more and more like Darth Vader. I thought we were going to have to bail at one point through fear that he was going to have an asthma attack! I even offered to complete the final part of the walk on my own but he declined and soldiered on through. Towards the end we both felt that we were never going to reach the refugio, it just seemed never ending and the final part was so steep. Never has the name refuge felt so apt.
When we started our decline that is when I realised how steep the incline was, I couldn't believe it. It's all on uneven lose rock too, so not great for your knees. We finally made it to the refuge and we both agreed that we were glad we continued to the end because it was absolutely stunning! The views are 100% worth it. We sat in the shade at the refuge and ate our lunch and took shelter from the sun. You can totally refuel at the refuge, there is fresh mountain water, food and other drinks. Now the drinks and food are pretty expensive but it's totally understandable because it's the only place around and they deliveries are made by donkeys each day from Sotres. We actually saw a donkey delivery while we were sat there.
Picu de Urriellu also known as Naranjo de Bulnes stands at 2519m and is beautiful. It is not the highest peak in the Picos de Europa but it is one of the most well known. There are actually climbing routes on this but we didn't take our gear with us. I don't actually think we could have carried it all that way! The first route ever to be climbed there was back in 1904! People were also camping up there, which is something I would absolutely love to do. I can't even begin to imagine how beautiful the sky would be up there at night!
The descent was painful and it took us just as long to get down as it did to get up! My toes were killing. We really regretted not parking closer to as the final part a long the road seemed to take forever. We tried to hitch a couple of times but all of the cars were full. Eventually we got picked up by some people we had passed a few times on the hike. We were so grateful! The hot springs were calling our names and that is where we spent our evening.
We spent our final day purchasing gifts for people and exploring the pretty village of Potes. Oh and we of course had one final dip in the hot springs.
THINGS TO TRY IN ASTURIAS
SIDRA- If you do visit Asturias you must try the cider or sidra as they call it. This drink plays an extremely important part in Asturians lives. The sidra is totally natural, nothing is added to the apples during the fermentation process. The sidra is poured from a really long height hitting the side of the glass to "break" it, this process basically adds some air to the sidra to give it some life. A small amount is poured into your glass so you can down it immediately whilst the bubbles are still alive.
Food is also a massive part of peoples life n Asturias, but then again isn't it everywhere? Asturians are proud of their local dishes and specialities and rightly so.
CABRALES- Thisis a special cheese that is made only in Asturias. This blue cheese is made in Poo De Cabrales. It is left to to cure in the caves of the Picos De Europa. Unlike most blue cheeses they do not need to add any penicillin to the Cabrales because the limestone caves that it is left in are humid and because of these particular conditions it develops it's own penicillin.
BONITO- If it's in season you should definitely try the fish called Bonito, it's really similar to tuna and tastes amazing. Get it cooked right and it just melts in your mouth.
CACHOPO- This reminds me of eating a kiev when I was a kid, the only difference is that this has two veal fillets inside, ham and cheese, tasty indeed!
FABADA- The infamous dish from Asturias. This is a rich heavy stew, perfect for a cold winters day. It consists of Spains delicious white beans, chorizo, morcilla(black pudding), shoulder of pork, thick bacon and saffron. This dish is coked slowly and it is only shaken, never stirred. It is extremely filling, if it is available on menu del dia(three course Spanish meal at a great price) as a starter don't get it as you will not be able to walk afterwards.
PULPO- Otherwise known as octopus seems to be everywhere in Asturias. There are pulperias all over cooking it outside in large cauldrons. Unfortunately I didn't get the opportunity to try this but it looked delicious!