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Picos Day Out

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Offline lisa

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« on: May 09, 2007, 15:22 PM »
The Trials of a Budding Nature Photographer on a (Rare) Day Out in the Picos de Europa

Spring seems to have finally arrived in the Picos, after an earlier false start, so a day out was planned fittingly on El Día de la Madre. Sunday got off to a good start with us managing to leave the house at the crack of 11:30am. A slight set-back however on arriving at the bottom of the cable car at Fuente De, the teleférico wasn't running but undergoing maintenance. Undeterred and spurred on by the beautiful weather and lure of patches of snow for husband and children, and flowers, wallcreepers, rock thrush etc. for the budding photographer, Mike girded his wallet and arranged for a 4x4 taxi (I know) to whisk us up to the alpine pastures of Aliva. The first herd of rebeco (Rupicapra rupicapra parva) were spotted on the snow while snow finches and wheatears darted around disturbed by the obtrusive vehicle.
Once on foot amid the peaceful solitude of these magnificent mountains, the cameras (an old but trusty film Nikon, ditto small digital and a new and yet-to-have-got-to-grips-with super-zoom digital) were released from the rucksack. Carpets of little yellow narcissi Narcissus asturiensis, interspersed with  small groups of spring gentians Gentiana verna provided ample opportunity for taking lots of out-of-focus and a couple of in-focus pictures.
Lunch was enjoyed near what must be the least-used hotel in Spain. High in the mountains it only opens for a couple of months in the summer, even the refugio part is now closed. A great waste of a resource.  Alpine choughs Pyrrhocorax graculus (but no common, bah) joined us to share the food much to the delight of Olivia, most of them ringed. The most daring was TR7, didn't mean anything to young daughter of course. Just as we were finishing our sandwiches a bigger, dark shape hove into view out of the corner of my eye. In my excitement the job of dropping my bread and picking up the right camera resulted in the usual blurry image of an immature Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus.
Heading down towards Espinama (long down, be warned), among the flowers were trumpet gentians Gentiana acaulis (= G.kochiana) and, a little lower, early purple orchids Orchis mascula. On the edge of the woods I bumped into a very friendly butterfly. It kept landing on my leg and has still to be positively identified but possibly speckled wood. And I nearly forgot, a lovely booted eagle Aquila pennata. Cameras back in rucksack, "Claro".
« Last Edit: June 12, 2008, 08:08 AM by lisa »
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Offline nick

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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2007, 22:36 PM »
Thanks for that Lisa, it brought back fond memories of when we went there three summers back. I always wanted an excuse to tell this one.

Not having too clever a head for heights, I convinced my partner to trudge up the track rather than take the cable car of death. On the way, the private air-conditioned 4x4s from hell, all with Madrid number plates, trundled past us kicking up their evil dust. At the top at the still-open refuge (what a shame, nice soup), we growled at the Lacoste crowd swanking spotless out of their bubbles, with the tiresome sounds of Dire Straights coming from their windows.

Anyway, thoroughly in a bad mood as I’d forgotten to pack my Kalashnikov, we escaped the après drive and had a fabulous walk across the Alpine pastures, and despite being almost eaten by a mastiff, we felt thoroughly placid as we had lunch by an old mountain chapel. Then, out of nowhere, miles from the refuge appeared another of those dammed (family forum) 4x4s and to make it MUCH worse out jumped two loud Brits, utterly ruining the moment. I cursed the imperialist swine and tried not to catch their eye, but one of their number bounded over. I was about to tell him politely something, when he comes out with in pure Dell-boy East-End London, with tears in his eyes,

"O'right mate. My granddad built this ‘ere chapel and it's been my dream ever since I was a lí’ul boy to come here. My Dad there in the car with gammy leg was a choir boy here." It's his first time back since he was 8 years old”. We got on fine and later they gave us a lift down. Of course, we snootishly looked upon those sad poor people struggling up the hill with rucksacks, as we regally dusted them with our big wheels.’

I wonder how many of the great Iberian exodus from the poorer regions reached that island we're not allowed to mention?

I was told this is the only route open to 4x4 in the Picos. Is this true, Lisa? The problem is private 4x4s. I think taxis are a great way of bringing jobs as they've done in Aiguastortes, where private 4x4 are not allowed

Cheers
Nick
« Last Edit: May 10, 2007, 10:09 AM by nick »
Nick
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2007, 09:10 AM »
Great story Nick.
A better way up would have been the track under the cable car but on second thoughts maybe not for the vertinigously inclined.
You're right about the track up from Espinama except private 4x4s are only allowed as far as the Aliva hotel (can't bring myself to call it a refugio since they closed it it's a bit of a misnomer) and through the Valle del Duje, on the lower track, to Sotres. The 4x4 taxis can go over to the top of the cable car.
www.picos-accommodation.co.uk
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
SAVE SPANISH BEARS!
And now,
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Offline nick

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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2007, 10:08 AM »
I've re-writted the above -full of typos and lies- all now true. Wanted to post it straightaway but forum was down last night
Nick
http://iberianature.com/barcelona/history-of-barcelona/spanish-civil-war-tour-in-barcelona/
Spanish Civil War Tours in Barcelona
http://www.iberianature.com/
A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
The Amazon/Forum Bookshop - lend us a hand
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/shop/index.htm
And also now The Natural History of Britain
http://iberianature.com/brita

Offline lisa

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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2007, 07:42 AM »
An addendum to my day out to show what a botanical dunce I am.  ::)
For years I've been visiting a spot towards Valdeon on the south (west?) side of the Picos where I've been shown wild tuips grow. Have always been either too early or too late to catch them in flower. Up in the pastures of Aliva on Sunday I spotted some little yellow flowers and only took a couple of quick snaps to id later. Yes, have identified them as wild tulips, Tulipa sylvestris australis, Sp. tulipán silvestre. Thrilled but annoyed!

N.B. Wrong! They were in fact Yellow Star of Bethlehem, Gagea lutea!
« Last Edit: June 12, 2008, 08:27 AM by lisa »
www.picos-accommodation.co.uk
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
SAVE SPANISH BEARS!
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.

Offline Dave

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« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2007, 10:54 AM »
Hi everybody
Took Maria, my 86 year old mum, and my Sister in Law, Charo, up to Santa Marina de Valdeon, to view Charo's son, Juans, house that he has had built in the village, A very sturdy affair completely in keeping with the style of the area, stone and a wonderful mix of woods. The views from the house are stunning, and went spent some time walking around the fields in the area full of daisies and buttercups amongst others. The drive up was stunning, with a quick coffee stop at Riano where the daffodil festival was in full swing. The Lake is very full, probably, for the first time in many years. Early purple orchids are appearing as well as the lovely blue gentians. Glad to say virtually no other traffic on the road, making it easy to stop and have a wander when a particularly interest flower caught our eye. The fields just above Riano were full of wild Daffodils, this is the only week that you can officially pick them. As soon as the house is complete we have an invite to stay, I am looking forward to that as we will be able to explore the area a little more.
Regards
Dave

Offline lucy

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« Reply #6 on: May 13, 2007, 11:23 AM »
Hi Dave, I know that area.  Have cycled, (or tried, ended up pushing) the road to Santa Marina – it’s an idyllic place, so peaceful.  Remember watching a very old man energetically scything grass – it’s the kind of place where you can live to be 120!  We met an English couple whose camper-van had wheezed to a stop on the incredible gradient, and acted as interpreters when the RAC man arrived.  I agree the views are incredible – I remember looking back at the Picos, and watching a dramatic wave of thick mist pouring through the narrow valley, about to submerge Posada de Valdeon down at the bottom, where we’d sat in hot sunshine less than an hour before.  Nice to hear the reservoir is so full.  Sounds like your mum is having a brilliant holiday.

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #7 on: May 13, 2007, 11:35 AM »
Greetings Dave,
 :)
Regs,
Technopat

Ps.
I too have been pleasantly surprised at seeing the reservoirs, both at Barrios de Luna and nearer here, at Burguillo, near Ávila, around at their fullest in years. Lucky, 'cos the gold courses need it.
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Dave

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« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2007, 11:40 AM »
Hi Lucy
Yes there are 8 permanent residents in Santa Marina, we met 4 of them yesterday, including a brother and sister Jorge 87 and Maria 89 , later we watched them climbing a nearby slope, searching for herbs and mushrooms, amazing. Juan is well thought of in the village, as he spends every weekend of the year there, plus holidays and fiestas, often following a snowplough out when the snow is deep, certainly one 4x4 driver who needs one, he also brings supplies into the village for the elderly, when nothing else is able to get there, he has just got rid of his quad, so has climbed up at least one rung in the ladder.
regards
Dave

Offline lisa

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« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2007, 14:40 PM »
One less quad! Excellent Dave.
Lucy and Technopat, I'm glad you referred to the body of water around the ghost-like town of Riaño
as a reservoir. Dave, did you know there's a town underneath the water? Also, you'll have passed by the wild tulip meadow on your way from Riaño to Santa Marina - there's a fairly sharp bend in the road with a bridge over a stream (lots of early purples particularly on the right-hand side) before you gently climb towards the Puerto de Pandetrave. Whoops, now I've blown it  :o
« Last Edit: June 12, 2008, 08:29 AM by lisa »
www.picos-accommodation.co.uk
Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
SAVE SPANISH BEARS!
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.

Offline Dave

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« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2007, 18:09 PM »
Hi Lisa and All
I well remember the old town of Riano, having walked to it before the waters claimed it forever, very sad, but possibly necessary for the crops in Leon, a similar story to the Barrios de la Luna, the skeletons of the buildings sometimes showing when the water is low. in the middle of the lake to the left on the Leon side of Riano, is an island, at present and for the first time that I can remember it has disappeared, with only a few tree tops showing and two poles with Storks nest atop, I hope the babies managed to fly straight away, as far as the wild tulips are concerned, I leave that to my passengers as the concentration need to drive that route, means, sadly, my eyes are always on the road, who knows I might get a lift one day, and be able to enjoy the scenery. As I said earlier, Riano was far from a ghost town yesterday, the very pretty though modern village square being full of music and revelry. sorry of course Riano is a reservoir (pantano in Spanish), not a lake.
Sorry about the lack of accents in Riano, but I still cannot find them on my keyboard.
Regards
Dave

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2007, 20:01 PM »
Greetings All,
Last summer, coming back to Madrid from our twice-a-year (at least) trip up to Asturias, we stopped off to walk around the ruins of the village (not Riaño, the other one). The kids were fascinated, but for me at least, it was an unpleasant, eerie experience. The water in the pantano was at an all-time low and the original courses of the two streams which meet at the village, one with a small Roman (?) bridge crossing it, was the only water to be seen, some hundred metres below the village.

Regs.
Technopat

Ps.
For those of you travelling up to Asturias (once out of Dave's territory), the remains of this village are to the right of the grotesque suspension bridge.

Pps.
As I mentioned earlier, on my recent flying visit in that direction, pleased to see more water there than ever.

Ppps.
Was also pleasantly surprised (when the water was at a minimum) that there did not seem to be much evidence of human contamination. i.e. old plastic bottles, famous fizzy drink cans, old tyres, etc. 'Spose it's possible that such lightweight stuff might just have been carried "downstream" as the water was sucked up by the my father-in-law's swimming pool and all those **** gold course sprinklers.

Ppppppppps.?
Re. accents on keyboard - maybe some IT whizz-kid could include 'em as an icon key above the smileys, for the use of those of our number who use keyboards brought over from you-know-where and/or those of our n. who are logging in from abroad.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2008, 12:19 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2007, 20:20 PM »
Greetings All,
As I am unable - due to v. low level of digitalisation in the Technopat home - to post pretty pics of luridly-coloured butterflies, jellybabes, etc., for those of you interested in pics. of grotesque feats of construction (which always seem to go hand-in-hand with destruction of nature), here's a wikipedia link to the reservoir: (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embalse_de_Barrios_de_Luna) with an internal link to a ficha técnica: http://www.chduero.es/cgi-bin/Webcorp2/Infogen/Embalses/Barrios%20de%20Luna.htm.
Regs.
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline lisa

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« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2008, 09:23 AM »
I've just discovered a (highly optimistic) movement to recuperate the Riaño valley by draining the reservoir!



From where comes this beautiful photo of how the valley was..........


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Accommodation, ski touring, snowshoeing, walking and info on the flora and fauna of the Picos de Europa.
SAVE SPANISH BEARS!
And now,
The Picos de Europa
Your complete English guide to these beautiful mountains of Northern Spain.

Offline lucy

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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2008, 12:59 PM »
Hi Lisa,
I've always thought the valley and village have such a lovely name - Riaño - in contrast with the eery concrete ghost village that replaced the original.  Good luck to the PPVR!  Hope they find the plug.

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2008, 14:12 PM »
 :)
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266