Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Friday, 15 July 2016

Pena Prieta (2) and back to Timperley

I'm writing from EasyJet's Airbus A319 from sunny Bilbao to Manchester. We've had a superb week at Collett's Picos de Europa base near Potes, the highlight being yesterday's fine walk up Pena Prieta from Puerto de San Glorio (1600 metres).

Compared with earlier days the air was cooler and perhaps a little clearer. Crystal clear. The ten of us on this walk comprised Emma, Nicol and Lorna, Peter and Paula, the other Andrew, and four fifths of our team, Andrew having chosen a ride on the Fuente Dé cable car and a short walk from the top station (which he very much enjoyed).

We moved slowly, with lots of pauses, taking a leisurely nine plus hours over the 18 km walk with about 1000 metres ascent. Emma and Oscar had done the recce a week earlier in five hours. The going was easy, though some faltered during the final descent of cow tracks through rampant broom, and Paula didn't like reversing a short scramble on the final stretch before the long, broad ridge pictured in the previous entry.

Unlike our earlier high level walks, this one  enjoyed some fairly flat sections and featured many superbly positioned 'pause points'. Views extended from the Picos massifs to the Spanish plains to our south. There were lots of flowers, many of which will be pictured later, including an exciting (for Sue) discovery of Winged Greenweed. The local variety of chamois were frisking on snow slopes far below us.

We were late back, leaving us just a few minutes to change and shower before dinner, which was postponed for a few minutes to allow for beer o'clock.

Later, the other Andrew entertained us with the film from his video camera, played back through the Posada's TV.

We slept well and today enjoyed a leisurely start in the company of Oscar, upon whom 'cleaning duties' had fallen on another glorious day. Then we visited the museum, just a few hundred yards down the road, with its superb exhibits covering the fauna and flora and geology of the area, with films about cheesemaking, clog making, spinning, distilling, shepherding, etc, accompanied by discreet comments on the adverse effects on the environment of tree felling (reduces oxygen levels), cattle (too much methane) and other detrimental features of alpine industries.

After this pleasant interlude we hopped in the cars and visited Humphrey's recommendation, the church of Santa Maria de Lebeña, a wonderful building  that dates from 925. It has a separate clock tower. There are some later additions, but the main interior space is Mozarabic - pre-dating romanesque and perhaps reminiscent of a small mosques. For €1.50, visitors like us are locked into the church and treated to an entertaining talk about its history from a little old lady. There were laughs, but none of us knew enough Spanish to understand the jokes. We just sat there and absorbed some of the ambience of the place. Humphrey would no doubt love to have been there.

Then it was an easy journey via coffees outside a café in Panes. Once we were on the scenic motorway we stayed in sixth gear all the way to Bilbao. If only UK motorways were as free of traffic...

Hertz managed their (and most other major car hire companies) usual trick of upsetting me. The car was vetted and no damage and a full tank were confirmed. However, in order to get a receipt I would have been required to wait in a long queue, so the paperwork was handed in and I have no record of the clean bill of health, as getting the flight home was a higher priority than waiting in a Hertz queue. How do these companies survive/get away with their atrocious attitude to their customers?

PS All that Hertz stuff is fine I suppose - probably no repercussions. Manchester Airport wasn't much better today, with only a few e-passport readers working (long queues - good practice for Brexit repercussions) and nobody available to unload the bags from the plane. Otherwise a smooth journey with no 'Stag and Hen' problems - unlike on the outward flight!

PPS Can you spot all nine walkers descending through broom in the third picture from the bottom, taken near the end of yesterday's walk?

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