¿Hace buen tiempo, no?
The sun’s out, and we’re up late, but we still have time to make the most of the day. It’s about 20°C already, so the beach is likely to be hot and heaving*.
How do you fancy a ride into the mountains instead?
Here’s a helmet and some armour – it’ll be a little uncomfortable at first, you’ll feel like the Michelin man, but you’ll be glad of it soon enough. There are going to be lots of bends, so hold onto the handrails, and don’t worry if it feels like you’re going to fly off the back, the top-box will act as your backrest. The bike will lean to the side when we go around the bends, don’t worry about it, that’s natural, lean like I do and you’ll be fine. Just keep your feet on those pedals there. I’ll take it easy, unless you’ve signed up for the adrenaline kick and I’ll do my best to oblige.
We go five kilometres to the nearest town, Puentenansa. I ask you to get off. You look most disappointed and ask if you did anything wrong.
“Just a little suspension adjustment needed, and we’ll be good to go. Still up for the ride?”
We clamber back on again. The road is smooth and wide enough to not have to worry about oncoming traffic. We start with some smooth ‘beginner’ bends and although I can feel the tension at first and some resistance to the lean, you soon relax, having survived the first hurdles. I begin to pick up pace.
We’re travelling alongside the Rionansa which tumbles over the rocks below us. Your helmeted head begins to bob from side-to-side as you check out the scenery. You get really excited about the vultures circling to our left. There seems to be at least a hundred of them. I’m reminded of the time I carried a child rucksack with a non-sleeping child in it. She couldn’t see much except my back, so kept trying to lean over my shoulder. It made the weight shift from side-to-side quite uncomfortably. Unlike me, the bike is a gyroscope and while moving, it finds its own balance.
The road is very quiet, making it a pleasurable ride. We pass through two sleepy villages, with houses built in the traditional style of stone and terracotta-tiled roofs. But before long the road narrows and I’m forced to slow down. The road is stunningly beautiful. Water catches us as it trickles down the roadside cliffs. The road has more twists and turns, and we’re rolling from one side to the next. I get quite a kick out of it. There are nets overhead, traps for falling rocks from the cliffs above. They hold quite a few rocks and we’re glad the nets are strong enough to hold them. It is a little unnerving.
You’ll notice how the change in scenery creates microhabitats. Mosses grow where there is a frequent flow of water, alpine like flowers peep out through cracks in the drier rocks and occasionally a tree has rooted in the clifftops. I avoid looking down the other side of the road and watch for signs of passing cars ahead.
I slow to almost walking pace. I’ve seen an oncoming car and am unsure how far away it was. We’re about to round a very narrow bend and can’t see the other side. We manage it safely and shortly after the car passes us on a straight stretch. I pick up pace again, but the bends, cliff edges and nets last for sometime, so we don’t go too fast. A motorcyclist passes in the opposite direction. We wave. We’re a friendly community. We ignore the mopeds and scooters though. They ignore us too.
We stop to take some photographs. There’s a village in the valley below. There’s also a damn good view of a dam. A dam is our destination, but I quickly assess they are not one and the same, as you’ll soon learn.
The road widens again and we’re back to normal pace, we’ve still got bends to navigate, but don’t have to worry about passing cars. Our destination is shortly after. This dam is more dramatic. We stop to take a lot of pictures and get a drink of water. It’s a hot day and while not riding so quickly, we’re feeling the heat.
Along the road, we saw tourist signs to a place called Puerto de Piedraslenguas (stone tongues). Our curiosity makes us continue the extra few miles to see what it is. The road is good and wide, and we can go a little faster as the bends become less tight and more sweeping. We’re climbing all the time and it becomes noticeably colder. El Puerto de Piedras is a mountain pass that crosses through the Cordillera Cantábrica, a mountain range that runs parallel to the sea. We stop at a viewing point 1355m (4446ft) over the valley of Liébana.
The area is a place of geological interest and the viewing point offers a lot of detailed information about the geology of the area, including the names of the various peaks which can be seen from this height.
Here, there are two particular points of interest which are attributed to the Triassic period of geological history. The information board tells us that this period of history was named in 1834 by Friedrich von Alberti who named the period after the three distinct rock layers, or trías, that are found throughout northwestern Europe.
The first layer, or Trías Inferior is a base layer formed by sandstones and red conglomerates called ‘Facies Buntsandstein’. The Trías Medio is an intermediate layer of carbonated formations typical of shallow marine environments. It is also called ‘Facies Muschelkalk’. The upper layer, the Trías Superior is made up of variegated red clays which includes mineral deposits which formed due to evaporation in ancient, very arid environments, this was named ‘Facies Keuper’.
Having had our fill of the landscape, we return home without stopping. Now more familiar with the route, I take it a little faster, and as we round bends my toes start touching the road. I’ve not experienced this before and advise us both to keep them tucked in. The journey back seems shorter, and we’re soon sitting down to a spinach and potato curry, using the last of the spices that I’d brought with us all the way from Brighouse in Yorkshire, having survived the ten month adventure. We’ve now adjusted to the Spanish lunchtime of between two and four pm, known as the siesta, but it is more a time to eat than sleep, as is more commonly thought. We don’t generally dine in the evening at 10 pm, like many do in Spain, but instead take a more leisurely cheesy snack as we snuggle up on the couch for a super film based on European folk tales, the Tale of Tales.
*Northern beaches are in fact rarely heaving – there’s usually plenty of empty space to walk , run, paddle, picnic and relax. Some are small little known coves, where you could have complete privacy, others are long and sweeping sandy havens. However, the waves can get very busy with surfers during weekend sunshine.
Hope you enjoyed the ride!