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•December 1, 2008 • 1 Comment
Hi
if you have just found your way to this page I suggest the best way to navigate, unless you wish to follow the blog backward-chronological method, is to look to the right of the screen and click on the category that interests you.
This will take you to all articles written in that category.

From there you can select the post you wish to read.

Once you have finished with that post you can hit the back button or choose another category from the right of the screen.

Hope you find something of interest.

tim

 

 

 

Hiking in the Picos de Europa

•October 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Ruta del Cares

is one of the most popular day hiking trails in Spain.

Situated in the central massif of the Picos de Europa,

it can be accessed from either Poncebos in the north

or Cordines in the south.

From Poncebos to Cain the walk is 23km return,

a path that winds through the Garganta del Cares,

a gorge with the river distant below.

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Not for the faint hearted,

the edge is abrupt, on the brink

disarmingly quiet, unexpected

yet easy enough on a sufficient rocky path (barely)

shared with confident goats

whose instinct it seems tells them

the more frightening walkers,

dog owners with long tangling leads,

families with straying kids,

are to be wary of,

knowing that they (the people)

fail to see  how desperate a plunge it would be.

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Ignoring that,

it’s a massively spectacular place,

pockets of green,

dwarfing karst pillars,

a path cut into, and occasionally through,

the immense mass of limestone.

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When you reach Cain, after coming down to the river

 you can soak your feet,

get a cold beer

and, if you’re so inclined, a bus back to Arenas,

though it’s just as fast to walk,

and far more rewarding

taking in the return view, a different light,

magic stillness once the hordes have disappeared,

even the goats are relaxed,

the height feels greater,

like a plunge without limit,

 an endless fall.

And the cider back in Poncebos tastes all the better for it.

 

 

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Covadonga is a quaint little town, perched on a hill on the road up to the Lakes of Covadonga, an access point to the northwest of the Picos de Europa, in the western massif of the park.

To get your car up to the carpark at the lakes, you have to be early, otherwise you are obliged to take the bus.

The park shuts at night and after 9am in the morning cars are not allowed past Covadonga, still well below the Lakes of Enol and Ercina.

 

 

picos-covodonga

the hike to the Mirador de Ordiales starts at the Pan de Carmen carpark.

It’s a short drive from the Lakes of Covadonga but is well sign posted.

It’s possible to walk from the Lakes, but adds 15.4km to the round trip that goes up the Vega Canraso, a rocky track that climbs 700 metres to the Mirador at 1830m, via Refugio Vegarredonda.

 

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Our map listed it as a 5h 20 min round trip, from the carpark, a long day walking in high mountains (alt montaña),

Well known as a high risk zone, the weather can blow in anytime and the clouds shifted and swirled around us all morning till finally late afternoon a heavy mist descended; but then, fortunately, we were on the way back down, the track not totally obvious, goat and cow trails everywhere.

A good map is essential, the park information at the carpark in the lakes offers very little and assumes you are well equiped and that you know everything about the walk. F

But it’s away from the crowds of day trippers to the lakes, the stone shelters for cow herders sprinkled along the way, the grazing high mountain cattle calm as if they know they’re in a better situation than us as the storm blows in.

 

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Horcados Rojos

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Taking the teleferico from Fuente de, 30km from Potes in the east of Picos de Europa, should be straight forward enough. Should be. The queue is long, then you realise you have to get your ticket inside, and the ticket has a number stamp that is then called out to you. It’s time for a coffee, the wait can be hours. The alternative to getting up to the start of the hike to Horcados Rojos, which can actually extend to Refugio Uriellu through the Central Massif of the Picos, emerging in the north at Poncebos, is daunting. The cable car goes up steeply and there apparently really isn’t a track, which we discovered when we realised we had a two hour wait to get back down, late that evening.

It’s a popular place, not without reason.

 

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The morning cloud was only just lifting, wandering amongst a lunar landscape, hanging red rocks, probably more mars scape, well above the treeline here, dogs miniding the sheep at the lower levels, after that it’s all rock and we get up above the clouds, the sun beats down, the track winds on, rocky and tough on the feet, it’s climbing country here, alt montaña, tough going, but that pales when we look down into the valley Jou de los Boches and across at the Naranja de Bulnes (Pico Urriellu). The climb down into the jou,  along pins and lines, (for us another day) is treacherous, tentative hikers, inching down, refugio Urriellu a few hours away further on.

 

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We go back the way we came, after a long pause for lunch, the only way to walk, taking in the scenery over the Central Macizo of the Picos de Europa.

Getting back to Fuente de on the teleferico is a two hour wait but there is no short way down, the Puertos de Aliva is 3-4 hours and by now it’s getting late.

Picos de Europa

•October 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Picos de Europa or the Peaks of Europe are in the Cantabrian Mountains of Spain.

Lying only 15km from the Atlantic coast between Oveido and Santander,

they are 20km from north to south and 40km west to east,

split into the three different autonomous communities of Cantabria, Asturias and
Castille y Leon.

Perhaps because of this jigsaw puzzle-like formation

over the geographical Picos area,

finding information in general is a bit more problematic than normal.

Geographically the Picos are divided by the

western massif,

central massif

and eastern massif.

The Principado de Asturias covers most of the western massif

and across the northern limits,

the Eastern is mostly Cantabria

and the southern central area is in Castille y Leon.

The different autonomous regions like to specialise in their own region only

some information centres

only have details about their own comarca.

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There are several towns that allow access to the Picos;

Cangas de Onis, in Cantabria on the north west edge of the park,

and then going in a clockwise direction,

Arenas, Panes, Potes, Posada de Valdeon, Oseja de Sajambre and Sames.

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Arenas, Asturias

In between this circle of towns lies the Picos, a stunning range,

the altitude rising only to 2600m meaning the lower slopes are green and lush,

cow grazing country, blue cheese and natural cider land,

little stone villages scattered throughout like some land long forgotten.

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And hiking, the options almost endless.

From the Sendero de Reconquista, that crosses the entire park in the north,

to the short Poncebos to Bulnes 7km round trip that goes up a gorge

to the once isolated town, which now has a train tunnel cut deep into the cliffs.

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Bulnes

The scenery by road is spectacular too, the north lush and forested,

the spectacular gorge of the Desafiladero de Boyos south of Cangas,

the deciduous and broadleaved trees giving way

to rocky pines and scrub country in the south.

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Oseja de Sejambre

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From Asturias to Castille and Leon,

the mountain roads wind through cheese making villages

before going east over the pass of Puerto de San Gloria on the N621,

before a long drop down to Potes, greener again,

oaks and meadow land ushering us into the capital of Leibana,

a town nestled amongst the foothills on the edge of the eastern massif

and a short drive to Fuente de

where a teleferico lifts walkers up to 1800metres to access the national park.

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Senda de los Cazadores, Ordesa

•September 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

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Monte Perdido and Ordesa is a Spanish National Park

high in the Pyreenes on the Spanish/French border near Andorra.

It’s one of Spain’s most frequented parks

and in August the hordes make their way up the Ordesa Valley from Brotes or Torla,

picturesque towns nestled just south of the Bujaruelo Valley where it meets the Valley of Ordesa.

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From Torla in peak season the only way into the park

is to take the bus from outside the national park information office.

It runs all day but only until numbers reach 1800 visitors

when access to the park is closed.

One way to avoid the crowds

is the steep ascent of

Senda de los Cazadores (Path of the Hunters).

The Senda rises steeply up the southern side of the valley

on a series of switch backs that make their way up to a high viewing point through the pine trees.

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It’s a tough climb with glimpses of the massif of Mondarruego at 2775m

through the trees across the other side of the valley.

A breathless hour later the viewing platform looks down to where the walk started

including to the Estrecha de Rolando,

a break in the rock face that leads to France.

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The path continues along a contour several hundred metres above the valley floor,

hours later emerging from the trees

only then realising the towering rock formations

that the path falls in the shadow of.

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blog monte perdido (6 of 11)

The amphitheatre like glacial valley that is

the Circo de Soasa

at the head of the Valley de Ordesa

sprinkled with yellow gourse

unfolds to the east with

the spectacular

Monte Perdido at 3355m the tallest of Las Tres Sorores (the Three Sisters)

perched above the The Horse’s Tail Waterfall

crashing down from the snowy summer peaks

Troops of hikers

sometimes in groups of twenty or more

head up to Goriz Refugio

another 500 meters up,

accessed to the south over a high rocky pass

or directly up the ropes and pins to the right of the waterfall.

Probably not a good place to visit in August,

the refugio has 72 beds and since it’s higher than 1800m,

camping is allowed, with permission, but only between dusk and dawn.

From the refugio it’s a few hours to Rolando

and a long day hike up to the top of Monte Perdido, crampons required.

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Looking down on the descent

the path looks easy, a good smooth track once we cross the river,

but it gets rockier, harder on the feet, and takes several hours

though along paths pf blooming flowers

on the edge of waterfalls and under beech and birch

it’s easy going if you have time,

a long day walk.

Start early.

Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park

•September 2, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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the long winded Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici

translates from Catalan as Winding Waters and Saint Maurici Lake.

lying in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees

it’s accessible from several towns in the Lleida district of Catalunya

about 350km from Barcelona.

a walk of 5- 6 days (el Carros de Foc or Chariots of Fire)

includes staying in numerous refuges.

the alternative, day hikes,

are a long hard slog.

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from Espot, a small town to the east of the park,

good walks are available.

leaving the carpark 15 minutes out of town,

a two hour walk gets you up to Estany de Sant Maurici (Saint Maurici Lake).

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The craggy twin granite peaks of Els Encants tower over the lake

 visible nearly all the way up

toward Amitges

the rocky high mountain path

winds through forest,

lakes appearing out of nowhere

the whispering pines so still

you hear the ducks coming in to land

refugio Amitges at 2380m

stuck amongst slender pyramidal rock

has dormitory beds for 74 people

bookings essential in August

buying the evening meal and breakfast obligatory.

From Amitges it’s another two and a half hours west to Refugio Saboredo

or back the 3 hours to Sant Maurici,

then the two more back to the car park.

another option, Refugio Mallafre,

is a short walk from Sant Maurici

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another day walk also goes from the carpark at 1800m,

heading across to refugio JM Blanc

along, initially, the Fonguera Valley.

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more isolated, even in August,

it’s hard to know why.

wandering up the valley is spectacular

before the path starts to climb out,

a steady rise, the fields closing in with rock,

the river gently rolling way below

while the sky grows dark quickly

threatens a storm

the path gets steeper still

climbing higher

the valley almost out of sight

over boulders

up to a wall

where the path up to the pass,

the Collada Monestero at 2716m,

is all loose rock and scree,

remnants of winter snow asleep in the shadows,

punctuating the wild untamedness of high mountains.

And that’s why it’s isolated

even in August

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the Information centre in Espot

pointed out how going east to west

avoids the 1000m climb out of Espot to JM Blanc at 2400m.

but the climb up the collada (pass) is huge,

a steep scree incline for half an hour.

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looking over the other side,

catching your breath,

rock towers peer down on us before we

skip press on and on

and on

dropping toward JM Blanc refugio

steps that hammer away at the feet and the knees.

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the times given in Aiguestortes are walking times – quick ones.

taking photos, drinking water, catching your breath, eating, adds more.

maybe 50% more.

an 8 hour walk can take up to 12 hours

if you like to take in the view.

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blog Aiguestortes (9 of 11)

to stay in Refugio JM Blanc

nestled amongst crystal clear lakes

would be perfect,

otherwise it’s back down to Espot,

a gentle town

amongst the craggy wild

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Dry Stone Walk, Mallorca

•November 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Mallorca (6 of 18)

the Ruta de Pedra en Sec (GR221)

or the Dry Stone Route

runs along the north west coast of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands

where the mountains of the Serra Tramuntana

a Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site

rise up from the coast in a range of rocky outcrops,

ten of which tower over a thousand metres.

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A little tourist train chuffs up from Palma to Soller.

It’s slower than the bus,

more expensive,

but sets a nice pace for a walk,

with the windows down,

the breeze in your face

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Soller is nestled in a basin

a towering limestone massif  dwarfing the town

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from the plaza

we head north over the high saddle

and pretty quickly it’s not hard to see why it’s called the dry stone walk

olive terraces grip the mountainside

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if you’re quick,

it’s a long 8 hour walk to Tossal Verdes,

the path rising about 1,000m

before you reach the  refugio

but its worth the effort for the view alone,

friendliness, cold beer and good food

the bonus

refugio Mallorca Tossal Verdes (1 of 1)

Tossal Verdes to Lluc might look

on paper

like an easier day

but after a long stretch up the ridge of the Tramuntana

with spectacular views to the west and north coast,

and to the flat resort beaches to the east,

we trudged back down down down to Lluc,

seemingly endlessly,

a longer day than Soller to Tossal Verdes

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limping into the quirky monastery/ hotel at Lluc

an option when the refugio is full

the animated host said people prefer to make their own beds

yeah right

so the sheets are neatly placed on the foot of the bed

it’s tempting after a day like that,

not to make it at all.

From Lluc it’s a short ascent

before heading down to Pollenca,

a half day walk really,

much easier going,

to a pleasant town,

a nice little square and

a refugio .

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Once back in Soller the walk south heads to Deia,

descending the side of the Tramuntana

through lemon and orange groves,

olive trees and grapes

dramatic views down along the coast

cafes and freshly squeezed orange juice

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Mallorca (12 of 18)

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Deia perches below a rocky limestone cliff

that catches the sinking sun from across the Mediterranean,

a gentle town clinging to a gully

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that falls down to a stony beach

where a couple of stylish chiringuitos

quench the thirst

of the dry stone walk

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Cami de Ronda, Catalunya

•November 20, 2015 • 4 Comments

Cami de Ronda (6 of 20)

 

The Cami de Ronda stretches the length of the north Catalan Coast – the Costa Brava.

Once a series of walkways to keep

vigilance on the coast, it now makes a convenient set of paths that,

if you’re crazy enough,

you can follow in one long walk.

Cami de Ronda (13 of 20)

The route starts at Blanes, 70km north of Barcelona, and heads north to the French border

meandering along the coastline and taking in a variety of landscapes

that include rocky pine outcrops, long beach walks,

urban paths, flat dirt tracks, coastal resort towns,

fishing villages and national parks,

all the while

wandering up and down the Calas (Coves) of the Costa Brava.

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It’s easy to follow, being part of the GR92,

Spain’s long walk from France through Catalonia and down to Andalusia.

We used 10 stopping points,

which in theory means the walk could be done in 10  days,

yet that would be to rush thereby missing real gems along the way,

the Mediterranean spectacular.

Tossa del Mar

Tossa del Mar

Heading north from Tossa in July we wandered the coast,

pitching our tent on all but a couple of nights in San Pere Pescador,

where a small hotel was a cheaper option.

July might not be the best time to walk

the  Catalan sun can fry you

but the days are long

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San Feliu de Guixols

 

you can walk from early morning

take a long lunch with a “menu”

and continue on well into the evening

We walked 180km from Tossa del Mar to Cadaques

mostly easy enough

though some stretches were long

the golf of Roses is enormous,

long and flat, though there’s plenty of camping sites.

Calella de Palafrugell to Begur is steep but rewarding

and probably the highlight of the entire coast,

though once arriving in Cadaques,

and strolling out through the Parc Natural del Cap de Crues,

it’s hard to decide where the best place is.

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The paths are excellent, well marked with the red & white GR92 symbol.

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There’s a

Triangle Postal book

with too many photos to carry on a walk.

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A map was all we needed, despite some confusion in the L’Emporda area

We started at a friends house near Lloret

then camping Pola, north of Tossa

a night in San Feliu de Guixils

Cami de Ronda (3 of 20)

then Playa Castell just past Palamos (Benelux)

a good camping option

with

many little Calas

making for excellent exploring

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Cami de Ronda (7 of 20)

it’s not far then to Calella de Palafrugell

where the water is crystal clear

and it’s easy to find an isolated cala

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La Torre Tres Pins, Calella

La Torre Tres Pins, Calella

Hard to leave behind

through to Begur

Begur (1 of 1)

and then down to the coast again, camping one night

before a long walk to l’Estartit

hot and flat along the beach

a noisy place for camping, crammed with too many campervans & caravans

Estartit, Llaut Catalan fishing boats

Estartit, Llaut Catalan fishing boats

next stop L’Escala

a seaside resort

with the Badia de Roses stretching out ahead.

Cami de Ronda (12 of 20)

Going inland here

to San Pere Pescador

a quiet track through fruit orchards

hot, flat and dry

a good town

with the best apples in Catalonia

and good tapas

Cami de Ronda (15 of 20)

It’s a long walk to Roses

but it starts well through a wetland national park

before

winding through the canals of Empuribrava

and along the bay to Roses

Up and down and over the Punta Falconera leads

to Cadeques

by then

a magic place

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with Dali’s house over the hill in Portlligat

and Cap de Creus the most easterly point of the Spanish mainland

a couple of hours away by foot

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view from Cap de Creus, northwest to France

view from Cap de Creus, northwest to France

The Mountains of Mourne

•June 5, 2014 • 1 Comment

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the Mountains of Mourne

around Newcastle, County Down

Northern Ireland

two dozen peaks, or Slieves, most over 500m

the highest Slieve Donard 853m

and only 3km from the coast

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half of them

have the Mourne Wall

running steeply up and over

sheep wander in and around

now more useful

as a guide for hundreds of hours of day walks

even if the infamous weather closes in

the wall leads you home

or at least down the mountain

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they say it’s possible to do

all 35km of the 2m high wall in a day

but the best method

is to take your time

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granite tors lie on the top of Binnian and Bearnagh

like natural art galleries

sculptures and castles

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taking in views as far as the Isle of Man

back to Belfast

the silence roaring

windswept

rocky

rounded

hundreds of hours of rambling

as good or better than it’s famous cousin Donegal

which gets all the tourists

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the Mountains of Mourne

 all walking distance or a short cab ride

from Newcastle, County Down, Northern Ireland

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more photos at http://www.driftinfocus.tumblr.com