Yesterday afternoon some locals seemed to take delight in telling us that there would be storms today, and their prophecy of doom was supported by the weather forecast. It was indeed raining when we left this morning, but not heavily, and there was no more than light rain throughout the walk, with many periods of no rain. But there was very limited visibility as I walked through thick cloud for the first couple of hours – down to 20 or 30 metres. It created a very special atmosphere.
The first 6km were along a quiet road. After reaching the hamlet of La Mesa there is a ridiculously steep hill that stretches for 2+ km – a real killer. I huffed and puffed but kept my pace going to the top. Shortly after the summit we forked onto moorland. Over the last few days there have been extensive patches of burned land and I had wondered if this was some sort of controlled land management.
This moorland was also burned off, the smell of the fire was still very strong. After some distance I entered a planted pine forest – trees all in regimented rows and all completely blackened by fire. Now I realised this was no plan but a devastating accident. There must have been millions of destroyed trees. In my limited experience of pine forest fire (Competa 2014) pines do not recover. I was walking for probably a couple of hours through the carnage, which was strangely beautiful, particularly with the low lying mist giving the impression of smoke still rising from the ashes.
The views changed constantly, with the variation of light and the position of the cloud, encouraging more and more photo opportunities
There was a point at which we could see the wide body of water of the Rio Navia deep down at the bottom of the gorge with the wispy cloud adding to the magic of the view. I have been blessed on this walk, even when the weather isn’t fine, it is actually beautiful.
I asked a passing Spanish guy if he knew anything about the fire, and he said that it had happened only two weeks ago. The land affected rises from the gorge of the Grandas de Salime dam at 220 metres to the summit at over 1,000 metres. What a change to the scenery in just a couple of weeks. I’m guessing that all these trees will have to be felled and removed as they have been in the mountains surrounding Competa. An absolutely mammoth task.
The walk down this gorge was a great strain on the knees and mine were definitely ‘talking to me’ as Marilyn would say. If fact they were shouting obscenities at me. But I pretty much ignored them and made it to the bottom in one piece. Only to realise the inevitable – what went down must go back up and there was a steady climb for the next 6 km when we reached the new town of Grandas de Salime (the original town had been drowned by the dam when it was constructed in 1954). I was glad to find an ATM as I was running short of money.
The last 5 km from Grandas to Castro were a delight. Mostly on tracks through woodland and between pastures with some roadwalking added to the mix. I think I almost prefer this gentle scenery to the huge expanses of mountain passes. Trotting across pastures, between tiny hamlets past a variety of farm animals gives me great joy and a lifts my spirits.
The albergue at Castro is an absolute delight. It is advertised as a youth hostel/albergue, but I can’t imagine many youths would be likely to stay here. Perhaps it is a way around the Spanish ‘autonomo’ (self-employed) system. There are 16 beds in rooms of four, two bathrooms, a huge communal sitting/dining room with kitchen facilities (microwave), a bar with an amazing choice of healthy food, and a delightful garden. There are no other facilities in this tiny hamlet, but none are needed! I absolutely recommend this place at 11 euros, with washer/dryer.
Today’s distance 27.1 km
Accumulated uphill elevation 713 m
Accumulated downhill elevation 946 m
Total distance 674.8 km
Average per day 27 km