Breakfast was included at Pandesiertos, so it was a very civilised start to the day, and since we didn’t have to faff about finding a bar, or pack up our belongings, we were away by 09:15, though it took us a long long time to get to the lakes above Covadonga. There was a mountain bike route marked on our map, which seemed a more interesting option than out and back along the road. It started innocently as a good track, though very steep in places, past small farming hamlets and pasture. Waymarking was sporadic and there were times when we had to stop to puzzle out the correct way.
After a while, the track became a path, then a rocky muddy narrow path sometimes fading into nothing. We eventually hauled our bikes up to the top of a pass where there was disappointingly a footpath junction. We knew we couldn’t be too far off the road by now, and took the more likely one. Then we spotted a yellow and white cross on a stone, indicating that this wasn’t the route. Back we went and along the other path, which rapidly deteriorated into a bog with sunken rocks, not at all promising. I waited with the bikes while Christine scouted ahead to see if it improved. Amazingly, a signpost lay ahead, which gave us the encouragement to proceed. We progressed slowly over another pass and then followed another narrow and rocky path, pulling our bikes over large boulders, sweating in the heat while our legs were scratched by brambles. Eventually we heard and then saw the road, but it was still a struggle to get to it. At last we were on it at 14:00 and checked out our bikes. I’d lost my bottom water bottle and a mudguard clip, otherwise all was well.
We were above Covadonga but still had a lot of road climbing before we reached the lakes. The views of Lago Erol and Lago Ercina and the lush green grass and blue sky with the mountains beyond were outstanding. We were out of water and I was desperately thirsty so it was a relief to find a bar near the lakes. We bought ice-cold mineral water and I tried a bottle of 1906 lager, brewed in A Coruna, quite strong at 6.5% and pleasantly malty.
We freewheeled steeply back down to Covadonga, pausing on the way to let our rims cool down. I’d hoped find some sidra to accompany tonight’s dinner but there were no shops. I waited with the bikes while Christine investigated a little grotto in a hollow in the rock where a priest was holding a mass. This side of the Picos is more developed, with new hotels and restaurants and the road was fairly busy. All the more surprising that the campsite was closed. We reached Pandesiertos at 19:00, hosed down our very muddy bikes, showered, cooked, ate then flopped into bed exhausted.