To our surprise, the cloud had lifted overnight and there was even a little weak sunshine. We could see the Picos ridges high above us from our tent. It was still cold and the grass was very wet so we had a very basic breakfast of white bread, butter and water in the tent.
We packed up, loaded our bikes and walked to the cable car station for the swift ride up at €12.50 each return. We shared the cable car with an English couple who’d been on the same crossing as us and were booked to return on the same day… except it was to turn out differently.
With gloves, cagoules and overtrousers to keep out the biting wind, we went for a short walk to view and photograph the peaks and the snow with chamois crossing. Visibility was good, with occasional sunshine brightening the forbidding grey rock. We called in at the café for a secondary breakfast of tortilla, muffin and coffee then returned to collect our bikes from the campsite.
The road ends at Fuente Dé but there’s a track over a mountain pass which then descends to the road where we could continue to Posada de Valdeon. Initially it was a long relentless push as we rose to almost 6000ft above sea level, gaining a mile of height since yesterday. We were surprised to find mile-high pasture, dogs guarding the cattle against wolves. We were surrounded by the Picos with snow, sometimes in huge banks on the side of the track, reminding us how high we were and that we were still early in the year. A small party of mountain bikers descended as we toiled upwards. At times it looked as though the weather might close in on us, as mist descended on the southeasterly peaks and heavy clouds gathered. It was cold enough for gloves and we had to don cagoules to retain body heat.
At the top of the pass a landrover passed, its occupants gazing out glumly as our bikes put their “4×4 adventure trek” into perspective. We saw no-one else on the track, and enjoyed a short level section before applying the brakes for the long descent, reaching the road at 16:00, still 5000ft up. Then it was downhill all the way to Posada de Valdeon. We rented a chalet for two nights at €60 per night. This was the most we paid for accommodation but was worth it for the space and the opportunity to dry off the tent on the fence in the warm early evening sunshine.
Posada de Valdeon is beautifully situated for walks and tourist developments have begun. As yet it’s still unspoilt, and the services have made no attempt to appeal to tourists. Being Sunday, the shop was closed so we had to dine out. Most of the bars and restaurants were closed, but we found one with a €11 set menu advertised. Christine did remarkably well in conveying our dietary restrictions to the disbelieving owner, who produced a very acceptable meal of ensalada mixte, tortilla francès (i.e. omelette) with mushrooms, fruit and a bottle of wine between us for the standard €11 each. We rewarded him with a large tip and went back for a restful night’s sleep.