It’s a couple of days since I resuscitated the blog and quite a bit has happened, nearly all of it good.
Sonia gave Laurie and me a lift to the bus station and the trip began on a Megabus to Edinburgh Airport. The journey was mostly uneventful, but we both enjoyed crossing the Firth of Forth via the new Queensferry Crossing: it is a truly beautiful structure, the Moire patterns made by the cables changing as our viewing angle did. Halbeath Park and Ride / coach junction is – to be honest – somewhat less visually appealing but our half hour there passed reasonably well and we sped to the airport (the driver was running late) as if the future of mankind hung in the balance and the bus was in reality the 747 its route number suggested.
Baggage drop and security went smoothly, then we sat down to fish pie in Weatherspoons.
The flight to Bilbao was also uneventful, followed by a smooth transfer to the Holiday Inn Express where I had booked to spend the night. These places are much of a muchness, but the room was comfortable with air conditioning Laurie was able to switch off. We landed at 22:20, so it was after eleven before we were in our room.
Thursday started early – as Laurie is learning to say, ‘earlier than was strictly necessary’. There were a number of connections we had to make to reach our destination and some of them were going to be a bit tight unless everything fell into place…
Breakfast started at 5am and we tucked into coffee, croissants etc., then got the hotel’s shuttle service back to the airport to take the bus /into town. Despite some angst over times, the purchase of tickets and the like, we eventually got a bus to the Bilbao bus station, where we had a short time to find the coach to Santander.
Coach found – not a simple task due to the way Spaniards point when giving directions – we were told by the driver that we couldn’t buy a ticket on board and had to remove our luggage from the hold and then go to the ticket office. He added by way of encouragement that he’d be away by the time we got back. So we hurried. When we got back to the coach triumphantly waving our tickets he took one look at them and refused us entry on the basis the ticket said the 7:30 bus. This seemed to be a serious problem, as we needed to get this bus to make our next connection which would lead to the Picos. Tears didn’t seem to work, so we sat down and waited. Laurie fiddled with his phone and then announced triumphantly that there was another connection at 10:15 (he later pointed out I’d known this all along), so spirits rose again.
Eventually we arrived in Santander’s underground bus station and, after a wait, were transferred to Aliezo. Aliezo is a little one-man-and-his-dog sort of village a few hundred yards off the main road, though none the less pretty for that. Steeply up the hill from there is Casa Gustavo, the home of Mike and Lisa who are organising the day to day details of accommodation etc.
(Four years ago, I spent 10 days or so walking in the area with another friend – Brian Macgill – and we had used Mike & Lisa for their services then.)
It turned out that Lisa was in the UK on family business and Mike was alone looking after Lisa’s mum, who suffers from dementia. It was interesting to note that she could speak a few words of Spanish to the local cook and played a tolerable game of Scrabble, but asked every five minutes where Lisa was, was surprised and concerned when told she was in England, then repeated the process a few minutes later.
The house Mike and Lisa have is a charming old building with beams, squint floors and quirky doors. After a cup of tea, we took a wander into Potes, which is a nice wee town, and had a beer. Whilst indulging in Bacchus’initiation rites, we watched a Spanish News channel and they are certainly getting their bragas in a twist over the Catalonia Independence question: it will be interesting to see how this develops: Mike says the Spanish Government have sent naval vessels to Catalonian ports and there certainly seems to be a standoff at the moment.
I had been to Potes before, and was naturally hoping Laurie would like it, which he seemed to do. Back at Casa Gustavo, we had a separate room each and an evening meal which put me in mind of a week of chicken-related meals from ‘The Pauper’s Cookbook’ when Sonia and I were first married and finding life expensive. Funnily enough, I’ve not been a great fan of boiled hen ever since.
After a good night’s sleep and breakfast, L and I started our first day’s walking.
The total distance we walked was 16km, not a lot, as Laurie says, but steep at times with about 1100m of ascent. This latter number is due to a misjudgement on my part. Mr C. has been muttering on and off about having been feeling under the weather and not being very fit. So when, in this safe and secure knowledge, I suggested nipping up a nearby peak I felt on fairly safe ground. Blow me, did he not only agree but enthuse and we toiled up Pico Agero, adding 300m onto our daily climb. To be fair to L and me, I did enjoy the climb and the satisfaction of reaching the top at 1352m. After that, it was a steep descent from the col, most of it on ridged concrete, to the village of Bejes. Mike takes a rather relaxed view of information provision and we had some difficulty locating the albergue we are staying in. This is a Youth Hostel type place: we’re in a dormitory and expecting another seven Spaniards (4 in our dorm) who will be here to look at the wildlife.
Anyway that’s us about up to date. The weather has been warm (not to say hot) and dry, but we expect rain and thunder tomorrow. C’est la vie, as they say a bit North of here.