Picos de Europa, Part 2 (Covadonga)

There was so much to say about this trip that I decided to split it into two parts. The first post covers our visit to Santander and our hike on the Ruta de Cares, which were both astoundingly beautiful, and I really thought I’d seen it all. But then we went to Covadonga.

We woke up sore and tired in Arenas de Cabrales, but the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and we still had a day of vacation left to spend. We had breakfast in a sun-filled café in our little town, and then we left in search of -literally- greener pastures.

On the road we stopped to take pictures of the views that caught our eye (including the famous Naranjo de Bulnes, so named for its orange hue, which you cannot see in the second picture):

We were on our way to Covadonga Lakes, a place I’d heard about from Jill and various other friends, and even her faded photo, taken years ago, was so beautiful that I decided then and there that we should visit Covadonga as soon as possible. And it just happened to be on our way – if by “on our way” you mean 11 kilometers out of our way, up steep hills, past clouds, winding along treacherous mountainsides for the better part of an hour. But it was so worth it.

Because after a few hours of driving, nausea-inducing twists and turns, and inclines so steep our eardrums popped, we stepped out of the car and saw this:

This photo does not do justice to the colors – the deep blue sky and the perfect turqoise of the waters, the vivid green of the trees and the bright white-gray of the mountains all blending together into a perfect masterpiece. I felt like Heidi in the Alps and could not help but hum to myself “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music”, because they were. They were silent and peaceful, and yet there was a constant tinkling of cowbells, a low murmur from the sheep and goats grazing on the hills. You could hear sounds that were miles away, and yet all the noise of life seemed to die away. The lake was so calm and the mountains so permanent that it seemed as if you, too, ought to stand still, quietly, and just be. It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of being high above the world and suddenly coming upon, as if by surprise, this little corner of the world that looks like a reflection of heaven, so I will try to let the photographs speak for themselves:

We lingered as long as we could and watched the flocks of sheep and herds of goats and cows, listened to their bells, watch them cross the road in one big clump while drivers stood helplessly by:

But eventually, departure was inevitable; we would have to leave paradise sometime, and even though I tried to convince Isaac that we could easily move here and build ourselves a little stone house by the lake, the rumbling in our stomachs urged us on, and slowly, we made the treacherous descent back through the clouds and onto Earth.

But we couldn’t leave Asturias with unfinished business, and there was still one more thing we had to do. We stopped in a small restaurant and I didn’t even need to look at the menu, because I wanted one thing and one thing only: fabada, the famous Asturian stew of beans, chorizo, and lacón (ham hock). It was as good as I imagined, as was the dish of roasted goat with potatoes and peas that came after it. And the tarta de la abuela, a cake of pudding and cookies, that came after that. The meal was rich, warm, and hearty, and well deserved after all the exercise we’d done in the past few days. It was our last memory of Asturias as we drove home, and though the hills ebbed away and the sky grew wider, we were sure that, far away in the distance, we could still hear the tinkling of bells in the hills.

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