‘The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.’ John Muir
Roger’s birthday: our plan was to go and walk somewhere new then come home and cook a lovely meal together. We’re simple folk, after all!
We decided to head west – right to the edge of Asturias, in fact. From the coast we turned south and climbed an impressive mountain pass to almost 900 metres where there were several kilometres of snow poles lining the sides of the road. No white stuff for us to deal with today, but the higher snow-covered mountains to the south looked quite spectacular. We dropped down to Santa Eulalia de Oscos and picked up the Ruta de la Seimeira.
I am starting to see our walks here not in terms of route or distance or elevation or time, but in colours. Somiedo was crisp and dazzling whites and blues; this was soft and earthy greens, a thousand shades of verdant beauty. (I was reminded of my recent dyeing disaster. Forget Norway: those ‘Big Foot’ socks have found their spiritual home right here!) This is a land of broad-leafed forests. No swathes of dusky eucalyptus here but rather ancient oaks and chestnuts, gnarled, contorted and moss-clad, straight out of a fairy tale.
The trunks and branches were frosted with a dainty lichen in the softest, prettiest green (what I would give to reproduce that exact shade in my dyepot!), a delicate tracery that gave the trees a magical, almost ethereal quality. This was truly an enchanted forest.
In statistical terms, this was neither a long walk (6.5km) nor a steep climb (150 metres). It followed the river up an ever-narrowing valley, sometimes high above the water, sometimes down at the same level.
It’s a busy river, meandering tightly in places and chattering over rocks so loudly we could hardly hear the birdsong. The path was solid and well-marked, although we did come up against a small obstacle.
The path steepened noticeably as we neared our ultimate destination: a waterfall.
I love waterfalls. All that power and energy of movement and noise, the water tumbling relentlessly, the foam, the spray, the rainbows. Raw, pure nature. This one was certainly impressive, falling 30 metres and making a ninety-degree turn part way down (well, it is Asturias after all – there had to be a hairpin somewhere!). As we neared the waterfall, the sun burst out, lighting the water droplets like millions of crystals hurtling over the edge. What a stunningly beautiful sight. What an incredible spot to sit and wonder.
On our way up to the waterfall we had passed a slate picnic table in a chestnut grove. This seemed like the perfect place to eat our lunch, watching a dipper as it bobbed on the rocks and dived into the water below us.
One of the fascinating aspects of the whole walk was the amount of human activity evident from another age. Impossible to guess the total length of stone walls that had been built or to imagine the hours of labour it must have taken to create them.
The mostly tumbledown buildings in the abandoned village of Ancadeira spoke of a once thriving community.
Places like this always make me feel a little wistful. I know time passes, things change and people move on: it’s the human way, after all. However, looking at these old houses and running my hands over their stones and beams, I wondered about the hands that had built them; the daily effort and toil that went into working and surviving here; all the lives that were lived, created and lost within these walls; the laughter and love, tears and joy, feast and famine, success and starvation. Gone. All gone. Roger woke me from my musings by suggesting this as our next renovation project . . .
Mmm . . . time to go, I think!
Our route home took us down the west side of the picturesque Ribadeo estuary and so into Galicia for the first time. We stopped in Ribadeo to buy fresh local goodies for a tapas meal – the perfect end to a wonderful day. Delicious food, mellow wine, great music . . . and yet something of that magical green place stayed with us both throughout the evening.
Like Somiedo, we will definitely be going back. 🙂