A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

Home Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018

Rain In The Picos

By Ren Withnell

Our first day did not go as planned. Our second day was so perfect that it's probably ruined the rest of the trip. Today, normal service will be resumed. The forecast is for rain. A lot of rain. 

Looking over the campsite across tents and vans the hills are covered in a thick layer of cloud
The clouds are already closing in on our campsite.

We stare at various forecasts on our smartphones. Most agree that it's going to be wet today then there is much disagreement about what happens tomorrow. They all agree it will be wet but where and when? That's a matter of opinion. I'm close to developing a nervous tick as memories of the horrors of France return to haunt me. 

I don't mind rain as such. What rain means though is that everything is harder and less pleasing. This saps away the desire to do things. This means it's all too easy to sit around doing nothing. Which means I get bored. I hate getting bored. Which causes me to dislike the rain.

We decide to stay in Potes for another night. If the weather is going to be pants then it is a little easier to stay dry by staying put. Thankfully, mercifully Sharon agrees it would be fruitless just sitting around in the tent all day. 

With grey skies our first foray is a walk up the hill to a monastery. I have been informed not to expect too much, a Brit told me last night it looks more like an old industrial unit. Still, we'll not be sat in the tent.

The monastery is just up the road from where we are. Thing is it is a steep road and the angle is sufficient to shorten our breath somewhat. It does us good, it raises our heart rate and reactivates muscles that don't get used enough while riding. The leaden skies ease a little and the valley below is a healthy vibrant green.

The road to the monastery is steep and rises into the clouds
The camera doesn't catch how steep our route is.
Trees and patches of grass cover a vast valley seen from the monastery
There's a LOT of green stuff down in the valley from whence we've just walked.

Indeed the monastery looks like an old industrial mill in North Yorkshire. Not unattractive you understand but I can't see it winning any architectural awards. There's a large car park and even a tat shop so it appears to be a popular visitor attraction, today there are but a handful of wandering visitors. The season really has not started yet.

The monastery looks like a sandstone built weaving mill from the mid 1800s
I'll geet me clotch cap an geet ta work at th'mill.

Beyond the monastery we walk further uphill, less steeply this time. The quiet road is cut into the hillside revealing complex, warped and contrary strata layers. We discuss these, imagining the forces required to cause such folding and kneading. After 10 minutes we decide we're just guessing, we need the help of a proper rockologist (geologist, yes we know). Another couple catch us up and join the conversation. They're British too and share a little extra knowledge of the area.

Complex, twisted and at all angles the strata of the rocks suggests great forces at play
The forces of tectonic plates folds rock like pizza dough.

At the end of the road is a small building, just one room it seems. The Ermita de San Miguel is apparently a chapel, but the word "ermita" suggests a hermitage. The views behind and to either side are a mixture of green tree filled valley and hard jarring mountains. The grey skies and patchy mists add to the ambience, they're the tense music to the drama.

A large green valley with huge rocky and jarring peaks covered in clouds in the distance
The Picos De Europa has some serious views to absorb.

As we walk back down the hill the rain arrives, gently at first. Fear not for we have our waterproof overjackets. By the time we're back at the site the light mizzle has become solid drizzle. I'm not too disheartened so far.

Our next stop is Fuenta De and some kind of cable car. My uncle and a couple of facebook friends have mentioned this place. Kitted out in full wet gear Sharon hops onto the back of my bike so she can relax and we head into the hills once more. 

The road and our journey is a wet one yet this terrible Spanish rain is but a mere light shower compared to an ordinary day in Manchester. If this is heavy rain then Spanish folks best bring an aqualung and drysuit if they ever come to my home. I laugh at your pathetic drizzle!

To ride the cablecar into the mist will cost us €17 each. That's almost a night's camping, that's 3 good meals! I would consider it if we hadn't witnessed a cablecar fade into the thick mist. It looks like we'd arrive up top and see...well less than we can see down here I'm sure. I keep my wallet firmly closed and safe in my bag. 

A solitary cable car gondola rises into the clouds at Fuenta De
As the gondola rises into the clouds I can't see the point...or much else for that matter.

Back along the road towards Potes the rain slowly lightens and then stops as we saunter into town. Potes struck me as an ok sort of place when we first came through it and now seems to be an ideal time to look around. There is but the merest chance the sun may possibly make an occasional appearance. 

We are not disappointed. I hate cities, I don't care for large towns but I have a peculiar unexplained connection with small manageable towns. I fell in love with Ullapool, I enjoyed Milau, Edam was lovely and I appreciated Shrewsbury and Ledbury. I'm happy to add Potes to this list.

The river cuts through the town with tall steep stone walls and a stone bridge
I think I quite like Potes.
Smart modern apartments by the river are styled to fit in with the older housesThe old and the new don't have to look awful together.

Narrow lanes, buildings that look as Spanish as I'd imagined them, cafes that spill onto the street, small shops and mixed fascinating architecture. It's not picture perfect like a Cotswold village, there's scaffolding and car parks and modern supermarkets. This makes it feel real, not sterile. I like it.

A narrow lane with shops and people in Potes
Narrow lanes with fascinating buildings.
Tables, chairs and parasols on the small cobbled street of potes
It is almost as I'd imagined a Spanish town to be. Except there's no sun.

After another tent made meal we stare hard at a multitude of forecasts trying to decide what to do. This is not at all easy, there is no singular obvious choice. Another drizzle shower passes over to reinforce our dilemma.

The Pyrenees seems a very long way away, for example Huesca is 520km or over 300 miles away. That's either a long ride or we'll have to split it in two. It's also a lot of motorways including tolls or smaller roads and getting perpetually lost. The rain actually appears worse in that direction. Hmmmm.

It looks like it will rain here in Potes too. Hmmmmm.

We could head south to Salamanca. That would involve a lot of motorways too and, well, I've heard Salamanca is a lovely city but I don't like cities. It seems a little more likely it will be dry there, but only a tiny little more likely, definitely not a certainty. Hmmmmmm.

Burgos? It was our original destination when we arrived. The city doesn't look too large. There's a nearby mountain range we could explore? It's not too far away, 160km or 100 miles. To be frank it looks just as wet as any other of our potential destinations. Hmmmmmm.

We settle on Burgos.

If you'd like to see your advert on any of the pages of Bikes And Travels contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Building Up To EspaƱa In the prologue to their journey Ren can't help but feel that the forthcoming journey might be a costly disaster. Forever the optimist.
Getting Ready For Spain Sharon is determined to be ready, organised and prepared for her forthcoming trip to Spain. However life is even more determined to ruin her plans.
Bodging Daaan Saaaf Ren bears witness to an impossible event. Then there's some last minute bodging to be done.
Motorway Miles And Muses Sharon's derriere proves more than tough enough for the big ride across England. Can she manage to lose them emotional luggage while securing her physical luggage though?
To The Ferry What are the chances of Sharon getting out of bed very early twice in the same week. Well she'd better had otherwise the Muppet's will miss the ferry.
Ocean Blue Sharon's more excited than nervous but this is the first time the Kwakker has been aboard ship. That's if customs let her on board.
Lost Off The Ferry The great adventurer and motorcyclist Ren is proving that he is in fact a useless idiot. He can't ride and he can't find a campsite that is open. Oh what will become of the BAT muppets?
Campsite Conundrum Sharon is having way too much fun while Ren is trying to find a place to sleep. Well someone has to be happy when Ren's such a grump.
Discovering The Picos After a troublesome first day in Spain hopefully Sharon and Ren's luck will improve. Thing is they have a 187km detour to reach their destination. There have been worse detours though.
Heaven's Mirror Putting fear and doubt to bed for a while Sharon enjoys the wondrous ecstasy of nature and the joy of riding a motorcycle through it. Oh and a lot of sharp corners too.
Rain In The Picos Will the rain bring doom and gloom to the already grumpy Ren? Luckily there's enough scenery and interesting things to keep him going.
The Sound Of Silence In spite of a dire weather forecast Sharon's day in Spain is filled with the beauty of nature, fond memories and the creation of great new memories.
Riding to Burgos Is motorcycle touring a non stop stream of excitement, beauty, wonder and exploration? Erm, nope. It's a rather ordinary day on the road to Burgos.
Tin Tin It's both a good and bad day for Sharon as she travels from the delights of the mountains to the grim reality of the city and the rain. At least her hair is looking good.
Higher Than I've Ever Been In spite of the weather forecasts. In spite of no longer being in The Picos. In spite of Ren being a pessimist. In spite of all this it seems Northern Spain has more delights in store.
Magical Kingdom Sharon's having another amazing day riding around Northern Spain. She's on a high, metaphorically and literally.
Boots And Burgos Ren is suffering a footwear malfunction and it's time to go and do that city thing. Can Burgos convert Sharon and Ren into city lovers?
Burgos Bimble Sharon explores the city of Burgos, Spain. Architecture, stone masonry, pilgrims and tempting food. But can a city really endear itself to this country girl?
Lost In Luxury How to turn a fortuitous and splendid day into a nightmare. Just follow Ren and he'll sort the rest out. Still, it could be worse.
Dam Lost Fearing the weather Sharon is braced for a drenching. Thing is the weather isn't really the problem.
Gritty Northern El Bierzo There's time to explore a different part of Northern Spain today. It might not have the beauty of The Picos De Europa it is however a fascinating area.
Blink Of An Eye Sharon has an interesting day poking around north west Spain. There's a something of a shock in store for the evening.
Back To Beauty, Dodgy Caravan It's time for the dynamic muppets to saunter their way back towards the ferry and Ren is in reflective mood. Wonderful scenery, weird accommodation.
The Good, The Bad And The Musty It's a day of confusing emotions for Sharon, but life is for living. Will this evening's accommodation be as luxurious as the previous evening's?
Beautiful Potes While going to a now familiar town is hardly intrepid at least it means Ren is calm, chilled out and not lost. For once.
Head In The Clouds Sharon is calmed by the wonders of Northern Spain's wondrous scenery as she returns to the comforts of Potes.
Sun, Sand, Sea And Santander The weather has improved now it's time for the dynamic muppets to head back to the ferry. Ren is intrigued by stories or walking across Northern Spain, will we see "Walks And Travels" or W.A.T.?
Splish Splash Santander The beauty and grandeur of the The Picos means Sharon does not want to leave, ever. It's back to the city, ready to sail home. Fear not, there's still pleasures to be found.
The Ferry Home It's the dynamic muppet's last day in Spain so it's time to catch the ferry. A mixture of sadness and relief for Ren, but what about the other riders in the queue?
Final Thoughts On Spain Ren crosses the T's and dots the I's on the Spanish trip.

Reader's Comments

CrazyFrog said :-
Bl@@dy typical, you and Sharon off to Spain, basking in tropical sunshine whilst back in good old Blighty it's cold and wet again.

Oh, no wait a moment......

(Sorry, I just couldn't resist that, but it is exceptionally warm and sunny here. I'll get my hat and coat!)
25/06/2018 02:33:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It was a couple of weeks ago now...

We were sat in the tent in the evening as a shower passed over. Sharon's daughter was complaining it was too hot, Facebook was filled with friend's post of sunny vistas. I was accusing Sharon of being the queen of rain.

Nevertheless CrazyFrog. Thank you for being so sympathetic, caring, considerate and supportive. Harumph.
25/06/2018 03:21:49 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
We were probably not that far away from you in Bourgogne at the beginning of June. Some really dramatic thunderstorms but fortunately mostly in the evenings leaving the days dry for strolling through atmospheric streets and soaking up local culture (AKA food and wine).
26/06/2018 10:23:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You'll have to help me out here Ian. If I put Bourgogne into Google maps I end up roughly in central France? From there to The Picos is a good 600 to 700 miles. Normally you're a mere 100 miles from myself when we're at home!

By soaking up the local culture you make it sound like you are a French baguette dipped into tasty sauces and wines.

Have you ever considered moving to France? You seem to relish being there and it seems an obvious move for you. I only ask because it'd be handy to have somewhere to stop there in the future.
27/06/2018 07:43:02 UTC
Borsuk said :-
From Ian's various post regarding his visits abroad I think that might be an apt description Ren. He appears to enjoy soaking up the local food and wines at least.

Must admit a bottle or 6 of Ribera del Duero or Rioja is not exactly safe in my company when I am at home.

27/06/2018 11:06:07 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
600 miles? Nowt to you two......

We have occasionally thought about moving to France (especially after the disaster of 23rd June two years ago) but my wife's hypnotherapy practice not to mention her multitude of friends (according to youtube I have none) and garden make her reluctant - but we always look longingly at estate agents' windows....

Actually, although it's lovely to be on holiday there where quaint customs like everything closing for 2 hours at lunchtime and all day Saturday are just part of the experience, it might not be the same living there. And how would I get my morning Guardian delivered? And how could we possibly choose just one area out of them all?
28/06/2018 01:41:06 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
It is one thing to visit a place, another to live there.

I fell in love with Ullapool when I first went there and every time I've been I've just loved it even more. However...

The first thing to note is that when I'm there I'm on holiday. I'm not having to go to work, I'm not having to sort out bills, I'm not having to clean the house or do chores. If I was living there I'd still have all these things to do.

The next thing is how remote it is. I seek this out when I'm touring but to live there? There's food and everyday supplies there but what about bike parts? What about bike kit? The nearest city is Inverness and that's 57 miles away. That's fine on a warm summer's day but in the middle of winter when I suddenly need a widget for my wassisname?

I live near the second largest city in the UK and probably the largest conurbation if I include Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Preston, Blackburn, Blackpool and Chester. All these places are within 2 hours. If I can't get it here I probably can't get it at all.

I yearn for a small quiet town in the countryside. However I want that small quiet town to have every mod-con. It's not going to happen.

Despite all this Ian I can still see you with your beret and stripy jumper on you bicycle selling a string of onions.
29/06/2018 07:49:58 UTC

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