Yes! Up the mountain we go…but not without first enjoying the oh so long queue for tickets along with every other clever clogs who thought it would be a good idea to get onto the mountain early. Hmm. Good one Christopher.
The cable car is pretty zoomy taking only 3.5 minutes to fly to the top, but it still takes most of the morning to get there. Only 20 people fit in at a time, so after the 90 minute queue, there’s an equally long wait for our number to come up for the ride. By the time we make it, I’ve redesigned the logistics of the process several times over. It’s not that hard people: align the speed of ticket sales to the volume of available passage in the cable car. Sticking a kid behind a counter to serve a 4 deep, mile long queue was never going to work. Sigh. Why can’t people see what’s right in front of them?
Eventually we’re on our way and I’m pleased to report that there’s a woman on board who’s even more terrified than I usually am. Not me today though, I’m too excited. The fabulous thing about this ride is that it’s not just one mountain – we’re in the heart of a huge mountain range. Even on the way up, the views are spectacular.
At this first level, we’re spoilt for choice: there are mountain goats who’ll pose for treats, golden eagles on the wing (yay for remembering to bring the binoculars), ravens, vultures, many other mountain birds, wildflowers and of course the paths to tempt us in all directions.
We’re surrounded by outstanding, fierce, raw natural beauty. Lush greenery down hill, raw jagged rock peaks all around. As usual, it’s very hard to do it justice, even with a panoramic shot; the scales are enormous.
We take two of the hikes on offer, one up the mountain to the right that rewards us with a wholly new fabulous view, yet another mountain range in the distance. The other hike to the left and around the mountain, is the one that the serious hikers take – it goes for kilometres, dwindling to a thin line in the very far distance.
We walk a couple of kilometres of this too, around the mountain, closer to the adjoining peaks. The further we go, the harsher the rocky landscape, with only a few signs of life: lizards loving the heat of the rocks, an occasional burst of wildflowers clinging on for dear life and a little hitchhiker, a ladybird who lands on me and decides to borrow a lift down.
I can’t convince Chris to go further around the mountain, and in fairness, it’s hot, even this high and we’ve been waking for hours. On the way back, excitement now settled, we see signs of glacial wear, how the valley was formed. The glacier has left sharp ridges in the rocks it’s passed over.
We also get to observe the golden eagles, still flying high on the updraft. They’re awesome in the binoculars with their massive wingspans, variegated feathers and sharp talons. Other birds scatter in their presence.
Late afternoon sees us take to the road, southeast, following another amazing 100 km winding mountain road connecting the Picos de Europa mountains to the Fuentes Carrionas y Fuente Cobre-Montana Palentia mountains.
Once we cross the mountains it’s like we’re in a different country – dry in the extreme, flat open plains of red dirt. Even the reservoir is almost dry.
It could easily pass for the Australian outback and bears no resemblance to the lush greenery of northern Spain we’ve enjoyed for the last few weeks. And it’s hot…oh so very hot, at least 10 degrees hotter than in the mountains.
We don’t make it as far as Burgos, we settle instead in the Aguilar de Campoo, a town with mediaeval roots and a peaceful canalside layout. The heat is fierce still at this late hour and we’re both tired, dusty and grumpy. This travel lark, it’s different to being on holiday.