Our budget lunch at Casa Moran in Benia finally happened on the next, a very tired and rainy day. After a refreshing stroll along the river at La Molina we enjoyed another fabada, served with almost spooky intention by a Spanish version of Mrs Danvers. I was learning to leave the chips that came with everything. Julian, meanwhile, was learning to finish them for me.
Having rested and lunched, and planning a final day of more of the same (this time on the beach and at Casa Marcial) before we left on Monday, we were up early for our final big walk on Saturday. By that time we had sussed that you could get great coffee at eight, and the best breakfast in the world of a ham tortilla bocadillo for the price of a pee in Euston station in the walkers Café Cares in Arenas. There you could also whet your appetite by admiring the impressive array of photographs from climbers of the Picos de Europa that hung on the walls and were dedicated to the owner who had clearly provided them with much of their fuel. Julian’s bocadillo filled smile that morning was, I think, his biggest yet!
We started off, well supplied, at Canares, after a steep and stunning ascent in the car past Tielve. Red roofs and green pastures were caught in the morning rays and cheesemakers went about their early cheesemaking tasks. We parked and tried to decide between raingear and fleece, long and short trousers as the cloudless sky mocked our wavering.
The walk to the refuge at Picu Uriellu was on a good path over grassy slopes, through heather, past cows and goats and horses and remote farm buildings. We didn't talk much except for a few tips from the mountaineering maestro to his mistress. 'Straighten your knees. Try taking bigger steps.' I took Julian's advice, adding the advice I give to my cello students (and indeed myself). 'As soon as you arrive on a finger you are leaving it. Use every joint as a spring board. The impulse comes from your middle. It's all about throwing yourself off balance and the limb swinging effortlessly forward to try and recreate the balance.....' As the path became steeper, snake like and on scree, I found I was less puffed out. The square peak loomed tall and silver in the distance. Meanwhile I couldn't help being just a litle pissed off that Julian could walk up a mountain having not moved for two years (since our holiday in Skye I believe) whilst I, having jogged all year round and swam an hour a day all summer, still lagged behind.
By the time we got to the refuge and dug into our country bread and the blue cheese from the valley we had just left, we were both feeling strong, joyous, slim and fit!
That evening we joined the weekend throngs in Llanes for grilled squid and baby eels sizzling with hot peppers. We had a velvety Rioja. We saw a wedding and heard bagpipes and retired to the sound of waves and the cowbells, the sound that was beginning to feel like home.