The haunting mountains of Picos de Europa and meeting fellow cruisers in Gijon

The Picos de Europa is a mountain chain with some of the highest peaks in Spain, up to 2600 meters. These snow-covered peaks have been the backdrop of our sailing the last few weeks all along the coast. Although we are maybe not missing the snow right now, we do love hiking, mountains and the views they provide. Early on we said it would be nice to rent a car and to explore and get to a good place for some hiking, but it has been harder than expected. Or maybe we are just being cheap? 🙂 The first time we looked for a car was in Llanes, but the rent was quite high at the local vendor so we decided to walk the beautiful coastal path and instead try to rent a car later on.

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Ribadesella is situated in the mouth of the river Sella, which runs from the mountains down to the sea. It has some really nice houses in the entrance, and a cozy town. And as you know by now, the river tends to dry out a lot at low water. They didn´t have any car rental in Ribadesella, so we took the bus as far up the mountains as we could with the possibility to go home the same day – Cangas de Onís (changing in Arriondas). The bus ride took us through some beautiful scenery of the small villages, rivers and mountains on the way north. In Cangas they had a walking path to Següenco with some nice viewpoints starting from the city centre, it was steap!

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We brought some picnic and stopped for lunch after a while. Just after I took this picture I was going to cut some peppers for the sandwich when I realized that there were at least 40 tiny insects covering it. Big mistake to put it on the ground for a few seconds… First I freaked out because it looked like tiny ticks, but in the end we think it was small spider babies. Anyhow we decided to continue walking and take a break somewhere easier to relax.

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Higher up we actually decided to skip the common route and follow the trail of the cows up to a small peak. The sun was shining on the mountains on the other side and eagles were circulating above us. If it wasn’t because we needed to catch a bus, we would definitely had stayed longer and continued the hike.

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The sail along the coast continued to Gijon, one of the largest cities by the north coast. We were happy to get out at sea again, but let’s just say that both me and Jens were rather tense as we attempted to leave the mouth of Sella for the second time.. It all went well and we had a smooth sail to Gijon. When we had arrived and was up at the marina taking a shower I came to talk to another woman using the facilities, and after a while I realized she was Swedish. It was the first Swedish sailor I´ve met since leaving Sweden! Turns out Maria and her husband Micke had set sail from Gothenburg in June and arrived in Gijon last September, where they decided to stay for the winter and wait out the storms (they thought the same as we did – that the storms were the worst in the autumn as they are in Sweden). We ended up sharing a lot of stories from our sailing adventures as well as enjoying some wine and tapas on each other’s boats some of the nights we stayed in Gijon. They built their own boat about 30 years ago and Jens and Micke had a lot to talk about concerning the rigging and different renovations projects.

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We had some really sunny warm days in Gijon, and it wasn´t just us enjoying it. The beach was full of people, as well as the cliffs by the water. Not many were actually swimming, but it was definitely warm enough to sunbath and we rested after a long walk in the sun.

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After hearing Maria and Micke´s recommendations we still wanted to see more of the mountains. The second time we tried to reach the mountains we were once again not able to find a reasonable cheap car since it was Easter time and even though they had raised the prices there weren’t that many cars left. This time we took the bus to Oviedo – Cangas de Onís – Covadonga to hike and visit the cathedral and monastery they have there. It´s really quite weird/incredible that they decided to build this big cathedral so high up in the mountains where there isn’t even a larger village nearby. The Monastery is built into the mountain and has an outdoor church section over a small pool of water.

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This hike didn’t have the usual scent of mint from the Eucalyptus, but rather an onion (!) scent of  a plant that we have at home too – “Ramslök” (English: Ramson or Wild garlic). I then realized that almost exactly one year ago, I was out hiking out in the woods in Sweden with my dear friends Kattis and Christian, picking the leaves of this plant to make some soup. While Jens was just finishing his expedition skiing the Swedish mountain chain, reaching the most northern point of Sweden that same day. This time in the Spanish mountains, we had done the same mistake as always – trying to fit in a hike during a day trip with a bus instead of letting it take time and spending the night somewhere to be able to hike further and in peace. But still, we walked up most of the way on the steap mountain and got some really nice views and rest in a glade that filled our souls with serenity.

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On our way home from the hike, we walked from the bus station to the marina through the central parts of Gijon. I could hear some drums as we approached the old square, and when I saw a couple of policemen I immediately assumed it was some sort of demonstration. And in a way it was. A religious procession, where the men were carrying statues of Jesus, men, women and children wearing robes and pointy hats where only the eyes where visible for the observers. The drums were playing, they stomped their sticks into the pavement in a rhythm as they continued across the square. El Semana Santa (the week of Easter) is celebrated across Spain with processions and other ceremonies, parties, concerts and markets. We didn’t celebrate that much, but enjoyed some salmon, shrimps and eggs to take some of the Swedish traditions all the way to Spain.  During Easter we also continued sailing west, the last part of Asturia and into the next region – Galicia.

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NOTES FOR SAILORS

Gijon is very easily accessed for sailors. There are two marinas and we only visited old one located near the city center (low season price for our boat was 16€/night). Marina Yates is the other option located on the west side of the bay and even though we have not been it is probably just as easy. The only thing to keep in mind when approaching is that Gijon is a very busy commercial harbor with lots of heavy vessels. But they have two traffic separation zones so keeping out of the way is fairly easy. The marina staff says that Gijon is very busy and packed with yachts during summer. They have however never turned anyway away so it is a very good port of refuge and a nice stopover on your way west or east along the coast. Gijon is also a popular stop if you want to do a shorter crossing of Bay of Biscay, like we did, from e.g. La Rochelle or Lorient.


Hope you all had a great Easter! Now I’m going to cook some mussels for dinner for us and our new Belgian boat neighbour 🙂

– Petra

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Author: sailingforharmony

Cruising the oceans, exploring the world

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