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The Battle of
Expedition log, Summer 2000
A summary and index of the Speleogroup logbook.
Fuente Dé, Tinganón, Fuentica, etc.
It is eleven years since the last Speleogroup expedition to Spain;
we meet, as in the past, at Bilbao airport (15:47). Just a few minutes
later we set off west towards Castro on the new autovia (toll
Soon, a sign to Otañes beckons us into the Eucalyptus Forest and
so to the bar for our first tinto in a long while. Regular readers
of these journals will recall that this road ought to lead to the
famous Cueva del Sangazo filmed by OUCC in 1966. Since then things
have changed. We are older. And the countryside has been industrialized
and holiday villas have been built. “This looks promising”, said
Bill. “Yes that’s definitely the road”, said Bill. “Let’s take
that short cut”, said Bill.
The short cut got narrower – no chance of turning – then became
a backyard – and then finally a field. At last a chance to turn
around! The amused farmer set us in the right direction, which is:
Take the road from Castro Urdiales up the hill towards Goriezo and
then turn left down the road opposite the turning to Montealegre.
This turning leads down to some (new) houses where it is possible
to park. Track on the right leads slightly up then left and down
towards the head of the valley where the cave lies.
Several athletic gate-vaults (and close shaves with barbed wire)
caused not too much damage, and found us at the resurgence. [See
2003 log for location, and local name of the cave:
Lastrilla.] A short incursion tested our latest gadget – a 3-LED
lamp – in the resurgence and almost out of daylight; we then visited
the upper entrances – only to find them sealed with welded bars
and a solidly padlocked gate. But no insects!
Honour satisfied, a dignified retreat was beat into Castro Urdiales,
where we found the Hostal Vista Alegre for a very reasonable 6000pts/person/night.
Tapas (fresh sardines) and menú (cocina montagnes, bonito,
salmon) rounded out the day; back to the hotel after a wander around
Leisurely start, with much of the day spent driving west to Llanes,
arriving in time for lunch (at Uría) 13:30. Tourist office moved
to the tower four years ago.
Afternoon spent refreshing memories of local places and roads –
Pancar (El Retiro), Posada, Rales, Barro, and around the town in
Llanes (Puerto Chico, El Brau). Then located hotels (two needed
as first fully booked after two days: Los Rocas for 2 nights, then
Dinner at “the first on the left in the tourist alley” (Rte. Colón).
Mike suffering from effects of a bad cold caught in London. Sun,
then clouds and showers.
It’s Thursday, so with the promise of good weather (and the first
tourist weekend of the season starting the following day), we decide
to head for the high mountains. So, off on the long drive (80 km +)
to Fuente Dé.
By the time we got there (11:15) the last wisps of mist had cleared,
and the queue for the Teleférico was gratifyingly short. [1300
High Picos and blue sky
Hot and sunny at the bottom, but a strong breeze on alighting at
the top – eliciting the Quote of the Day from Bill: “I’m glad I
kept my trousers on!”.
Perfect walking weather (though hard to keep hats on), so we set
off on the track to the Refugio Aliva, arriving in time for some
lunch. Returned to the Teleférico via a different route; fantastic
views on the way down. Max altitude 1962 m.
Set off back north, with short stops at Bejes and La Hermida (at
the latter, the base for the 1973 expedition, the bar seemed
to have been completely rebuilt) and on to Panes. Then west along
the Cares to Arenas and Cangas (with a stop in Cangas to view the
‘Roman’ Bridge, right).
Roman Bridge at Cangas
It being about dinner time, we decided to check out the menú
del día at an old haunt – San Remo in Arriondas – only to find
the restaurant has now been replaced by a bus station. Not an improvement!
Thwarted, we continue on to Ribadesella, where we had good hake for
1000 pts as part of the menú del día at Rte. Las Vegas; an
English couple sitting nearby provided amusement. Finally – back
Our last breakfast at Las Rocas at 09:00, then we loaded up the car
with luggage and off down the “Autovia” 28 km to Llovio. The old
road to the Tinganón farm had been blocked by the autovia dual
carriageway (doble calzadas), so a new route had to be found.
We greeted the farmer and proceeded up the meadow towards the stream.
Greeted a couple of Spanish ramblers. It took about another 30 minutes
of easy but sweaty walking to arrive at the always impressive lower
entrance to Tinganón, at 11:30 (total walk time 45 minutes).
At first we decided, in true novice fashion, not to get our feet
wet. But after risking life and limb on very minor climbs around
the pools in the narrow sections of the streamway, Bill followed
Mike’s example of wading into the water. This made things much easier
– and also regulated the temperature.
At the top entrance Bill removed the batteries from his 3-LED torch
to power the camera. Took photos of enormous stalagmite > 4m high.
After the inlet we descended the other tributary making a round trip.
Much easier descending! After 1½ hours in the cave we met
the ramblers at the lower entrance.
Bill in Tinganon
Now for the second through trip of the day! Off to Las Cuevas where
we drove through La Cuevona before lunch at Mesón Miño in Ribadesella
(Fabada and Merluza a la Romana menú) 1000pts each – excellent
quality and value.
A lazy afternoon, then dinner at Rte. Muelles (next to the bridge)
which has been transformed ‘up-market’ with an extensive wine list
and regional dishes. We had escallopines de venada (thin veal
in a light batter with mushrooms and cream sauce), washed down with
Pesquera. Very good – although sadly it no longer serves the area’s
Festering day. Not quite. After a social call to Tony at Rales
we drove up to El Mazuco for photos. New bar.
Then headed south to Meré where fiesta was being planned. Very
loud bagpipe music, and traditional costumes, etc.
Parade in Meré
Lunch near Cuevas del Mar. Bonito for Bill and tenera for
Mike. Explored the sea caves, although they were not very exciting.
Dinner at Carura (approx. midway between the Pancar and southerly
routes out of Llanes). Paella w/seafood.
After our usual leisurely breakfast at Bitácora we set off for
Rales. We parked just beyond the church and proceeded up the track
to Fuentica at 12:15. A hot & dry day.
Progress in the cave was simplified by the lack of the two “squalid
pools” which would otherwise have obliged us to get our feet wet
almost immediately. Instead we proceeded unhindered down the streamway
(dry) and then climbed above to the dried-out gour pool passage.
We put a sling down for the climb. Bill slid down the mud slope
somewhat out of control. Tiptoeing round the wet streamway (upstream)
was not practical. Nothing for it but to wade through the clear
water (kicking up mud). Deep water forced a retreat in sight of
Rales village & peak
On return we had difficulty identifying the dry passage which leads
to the downstream chambers. Disappointed we made our exit after
about 90 minutes in the cave; Mike nursing an impaled rib (in his
back, this time) which met a sharp rock while negotiating a small
climb on the side exploration.
Lunch, after a shower, in Restaurante Covadonga. Lomo con patatas.
After the strenuous caving, we planned to reward ourselves with dinner
at El Horno at Buelna, but it was closed and for sale! So we returned
to El Retiro for anchoas [a mistake: we’d expected fresh grilled
anchovies, instead got salted (Llanes) anchovies – good but impossible
to eat more than 10% of the plate], chipirones, patatas bravas,
½ tabla de embutidos (cooked meats). Rain at night.
Woke up to downpour and heavy clouds. The plan was to walk up to
Pozu de Vega el Forcau (see 1976), so we drove
up to the lakes (Lagos Enol & Ercina) in the hope that the weather
would be better up there.
It wasn’t, and the clouds were still above us yet were well below
Forcau altitude, so retreated after a quick photo and tinto at the
bar, which is unchanged since the 1970s.
Lago Ercina in mist
Many other changes at the lakes, however:
- no camping allowed at Ercina
- new paved paths and a nature trail through the gruffy ground
- the Refugio (of trout and bacon fame) now closed
- huge new carpark at Enol
- new building complex almost complete at Enol (a new Refugio?).
Back down the hill to Covadonga and then to Ribadesella (Mesón
Miño again) for another good 1000 pts. menú. Back to Llanes
and eventually to Bar Pinín for a beer and to write up the log.
Mike followed this with a long walk west along the cliffs past the
ruins of an old watch(?) tower.
Dinner at Rte. Uría. Truchas for Bill, who has been feeling
unwell since the previous evening’s meal; Mike found Chuletillas
de Lechazo delicious.
The plan – to visit Cueva Pindal – was almost immediately thwarted
by a massive traffic jam on the autovia. The bypass would have been
about 100km detour inland, so instead we headed for Camarmeña via
at the start of the Cares Gorge hike to Caín. We were there just
early enough (10:15) to turn the car and park conveniently.
Cares Gorge hike.jpg
Almost an hour of ascent in breathtaking scenery brought us to the
highest point of the hike (thereafter it is almost flat, following
the canal) but the clouds and rain were closing in so we declared
moral victory and returned to the car.
Next we took the road up to Sotres (again, spectacular scenery) which
now has at least 4 bars. A cerveza was much appreciated.
Back to Arenas for lunch. Chicken soup for the ailing Bill, truchas
for Mike – a bit disappointing. Wandered around the shops of Arenas
but managed to avoid the temptations of cow bells, etc.
On the way back to Llanes, stopped to explore a promising cave by
the road (Δ, visible from lower down the
hill). Probably once an archaeological site; dry and flat inside,
and a “view to die for” from the entrance. Mike explores (it didn’t
go) and after some scrambling eventually gets back to the car, only
to discover that he was not alone in the cave, and for the first
time in 32 years had picked up dozens of biting ‘friends’, who were
obviously missing their goats. First attempts to dislodge them,
at the Rales spring, failed. Back to the hotel, where full submersion
in hot water eventually eradicated them, except for one or two lurking
in Bill’s car...
Dinner at Siete Puertas – a new Llanes restaurant near (and associated
with) Rte. Covadonga. Comfortable, if a little touristy. More interesting
menú del día than some: sardinas, mushrooms in garlic,
etc. Followed by a general walk around the beaches to watch the
The plan was to do Pozo del Infierno but Bill still feeling very
ill and went back to bed after breakfast. Mike explored the perimeter
of the town in pleasant weather, did some shopping, etc. Bill reappeared
briefly to watch Mike eat lunch, then retired again until 17:00 when
we went to the new Ethnographic museum in Porrúa (which opened
on Monday). Many old artifacts – mostly from the 1930s and 1940s
– plus photographs, documents, etc., and a partially reconstructed
Dinner at Muelle again – not as good as the first time. Tinto at
Playa de Toró now 50 pts (20p) in the afternoon.
After a quick trip to Porrúa for photos, we set off east at 10:30.
Laredo looked boring so we continued directly to Castro Urdiales
and our pre-book hostal, Vista Alegre. Lunch was menú del día,
and Bill actually ate both courses!
After a brief siesta we went to check out Sangazo again; specifically
we wanted to know whether the Sangazo stream exit is accessible.
Alas deep water forced a retreat without resolving the issue.
So off for a drive up the Guriezo road to look for Cueva de la Penilla
(Cubilla), the sink for the Sangazo resurgence explored by OUCC
in the mid 1960s.
Bill remembered some abortive search he had spent 15 years earlier.
It was not in the first (small) depression beyond the col. The second
depression (valley?) seemed vast and a dry road track beckoned.
We noticed and followed a suggestive cliff face, some 60–70m high!
Out of the car we heard water, and we followed the easy path down
to a classic cave entrance. Ignoring the wet but penetrable sink
we continued down the flood streamway into a dry cave, and out of
sight of daylight, as far as seemed reasonable in everyday clothes.
Water could be heard again. Classic in all respects – must return
to explore completely. Driving along the cliff afterwards we noted
several runoffs from shale into the limestone above the cave – so
higher-level passages likely.
Back to Castro for an excellent expedition dinner of sole, in the
corner of the Castro square (where bagpipes were being exercised),
by the port.
Other than a missing sign for the airport, an uneventful drive to
the new Bilbao airport. ’plane left on time (unlike Brussels → Birmingham,
two hours late) so Mike made it home (followed by his caving gear,
two days later).
A new motorway to Bilbao airport is under construction and should
Bill Collis & Mike Cowlishaw.
Other log details:
Exchange rate 180-ish pesetas/GBP.
Hotels: Castro 6000pts/night, Las Rocas 6000-8000, Los Molinos 7000.