Cycling in Spain:Muñón-Cimero to Cangas del Narcia - 175 kms (continued......)

The summit of the Alto de Cabruñana, all 375 metres of it.
The descent back towards Santa Eulalia was far less imposing than the 100-plus minutes it took me to reach the summit. But it had its obstacles nonetheless. Steepness and wet roads are always a tricky combination, as are perilous potholes that appear without warning. Squeezing my brake levers tightly around every bend, I imagined the cavalcade of cyclists pouring down the mountain at the end of the day’s race. With no room for buses at the top of the climb, they have little choice but to weave their way through the mass of spectators who moments earlier would have been in a frenzied state of exaltation. After the last of the remaining few die-hards trickle down its precipitous slopes, Angliru, restored to its former state of isolated slumber, silently awaits until the procession returns once more.

Casa Mario's Spanish horreo.
Once back in Santa Eulalia, I rejoined the N-630, which follows the Rio Caudal for a short distance until it disappears into the more itinerant Rio Nalón. With its long mining history, the Asturias was a major world producer of Hg (Mercury) right up until the early 1970’s. The most productive mines were located near the districts of Mieres and Pola de Lena, both nestled in the Caudal River catchment. Closed soon after the global community became more aware of the dangers of Hg, particularly following the methyl mercury-poisoning catastrophes of the 1960’s and 70’s in Iraq and Japan, the abandoned mines have left what’s tantamount to a toxic legacy behind them. Spoil heaps and effluents from these mines still represent a potential pollution problem. Further encouraged by the wet and humid Asturian climate, mercury and particularly arsenic from deposits of iron ore, become incorporated into the surface water or noxiously infiltrate into the water level below ground; either way, eventually leaching into the smaller tributaries of the Caudal.

Happy to have left the N-630 and the Rio Caudal behind me, I continued further west towards Cangas del Narcea, the oldest and one of the largest towns in the Asturias. It was a rather slight but steady uphill journey for most of the way, and included the rather innocuous climb up the Alto de Cabruñana. I felt like a bit of an imposter as I straddled my bicycle to take a quick photograph of its 375 metre summit, especially following my near four-hours of toil up Angliru over the last two days.

Two pillars of strength.
Considerably further from Cangas del Narcea than either Roz or I first thought, our overnight accommodation at Casa Mario was exceptional. A country house in the lofty village of Vega de Rengos, its exposed stone walls and wooden beams were quintessentially Spanish. Though tired as I wheeled my bicycle through its back gate, it was hard not to notice its hórreo above me, supported by four giant stone pillars. Used for storing harvested crops, even before Roman times, it and thousands of others like it, have become an agricultural icon, throughout north-western Spain and Portugal. Our evening meal at our dinner table beneath it, was a gastronomic delight, all made from home-grown produce and abundant in proportion; a decided bonus when you have another hundred or more kilometres of riding to do the next day.

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