WALKING THE PICOS DE EUROPA
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Every one of the five summits was an achievement, so it was a week of inspirational moments, and the best moment was our final summit, the Pica del Mancondiu at 2000 metres. But there were many other wonderful moments: Drinking a freshly-brewed cup of coffee at the refuge halfway up Mancondiu - higher than Ben Nevis! The steep walk through the beech forest on the way to Thursday's peak, the Cabeza La Mesa - the fresh green leaves were almost magical. Almost everything about the walk through the Cares Gorge - the spectacular limestone mountains looming above the rushing river far below and the canal running in and out of the rock beside the path. And, of course, the moment on the rest day when I got on a bike and hurtled downhill for many kilometres into Llanes! A great idea by our lovely host, Jim, at the Torrecerredo hotel - we put the bikes in the back of the van for the first bit of the journey, thus avoiding a long uphill ride.
What did you think of your group leader?
Alvaro was a superb group leader. He had fantastic local knowledge and a truly caring approach: he was always thoughtful of our different capabilities and stayed flexible the whole time to find us the best routes and footpaths. He was a positive guiding light the whole week, combining excellent idiomatic English ("let's get the show on the road") and a great sense of humour with a wealth of expert knowledge about the local area, its history and geography, its flowers, trees and birds, its people and customs and the ways in which it is changing. He took great pains to ensure that we could live, as a group, entirely in the present, savouring every moment on the mountains. I missed him when I got home!
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Go to this relatively little-known part of Spain. You will have a fabulous time. Don't forget to take a shirt with a collar - the sun can be fierce up on the mountains.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
This was a wonderful week's walking and I felt really looked after not just on the walks themselves but by all the staff back at the hotel. I had a very comfortable room and all the food was excellent. Many thanks to Pilar, Jim and all their staff, for looking after us so well. It also has to be one of the best views while eating breakfast that I have ever had, looking across to the peaks of the mountains in the central massif!