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The Battle of
Expedition log, Summer 2017
Cueva del Toyu, first drone explorations, Cobijón, and
a cheese a day.
Click on, or tap any
image thumbnail for a full-size version, or on a video clip to play
at a larger size.
||Despite worries with reports of BA luggage problems, gummed-up M40,
etc., all went smoothly with Bill’s flight landing at Bilbao just
2 minutes after Mike made it to landside.
An easy drive to Castro Urdiales got us to the Hostal Vista Alegre
– stayed at for many years in the past – sadly now a ‘dormitory’
hotel, with the bar boarded up and the restaurant converted to a
buffet breakfast area with coffee machines. Castro Urdiales alleyways
were much as before, but our favourite restaurant was permanently
Successfully found a light dinner of ham & cheese, washed down with
above average Rioja & Ribera del Duero. Cheese of the day: small
soft sharp goat cheese.
||Up at 8:30 for self-service breakfast which had been prepared the day before.
So the food (particularly the bread) was a bit stale. Apart from
butter there was nothing savoury to eat. Coffee was from the machine. :(
The new Vista Alegre was not impressive and we made a note not to
return another year.
At 9:30 we drove west to Sangazo and then over the saddle to La Cubilla
cliff face but it was raining slightly so we decided not to descend
the wet and steep path down to the cave (explored on previous trips).
Returned back to the autopista and then south via Ramales de la Vitoria
with a stop for a real breakfast in Arredondo in the Asón valley
(tortilla and white coffee). A few minutes later we arrived at the
Puente Cubera 📌, but there
were notices prohibiting the entrance to the resurgence cave there
just below the road level.
Sign above Cubilla
The roads were now quite dry and there was almost no water descending
the waterfall at the head of the valley. But a few hair-pin bends
later we had ascended so much that we reached cloud level and intense
fog. But this cleared at the high point of the pass (1200m) and
we descended into the rain shadow.
Bill wanted to explore the Nacimiento del Rio Rioseco north of Espinosa
de los Monteros which we had seen in 2016 but a very long drive up
a non-asphalted track did not reveal any features of speleological
interest. Menu del día in the restaurante Sanchez Garcia (€10
each), soup and chicken, cabracho (fishy paté) and anchoas
a la romana for Bill. A bottle of house Rioja included.
Sign for Nacimiento del Rio Rioseco
Further south out of the mountains we proceeded towards Burgos on
good country roads with modest traffic. Then toll-free autopista
to Aranda de Duero arriving 18:00 at a temperature of 37+°C.
A long day’s driving. The Hotel Julia was air conditioned, pretentious
compared to Vista Alegre, and cheaper. But Aranda disappointed with
few good-value restaurants and no wine bars(!). But at 9 we had
supper at €50. Just chorizo and cheese for Bill and a plate
of chuletillas and chips for Mike washed down with a good bottle
of Ribera Joven (Arrocal 2014). Cheese of the day: curado from
Ribera del Duero.
||Noisy night in Aranda de Duero; some kind of drag-race started just outside the hotel every 30 minutes until 05:30. Surprisingly hard to find a café open for breakfast at 08:30. On to Peñafiel to look for an adapter for Bill’s Italian-plug computer power cable; in the end the hardware store we found fitted a standard euro-plug at no charge over the €2 cost of the plug.
On to our only fixed commitment of the trip: a wine tour and tasting
at Bodegas Pesquera ». After viewing
the historical wine press we were glad to proceed to the modern cellars
at around 13°C, as the outside temperature was already in the
low thirties. Tasting at the end was of the 2012 Pesquera Reserva
Pesquera wine press
Onwards west, surprised that the next large village had no bar, and
the next, Olivares, only one. Crossed the river south to Quintanilla
de Onésimo de Onésimo which apparently had only one restaurant,
where we had a pleasant lunch of filete, etc.
Stopped at the Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, 1.5km east of Quintanilla
– an interesting restaurant, bar, hotel, and shop complex – then
back to Aranda in slow traffic and 38°C (12° higher than
the average maximum for June) and later to write up the log. Cheese
of the day: a hard white cheese at the tasting, at Pesquera.
||Breakfast at 09:15 in bakery/café, settled the hotel bill, and drove cross-country towards Palencia.
The Spanish Meseta has good roads over gentle rolling hills. But
the landscape is largely dry scrub-land and the villages seemed to
lack bars or shops and indeed inhabitants. From Palencia the toll-free
autopista took us north and we started looking for lunch in Aguilar
de Campoo near the southern edge of the Cantabrians. However, a
cycle race had closed many roads so we moved on to Cabria where a
bar served us a rich morcilla, jamón, and good Manchego
cheese (€29). Arrived at Llanes at about 18:00 quite tired
after the long hot drive. We reconvened at 9 pm, had a drink on
the Don Paco Hotel terrace enjoying the cool breeze of the evening.
Decided to skip dinner completely. Cheese of the day: Manchego.
Ribera del Duero vines
||Breakfast in two parts, in Llanes. Then west to the Polígono Guadamia (industrial area) near Ribadesella for our first drone flight.
After a short warm-up test flight, flew the drone up the hillside
250+m in about 2 minutes to inspect the possible cave. Used ‘tripod
mode’ to edge with a few metres 📌;
both live view and inspection of 12Mpel images later show that, as
suspected, it is not a cave. Very pleased with the quality of the
pictures, etc. Automatic precision ‘return to home’ landed the drone
within 20mm of the take-off position. It would have taken an hour
or more through thick gorse and up the very steep slope to reach
the place on foot; with the drone the exploration took less than
10 minutes (flight distance 883m).
Next, on to Llamigo to scout a possible new approach to Cueva Negra
from the south; found a good track but it ended abruptly at El Acebaliegu.
No other likely track, so on to Riensena and via Mestas to Posada
for a snack of Cabrales cheese. By now very hot (for Asturias):
Mavic Pro after auto-landing
Next to Ribadesella to find that our two favourite restaurants (Rtes.
Covadonga and Mesón Miño) have closed; managed to find lunch of pig
& egg in various forms. Back to Llanes to upload/backup data, write
the log, etc., followed by paella and fish at Rte. Canene. Cheese
of the day: Cabrales.
||Hot again: 29°C rising to 33°. Southwest via Posada and
Meré to Covadonga then up to Los Lagos. Roadworks, cattle, and
the heat made it seem a longer journey than usual, but the spectacular
limestone at the lakes made up for it, as always. We took a panorama print to give to the family at the bar María Rosa, descendents
of the owners in 1973, but unfortunately no one who recognized us
Given the heat, we decided a walk to Ario or Forcau was impractical
and instead settled for a circumnavigation of Lago Ercina, adding
some elevation over rocks to the South and to the East. A cold beer
on returning to the bar was much appreciated.
Goat near Lago Ercina
Back down to Covadonga, dodging many cows and the occasional bull,
then on to Mestas de Con for menú del día with vast portions
of garbanzos, fish, meat, etc.
Slowly made way back to Llanes; a light supper of gambas al ajilo
and cheeses at La Amistad. Cheese of the day: toasted goat cheese.
||After coffee in the Mexican bar we drove east to La Franca but access to the small depression north of the village did not look promising and a local told us there was no cave. Perhaps a return to Cueva del Espinoso (access via Estate of same name) could be in order.
On to the presumed Cueva de Meaza sink south of Comillas 📌. The track down to the stream could
probably have taken a car but we walked down but on crossing the
water there was no path downstream to the sink some 400m away –
just trees and thick and wet undergrowth. So up the hill again to
approach from the north, but to no avail. All this walking in the
sunshine and heat worked up quite a thirst, slaked with a beer in
At this point we were on our way to the sink at Cobijón 📌. Bill waded down the streamway, 2m
wide and 8−10m high. Voice contact became impossible after 8m even
though we were in sight due to echos and the sound of falling water
outside the cave. The water wasn’t clean but it wasn’t horrendously
dirty. There were plenty of insects swimming in the pools including
dragonfly nymphs. The cave was deliciously cool compared with the
Bill in Cobijón
The passage curves round to the left and water level rose to thigh
level. Bill spied a free climb on the left leading to a high level
rock bank which likely bypasses the deeper water. After taking photographs
Bill returned to Mike rather more quickly than his entry knowing
that the depth of the water was fairly uniform.
Our enthusiasm for exploration was not diminished and a stop at the
Cobijeru caves at Buelna 📌 was
required as Bill had promised to wade down the stream of another
sink. But this was not to be as there was a climb down into an evil
looking pool of unknown depth. Mike concurred. A paddle in the
sea water at the inland beach to wash completed the morning’s exploration
and we stopped at Casa Poli in Puertas de Vidiago. Here we had jamón
Serrano, patatas ali oli, and a cazuelita de fabada. Walked
around Posada before heading for Llanes. Simple supper of patatas
al cabrales. Cheese of the day: Cabrales.
||Coffee in the Mexican bar at 9:00. An overcast morning so south seemed a good direction; perhaps to walk above Sotres.
The Cheese crawl began at Bar Ramón in Carreña where somehow
we managed to devour a large plate of Queso Azul de Pría. By the
time we reached Arenas the sky had not cleared so we proceeded east
to Panes and then Suarías with a view to explore the large depression
1.5km SE of the village, at 📌.
Queso Azul de Pría
The map doesn’t show it, but a meandering streamway drains the depression
and sinks 📌 – but there is
no cave. However, much of the area is littered with smaller depressions
and some are up to 20m deep.
Most of the valley is grazed by sheep and cattle and the wet grass
was short, but elsewhere the vegetation is typified by brambles,
bracken, gorse and trees. No cave entrances found. However it was
noticed that the catchment area seemed too small to supply sufficient
water to the stream. So we conjecture that in the woods to the south
east there may be an undiscovered resurgence at an altitude of say
350m on the limestone/sandstone boundary. This system could be fed
from various sinks at Majadas de Rejedas in the Honda de Valmayor
to the south at about 600m.
Lunch at Casa Gloria in Camijanes where we were recognized immediately
from previous years. The service was absolutely stellar. A single
plate of lomo each, washed down with ‘La Planta’ Ribera del Duero.
Mike even ate his lettuce and other vegetables! Thus fortified we
visited both upper entrances of the Sistema del Toyu (Venta
de Fresnedo) clearing away the brambles for a subsequent trip. The
‘Torca’ entrance near the barn looked quite accessible without special
Dinner of rich fish soup (“best ever”) at the Salero restaurant in
Llanes followed by merluza (Mike) and bocartes (Bill). Cheese
of the day: Azul de Pría.
Woke to rain, so after coffee at the hotel we effected the standard
procedure for the weather: head south. As expected and hoped-for,
the rain stopped by the time we reached Panes. Plan A was to do
a high walk near Bejes, but when we reached La Hermida the cloudbase
was far lower than the walk’s start so we decided to have a planning
session over Picón de Bejes and Rioja. Excellent Picón, though
a touch drier and bluer than ideal.
Picón de Bejes
Backtracked down-gorge to Urdón, and had a good walk up the Urdón
river valley – turning back in order to get back to La Hermida in
good time for lunch (and also because a particularly steep bit was
reached...). Good lunch, then up to Bejes to confirm the weather,
On the way back down we noticed a couple of intriguing holes in the
cliff face above Puente Pumpedrei (at 📌
and 📌); ideal for investigation
by drone. A few minutes later the drone was in the air and photos
and videos were taken. Both holes look interesting; the more easterly
one apparently with a passage curving away, and the other possibly
a passage but also with a built wall or floor. The latter artefact
is not visible from the road, only by drone – and is strange because
the hole is some tens of metres up the cliff so this could not be
a goat pen, etc. – we conjecture that with its commanding position
above the road it may have played a part in the post-Civil-War guerrilla
After packing up the drone (5 minutes), back to Llanes, pleased with
the day’s activities and with avoiding the rain.
Dinner in Almacén with its famous boletus con Picón for Bill
and fritos de pescado for Mike. Cheese of the day: Picón de
Real caving today with an attempt to explore Toyu upper series
and descend the 4m climb leading to the streamway and to do the ‘through
trip’ entering at the Torca (barn) entrance. An ideal cool day
with overcast skies and temperature of about 19 degrees. It took
just 35 minutes driving to get from Llanes to Venta de Fresnedo.
The undergrowth which previously blocked access to the entrance was
now clear thanks to our efforts on Thursday, but the descent was
steep, somewhat slippery, and with some quite vicious brambles.
Just inside the cave there were the usual pile of animal bones testifying
that not only elderly speleologists have difficulty negotiating the
obstacles. Bill managed to slip on mud within sight of daylight
and gashed his elbow.
Mike before descending Toyu
Route finding was difficult but traces of previous muddied boots
suggested the way was straight on, stepping across a drop and through
a ‘hole’ in the wall. Beyond, there appeared a dry vadose passage
(keyhole) some 4m high which would require traversing at height.
After discussion we decided to try the other entrance. Here we proceeded
without difficulty to the main chamber and explored down to the 4m
climb. We free-climbed this in the 1980s but even with rope and
jammers it seemed a daunting prospect 30+ years later. Back to the
main chamber to admire the reflective ‘moon milk’ and golden relative.
We then made another attempt to connect to the Torca entrance, without
success, and retreated after about an hour underground.
Bill at Casa Gloria
Found a pleasant bar at El Mesón de Celis. Lunch in Casa Gloria
again with a whole leg of cabrito for Bill and chuletillas
de lechazo for Mike and ‘La Planta’ Ribera del Duero, followed
by a plate of 3 cheeses: sheep, goat, and Picón (the latter sharper
than usual). Cheese of the day: Casa Gloria’s sheep cheese.
Quesos at Casa Gloria
||First through Posada and over the medieval bridge at La Herrería to
El Allende and on to Samureli (the hamlet) to view the Jou de Cuanda
📌. Backtrack to the Cueva Samoreli
(the cave) by car and on foot to
📌 with the intent of getting drone
pictures of the impressive entrance. Unfortunately with many ‘new’
trees and undergrowth there was little visible, so we abondoned flying
there and headed for El Mazuco instead, with a short exploration
of Cueva de Caldueñín on the way.
It being Sunday we decided to stop at the bar to secure a table for
lunch later, then continued on foot to a point above Cueva de La
Boriza. Here we found a clear field to fly the drone, and although
unable to approach La Boriza itself because of trees we did record
a higher-level cave entrance in the cliff face 📌 – likely an abandoned resurgence.
Above Boriza; flyers at top right
Semi-packing the drone, we returned along the track towards El Mazuco,
turning off to the west to Pozo de Fresno 📌
with its prominent Ash tree. Here a drone flight captured a straight-down
video of the pothole which was pleasing (see video clips).
After a bit more aerial reconnaissance, brought the drone back to
near the take-off point and Bill had his first hands-on the controls,
marvelling at the ease of flying it.
By now it was 13:50, and we were soon sitting down to lunch at El
Roxin. It being weekend the wood-fired grill was hot and (along
with patatas ali-oli and criollo) very tasty costillas
de cerdo were enjoyed.
El Mazuco costillas de cerdo
A very light supper of Manchego at El Pescador. Cheese of the day:
||Rained all night and most of the morning. Had coffees in hotel and drove south at 11:00 to Arenas de Cabrales where it was almost dry. But the mountains were shrouded in low cloud so any trip up to Tielve and Sotres looked pointless. So we retraced our tracks 5 km back to Carreña where we perused the restaurants.
Settled on one offering cachopo (a Spanish-style breaded veal
Cordon Bleu) that seems to have appeared on many menus this year.
The restaurant offered several variations; Mike’s contained cecina
and Vidiago cheese, and Bill’s had bacon, mushrooms and Cabrales.
The house wine was not so good and we left some.
But we had a good glass of Ribera at Sidreria Jovino in Posada, where
the sun finally came out – inspiring Mike to stroll to Playa de
Toró on return to Llanes.
Playa de Toró
Tabla de queso at the Sidrería nearest the old Rte. Galeon.
Cheese of the day: Vidiago.
The streets were wet but at least it wasn’t raining so coffee in
‘El Latino’ (Mexican bar which used to belong to Antonio). Clouds
were low but Mike found a web-cam on the WWW showing blue skies above
Sotres. As we drove it started raining sporadically and visibility
in the mountains did not look good. But it was our last day so we
drove up to Sotres then Tresviso in the rain, mist, and 13°C
anyway. The webcam was, sadly, a case of ‘fake views’.
View from Tresviso
The road through limestone valleys was beautiful as always, but the
cow tracks through the gorse were slippery and overgrown. And visibility
was limited – quite impossible to reconnoitre a high level route
to the Majada de Tordín. So back to Arenas de Cabrales again, and
lunch at Sidrería Calluenga.
Tortu Cabrales (a kind of crispy pancake made of maize flour,
topped by a chunk of Cabrales) for Bill and patatas al cabrales
for Mike, washed down by the ever favourite ‘La Planta’! In the
afternoon the sun made a weak attempt to appear, so we visited Playa
de Poo, but by 20:30 it was raining hard again.
Cheese of the day: Cabrales.
||Packed and on the road to Bilbao by 10:00. First stop the ‘Garganta de Job’ spotted on the map earlier; 1km north of Prellezo, a few km west of San Vicente. Not sure if we found it, but did find Playa de Berrellín, a peaceful idyllic little beach among rugged limestone cliffs. A couple camping on the beach and a guitarist set the tone.
Playa de Berrellín
After walking around we decided that to reach possible caves would
take more time than we had available, so on via San Vicente to Comillas
for elevenses. Broke the journey again at Puentecilla and Castro
Urdiales, the latter to satisfy curiosity as to the location and
name (‘Marinera’) of the restaurant we ate at on the first day of
the trip, and to reprise the tabla para dos (ham and cheese)
we enjoyed then. Arrived at BIO at 15:03; plenty early enough as
Bill’s flight was delayed until 17:02 and Mike’s was scheduled for
19:30. Driving time a little over two hours, including diversion
to a petrol station just NW of BIO. Bill’s flight ended up arriving
1 hour late; Mike’s 25 minutes early. Cheese of the day: a hard,
probably sheep, cheese in Rte. Marinera.
- Exchange rate: 1.14 (compared to 1.425 in 2015 and 1.26 in 2016);
88p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (189 pts/GBP).
- Weather: well above average temperatures for the first week, then
cooler and wetter than average.
- The drone we flew was a DJI Mavic Pro ».
- The pictures in this log were taken using a Panasonic TZ100 camera,
a Panasonic LF1, various phones, and the drone.
- Specific GPS positions are shown by a pushpin symbol (📌)
in the log above – click on the symbol for a Google maps view of
the fix. These positions are also listed on the Speleogroup site list page with coordinates in °,′,″ degrees using
WGS84 datum and in UTM coordinates; see Coordinate systems.
- The Urdón walk was recorded as a GPS track although with poor
results due to the extremely narrow gorge; GPX tracks of the drone
flights may be available if you contact us.
- Fixes and tracks were recorded using a Sony Xperia XA Android ’phone
using the MyTrails app (or by the drone, for drone flights).
- This log was almost entirely edited in the field on an ASUS T-100
‘Transformer’ notebook, using the MemoWiki » extended Wiki notation which is then processed by a Rexx » script to generate the HTML for this web page.