Lago Ercina

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Coordinates used

Electronic projects:

 Bat detector
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Expedition logs:

  Spain 1973, 1974,
  1975, 1976, 1977,
  1979, 1982, 1983,
  1985, 1986, 1987,
  1988, 1989, 2000,
  2001, 2002, 2003,
  2004, 2005, 2006,
  2007, 2008, 2009,
  2010, 2011, 2012,
  2013, 2014, 2015,
  2016, 2017, 2018,
  2019, 2020, 2021,
  2022, 2023
  New England


 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, Spring 2020

Ribera del Duero, Oviedo, Llanes, Pierre Saint Martin.

Click on, or tap, any image thumbnail for a full-size version.
08.03 Bill arrives in Antibes, France at 17:30 after driving through rather empty roads and motorway. Just in time, because two days later all of Italy would be declared to be in “lockdown” due to Coronavirus fears.  But oblivious, as ever, to the dangers he valiantly shared a meal of magret de canard with Uschi.
09.03 After obligatory quiche and café au lait in the boulangerie, Bill drives west some 600 km, over the border with Spain to Hotel Vilobí close to Girona airport.  The journey was delayed by over an hour due to traffic jam caused by a lorry catching fire!  Dinner in hotel of lomo de cerdo and half bottle of ‘El Coto’ Rioja.  Meanwhile, Mike was enjoying his last Spanish lesson before the trip, taught by Pilar of Coventry Adult Education.
10.03 A glance at Google Maps showed that it was about 700 km to Madrid so a start was made at 09:00 with no break for lunch.  Mike landed at 16:20, Bill arrived ten minutes later but it was not until 17:20 we met, due to slow baggage delivery, etc.  We proceeded north up the toll-free E5 autovía stopping for some Ribera on the way.  We didn’t get to Valbuena de Duero until 21:00 but our large apartment at the Posada was good value.  A light dinner of Jamón Serrano and lomo was served in the cafetería next door.  900 km driving.
11.03 This being the heart of Ribera del Duero a brief visit to a winery was required (we were close to the Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro winery, visited in 2017).  Then started the long drive to Oviedo in beautiful weather (20°, blue skies...).  Lunch was spread over a couple of tapas-stops, the last being at the top of the Puerto de Parajes (1378m) on the Asturian border, with fine views of snow-topped mountains.
View from Puerto de Pajares

View from Puerto de Pajares

We’d noted a couple of speleological sites near Oviedo (a sink, and ‘Cueva de Las Caldas’) but were unable to reach either (the first due to ‘private’ signs and the other being in the middle of a dense thicket, well protected by electric fences and bulls).   On to Oviedo where most of the evening was spent walking around to decide on a restaurant.

12.03 Good coffee at an African-themed café near the hotel, then some fun extracting the car from two levels below the street using a temperamental lift.   Drizzle and low cloudbase caused us to skip the planned visit to Devoyu and exploration of the Sierra de Sueve but we did manage to re-visit Rte. La Roca in Sevares.  Via Cangas to Rte. Sucón near Debodes for lunch (soup, rice, trout).  On to Llanes via Posada, and an evening re-visiting ‘old haunts’ around the town, including Amistad for supper.
Pruneda resurgence

Pruneda resurgence

A cool (11°) but dry start to the day; cloudy but the cloudbase was at 450m – above our first objective, Cueva Pruneda. There was an astonishing amount of water cascading across the fields and down the main watercourse, making entry impossible, but some photos were taken.

Back to the car and down the road to a parking place we’d noticed on the way up where we could almost see the resurgence and launch the drone.  We flew it twice and got a good picture of the resurgence and the water gushing out – but both flights ended with lost connection between the Remote Controller and the phone app (possibly due to a faulty USB cable) so we could not take a spherical panorama.  Automatic Return To Home was faultless, landing within 30mm each time, despite the blustery weather.

Buelna cliffs and waves

Buelna cliffs and waves

On to Buelna to scout out caves, etc., near Cobijeru.  On approaching the limestone cliffs we were surprised to see the sea totally white with foam and waves crashing against the cliffs and topping them with huge jets of spray.  A little further on a small bufón sounded like a jet engine and emitted blasts of air that could almost knock one over.  Both routes on towards the Playa de Cobijeru were precarious and were being doused by the waves and spray so we retreated back the way we’d come.  Spectacular.

Timing was perfect for lunch at Casa Poli (excellent gambas al ajillo and Jamón Serrano) and back to Llanes via Puente Nuevo.

After dinner at Rte. Colón (anchoas and escalopines) we went for an after-dinner Ribera and were stunned to hear that due to Coronavirus all bars and restaurants were closing immediately for at least two weeks and we had 30 minutes to drink up.

En route from Torneria

En route from Torneria

Up in the morning and indeed all cafés were closed but we did find coffee in a food shop.  More coffee found in Posada, but Rte. El Sucón was closed as was Rte. Roxin in El Mazuco – so no chance of a hot lunch.  Despite this, we had a good long walk up from Tornería to the base of Piedra Llabre (we turned back there because there would have been too much interference from the TV mast to fly the drone).  Decided not to fly the drone in any case.

Asturias being shut down, we headed for Cantabria and secured a take-away picnic lunch near Pesues, just before that restaurant also shut down, enjoyed in a pleasant park at Muñorrodero.

Plaza Parres Sobrino at 9 pm

Plaza Parres Sobrino at 9 pm

As we had no way to prepare hot food, our plans needed to be changed. After a long evening planning session we decided to decamp to France and changed bookings, etc.

A short walk confirmed the Spanish shutdown – the main square at 9pm, normally teeming with people on their way to restaurants and bars (even in March), was deserted.

15.03 Skipped breakfast (as none to be had) and headed for France; a light picnic breakfast in a sunny spot on a limestone mountainside near Oriñón was enjoyed, but we were looking forward to a hot lunch in France.  However, shortly before crossing the border, we heard that France, too, was shutting down.

Next stop was Saint Jean-de-Luz, in France, where we found take-away quiche, etc. (all restaurants and bars were indeed closed) and then on to Oloron where we’d booked a pleasant apartment (gîte) which – importantly – had a kitchenette.  The landlord was able to provide supplies for us to satisfy our immediate hunger (we had not been able to buy any more food because it was Sunday).

16.03 A wet start to the day, but we had a new limestone area to explore around Gouffre de La Pierre Saint Martin – for many years the deepest cave in the world (1410m).
Col de Pierre Saint Martin – in Spain again

Col de Pierre Saint Martin – in Spain again

Foodstuffs for the day were bought at a local supermarket and we then headed South via a roundabout route to the Col de Pierre Saint Martin at 1762m.  At that altitude it was 0°C with deep snow all around, but the road was clear so we ventured a few hundred metres further to visit Spain again.  The cloudbase, however, was roughly at the height of the pass so the views of rugged limestone we’d seen from afar the day before could not be enjoyed. An interesting contrast and new scenery nevertheless.

Back to Oloron to write up the log, exchange data, and prepare a duck dinner.

17.03 A straightforward drive, with stop for another picnic lunch, to Toulouse Airport for Mike’s flight to LHR (it was apparently the last flight out for some time).  Bill drove on to Antibes; both arrived at destinations around 20:30 GMT; a long travel day.  A good, if a little expensive, decision for Mike to fly back from Toulouse, as Spain closed its border with France that same day.
18.03 Bill arrives home, with a total of 4080km on the odometer.
24.03 (Originally-planned return date.)


  1. Exchange rate: 1.19 EUR/GBP, dropped to 1.10 EUR/GBP during the trip (compared to 1.425 in 2015, 1.12 in 2019); 84.0p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (197 pts/GBP).
  2. Diesel was as low as €0.98/litre, in Unquera.
  3. Weather: mixed, but with a couple of really nice days.
  4. The drone flown was a DJI Mavic Pro »; 7min in total.
    GPX tracks of the drone flights may be available if you contact us.
  5. The pictures in this log were taken using a Panasonic TZ200 camera, a Panasonic LF1, various phones, and the drone.
  6. This log was almost entirely edited in the field on a Lenovo Yoga notebook, using the MemoWiki » extended Wiki notation which is then processed by a Rexx » script to generate the HTML for this web page.

Expeditions to the Picos de Europa and elsewhere since 1973.
Please e-mail Mike Cowlishaw ( or Bill Collis (
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This page was last edited on 2021-10-01 by mfc.