Aristébano, en busca de El Dorado

Go to Image Aristébano, in search of El Dorado
Km 0
Km 0
Aristébano, in search of El Dorado
GPS: 43.53291924199784, -6.523035161933752

Valdés - Tineo

Almuña - Navelgas 30

This route starts in the village of Almuña and, parallel to the river Negro, heads towards the town of Luarca/Ḷḷuarca, capital of the council of Valdés.

Alternatively, you can start the route in Luarca, a town with a train station (unlike Almuña).

Luarca has several interesting places to visit, such as the lighthouse, the houses of the indianos, the Mesa de Mareantes or the cemetery which houses the tomb of Doctor Severo Ochoa, Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine.

The legend of Cambaral hangs over the town, where Cambaral himself (a Moorish pirate), the daughter of the lord of Luarca and the bridge of El Beso converge. Among its festivities is San Timoteo, celebrated on 22 August.

Once you have visited the capital of Valdés, take the AS-219 road to Navelgas, the end of this route. As soon as you leave Luarca, there is a steady but pleasant climb to the top of Aristébano. Along the way, you pass through the hamlet of La Figal, from where you have a picturesque view of the town of Luarca/Ḷḷuarca with the Cantabrian Sea in the background.

Next, we pass through the slope of Estoupo peak, and further on through the village of Caborno, to shortly after reach the Alto de Aristébano and the Aristébano hut, the summer residence of the community of the Vaqueiros de Alzada and a must stop on this route.

The Vaqueiros de alzada or simply vaqueiros are a cultural or social group, and one of their defining characteristics is their transhumant way of life.

At certain times the vaqueiros "raise" their dwellings and belongings and go with their cattle to the brañas above in summer or to the braña below in winter (braña is the name given to the mountain pasture area for cattle).

With the passing of time, this social group has evolved into a sedentary group and many of these brañas have become continuously inhabited villages, but their folklore and traditions are remembered annually in the Fiesta Vaqueira (declared a festival of tourist interest), which is held every year in the braña of Aristébano.

The braña of Aristébano (572m.) is flanked by the Estoupo and Silvallana mountain ranges, next to the boundary that geographically divides the councils of Valdés and Tineo. Standing green and peaceful between the depressions formed by the Agüera and Aristébano ravines, this braña enjoys a privileged position from which you can contemplate a landscape that slopes gently towards the coast in the midst of extraordinary beauty.

There is a chapel dedicated to the Divina Pastora, where during the Fiesta Vaqueira a traditional and multitudinous Vaqueira wedding is held. The bride and groom come with their trousseau on carts. The typical dances of this human group are not lacking: dances of incredible strength and vigour, to the sound of the "payietcha" (frying pan) and the tambourine.

Once this stop has been made, the route continues down to Navaral, where the annual Festival del pan y las natas vaqueiras is held and where you can visit the Museo Vaqueiro de Asturias (Asturias Cowherd Museum). The museum was created by the Manxelón Neighbourhood Association, from Naraval itself, which, with a small population (barely 70 inhabitants), claims its cowboy roots.

We continue pedalling until we reach Navelgas, the final point of today's route, which hides "El Dorado" in its entrails, but we will leave that for another day.

Navelgas - Almuña 31

This second day we will take up the route where we left off the previous day, in Navelgas, a town with a name of its own in golden matters.

Its fame became so great that the area soon earned the name of "the Valley of Gold". Here, the Romans were already searching for and exploiting gold more than two thousand years ago. Today it is still possible to find gold.

In Navelgas there are still many families who preserve the tradition of panning the sands of the river in search of nuggets of this precious metal. That is why the gold diggers are called "bateadores". Not so many years ago, they sold what they found to dentists to earn a little extra money.

After the economic exploitation of yesteryear and the gradual decline, the search became a hobby and a sport. The village of Navelgas itself houses the Asturias Gold Museum, which, as its name suggests, is dedicated to gold, as well as to its extraction and use.

Navelgas is also home to wood craftsmen, "madreñeros", "hórreos" (raised granaries) and centuries-old "paneras".

After this introduction to the Asturian "El Dorado", the route begins and heads towards the village of Navaral, visited the previous day, along the same route as on the outward journey (AS-219 road). But from Navaral, the way back to Almuña will be different.

We go down the valley of Paredes, and after passing Ovienes we arrive at the village of Agüera, where if we wish, we can visit the Interpretation Centre of the Esva Gorges, declared a natural monument in 2002, and a protected area.

The gorges are located within the protected landscape of the River Esva in the council of Valdés, more specifically in the section between the hills of Andornoso and Villagermonde, and in the section that goes from San Pedro de Paredes to La Chanona.

It is a gorge excavated by the river which reaches a height of 400 metres and runs along a 6-kilometre stretch of the river. The flora includes oak groves and a small strip of riverside vegetation. There are several walking routes through the area to visit the gorges, the surrounding countryside and the old Esva power station.

Agüera is the starting point for one of the unique activities carried out in the area: the ecological descent of the River Esva. This is a non-competitive descent, the aim of which is to clean up the dirt accumulated on the banks of the river, in the stretch between Agüera and San Pedro, and deliver it to the finish line for treatment.

From Agüera, the route continues towards the village of San Pedro de Paredes, a town that deserves a short stop. In this village you can visit the river Esva, the Roman bridge of Baulanga, the parish church of San Pedro de Paredes and other buildings and places.

The route continues towards the village of Meras where we take the AS-351, which we follow until the end of the route. A steady but pleasant climb leads to the village of Valle, where a little further on there is a descent of almost 10 km in which you have to follow the course of the river Carlangas, a tributary of the river Negro.

This descent leads to Fontoria and then to Almuña, where this route ends (another alternative would be to continue to Luarca, a town with a train station).