Etapa 1: Sotres - Poncebos

Go to Image Stage 1: Sotres - Poncebos
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GR202 - Route of the Reconquest - Stage 1

Stage 1: Sotres - Poncebos
GPS: 43.25442367389758, -4.836340362861483

Sotres - Poncebos

Sotres - Poncebos 11,9

The route starts in the Cabral village of Sotres, where you take the road to Arenas de Cabrales. Sotres is the highest village in Asturias, a village of great beauty on the border with Cantabria and the entry point to the Andara massif. In Sotres, the church of San Pedro, is a popular church with a side portico, square chancel, linteled openings and a double-arched belfry.

When we reach a sharp bend to the right, a dirt track (to the left and going downhill) starts, which follows the Duje river valley and leads to Áliva. A few kilometres further on there is a group of huts through which a track leads off, which we follow.

Leave the Áliva track and take the one on the right, which descends between the huts and crosses the Duje River. From this point onwards, it gains altitude with a steep slope. Looking back we have an exceptional view of this part of the Andara massif, as well as of the village of Sotres. When the slope becomes gentler, a path comes out on the right that heads towards the Pandébano pass, which we have in front of us and which we reach after passing by the Canero huts. It is advisable not to head towards the left side of the pass but to the right and then take the path down to Bulnes.

On reaching the pass we have an exceptional view on both sides of the pass, and on the left we can see how the peak of Naranjo de Bulnes (Pico Urriellu) juts out. The route starts a descent passing by the Ente los Bosquines huts. Shortly after, the path twists and turns to pass through an area where there is limestone rock on the right, and soon after we reach some meadows from where we can contemplate the silhouette of Pico Urriellu towering over the Balcosín and Camburero channels. Shortly afterwards we reach Bulnes.

Bulnes is 649 metres above sea level. It is divided into two districts: Bulnes de Arriba or El Castillo, the oldest and with fewer buildings; and Bulnes de Abajo or La Villa, which has more services and buildings.

Bulnes is a very ancient village, perhaps of Roman origin, it is supposed that a camp was established here to watch over the area from the upper quarter, where there are still remains of an observation tower (that is what the Castle quarter is known as). The historian Sánchez de Albornoz also mentions the existence of this village when the Moors passed through here, fleeing the disaster of Covadonga via the Culiembru canal, the Piedrabellida canal, Amuesa, Bulnes, Pandébano and Áliva.

Since the funicular railway came into operation, the village has undergone a major transformation, both in terms of the streets and infrastructures and the increase in the number of establishments dedicated to the hotel and catering trade. Its inhabitants have traditionally made a living from livestock farming and the production of Cabrales cheese, but nowadays it is an important tourist centre, mainly for mountaineers and nature lovers.

We cross the village leaving the old rectory on the left, and its church and cemetery on the right, where there is a plaque on the outside wall dedicated to Luís Martínez González, with the family nickname of "El Cuco", born in Lluanco/Luanco (Asturias) on 7 August 1901. He was from Oviedo and was the first person to die on Pico Urriellu, and is buried in this cemetery, which was formerly roofed to be able to bury the dead. "The stories of the Naranjo de Bulnes", by Francisco Ballesteros Villar.

On leaving the village, take a wide path that takes you to the mouth of the funicular railway tunnel, which you leave on the right, continuing along a path that leads to the Colinas bridge, from where you can access the Castle district. The path enters the Tejo channel, taking the river to the left and beginning a vertiginous descent between impressive walls cut vertically. Shortly after, the gorge narrows at the place known as Voluga los Muertos, where there are two crosses engraved in the rock in memory of two residents of Bulnes who were swept to the bottom of the river by an avalanche. We cross places such as Posa Les Fuentes, Martiñanu, Las Salidas, Les Cruces and Alto del Seu Lisar, which all offer good views of the village of Camarmeña, located at the opposite end. We continue the descent along the right bank of the ravine describing strong zigzags, and overcoming large slopes on a path carved into the rock and at the foot of the abyss, until we reach the Jardu bridge and shortly after the Jaya bridge, which is already mentioned in some chronicles in the time of King Felipe II. As soon as we cross the bridge, the ascent begins, leading us to the entrance to Poncebos.

Texts: Antonio Alba Moratillas (Editorial Prames)