There are 31 recommended walking routes in the Picos de Europa and they range from easy, moderate and hard. One particular route stands out in the ideas and information folder; with an ascent/descent of 1650m, a walking time of 8 hours and a distance of 20km, not forgetting the added 1hr drive each way, the Naranjo de Bulnes circular route is a super challenge for some of our guests. Three guests in particular were up for giving this hard walk a go this week which gave our eager walk organiser Jack an opportunity to explore the area for the first time.
As we reached the hidden village of Bulnes an hour into our walk, we looked back at the track we had just ascended in amazement. For us, it was a mere morning stroll which was enhanced by the towering rock and flowing waterfalls. For the small community (of no more than 50 people) this track used to be their only access into the isolated village until a funicular was opened in 2001, reducing 370m and a distance of 6km for the transportation of animals and food goods. With the boost and support of rural tourism, small tapas bars and restaurants now thrive which is more than can be said for the abandoned village of ….. which is set slightly higher up in the mountains. The dramatic limestone peak of Naranjo de Bulnes, or the Orange of Bulnes (deriving its name from the orange glow during sunset), could be seen from this point in the distance.
Our ascent to the top took us through woodland, across many brooks and amongst lush, open fields which were covered in wild flowers and abandoned farm buildings. Fresh running mountain water allowed us to re-fill our bottles as we found a beautiful spot for lunch. Guest Kate decided to head back down to Bulnes as the rest of the group persevered up towards the peak which still seemed quite far away at this point!
But we finally made it! The Alpine Coughs were quick to scavenge whatever they could but we had earned our biscuits and we weren’t sharing. The peak of Naranjo didn’t look quite as dominating from this perspective and as tempting as it was to enjoy the warmth of Refugio de Urriellu, we decided to begin the 4 hour descent.
A mix of scree slopes, patches of snow and basic scrambling over rocks kept us on our toes all the way back down to Bulnes. We had agreed that the Funicular ride to the car park was deserved by all but to our disappointment we had missed the last run by half an hour. Never mind, spirits still high we continued on down and absorbed the completely new view that we had turned our back to on the way up.
A relieved wave from Kate as we came into view reassured us that we were almost done. The added bonus of finding an open bar that sold cold beer and ice-cream helped us all wind down after such a big day. 9 hours after we had set off, we toasted our achievement and headed back to the Posada in time for a late dinner to tell everyone about the real mountain adventure we had just experienced together – an adventure that I can safely say will be remembered by all for a long time to come.