Finally, after months without rain, the drought has ended. This is a cause for great celebration. Crops have suffered, drinking water supplies have dwindled and this corner of ‘Green Spain’ was showing signs of scorching at the edges, its usually lush verdant hues beginning to be tinged an unbecoming yellow and brown.
Last Wednesday normal service was resumed. Autumn arrived in Asturias with a sudden snappy dip in temperatures and the heavens opened. You could almost hear the earth breathe a sigh of relief.
So shallow and fickle is human nature however (or at least the humans in this household) that by Thursday and with a long weekend looming we’d already become bored with the rain and decided to hightail it over the mountains to León, where drier climes (and, yes, climbs) awaited us.
This is one of the many great things about living in Asturias – we have the best of both worlds. While Asturias has a mild maritime climate, across the Cordillera Cantabrica in León a harsher continental climate reigns, with hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. The upshot is that we live mellowly surrounded by soft fertile greens but easily escape the rain that feeds them if it should happen to inconvenience us (i.e. by falling at a weekend).
The drive over the Puerto de San Isidro is always spectacular and perhaps never more so than in autumn. The steep sides of the mountain pass are densely wooded and I have never seen such a variety of shades of reds and yellows as were on display. Sadly, on the way up the pass we weren’t able to make a photo stop, as stopping in our heavy, underpowered motorhome on this steep, unrelenting mountain climb is best avoided for fear of never getting going again. Must. Not. Lose. Momentum. is our mantra, muttered through gritted teeth as we lean forward in our seats desperately trying to stay in third gear.
Still, I hope some of the photos from the weekend give at least the tiniest inkling of how beautiful the autumnal colours were. On talking to our friend Alberto about it (he’s a fanatical mountain runner and climber and knows the Cordillera Cantabrica like the back of his hand) he informed me that the very best place to view the autumnal display is by hiking in to the Pena del Viento peak from the top of the pass at San Isidro. From there you look back down into Asturias from León and, he assures me, it is like standing above a volcano, so vivid and startling are the autumnal reds. Maybe next year.