Saturday, August 05, 2017

A week’s holiday in Montrondo with Olivia, cooking together, we climbed the 2.101 metre high Tambarón peak and other stories.

Sunday 6th August 2017
With Eladio, Olivia and little Pippa at the top of El Tambarón mountain. We made it!!
Good morning everyone,

What a great week it has been. Eladio and I and Pippa, of course, have spent a week's holiday in Montrondo accompanied throughout by our youngest daughter Olivia. That's news you see as she has only ever been able to join us here for a day or two. So a whole week together has been pure luxury. I think she hasn't spent more time here since she was a child. It has been relaxing for all of us. It would have been great to have Suzy too but she can't come until September. 

Who hasn't had a good week though will have been the newly appointed Communications Director of the White House who was appointed just as we came and was ousted the other day after a disastrous 10 day tenure. Anthony Scaramucci, an American financer with no PR background whatsoever, joined the White House like a bull in a China shop. He was on a mission to stop the news leakage from some of the staff and his fall came after a very "colourful" interview with The New Yorker where he used the foulest language you can imagine. What was impossible to imagine too was his background as he had been a Clinton supporter and spent his first few days deleting tweets from his account. Now we have to see how much longer his boss will last as on Saturday a Grand Jury convened to investigate the now famous Trump Russia election meddling. I am not sorry for Scaramucci as he was the worst example ever of how a Communications Director should do his job and that is something I do know about. Good riddance is all I can say. But I'm sure he's kicking his heels with regret at his behaviour. 

So, no it was not relaxing for Scaramucci but it certainly was for us in Montrondo. We have spent our time walking, sleeping, cooking, eating good food and Oli and I have been playing ludo.  As I always say, food tastes better in the mountain air here so unfortunately I just threw my diet to the wind. Thankfully at home I will have a few days to return to it before my next trip which will be to France for a wedding and Russian cousin reunion. But first let me tell you about our wonderful stay here. There won't be much more news on the international front as frankly I have also had a holiday from what's going on in the world whilst here. I'm not sure if that is good or bad but it's very unusual for me. 

Last Sunday after a lovely breakfast, the 4 of us (Oli, Eladio, Pippa and I) walked to Senra and back. The highlight of that walk is stopping to see the donkeys in a field just as we approach Senra. Both Oli and I adore these animals while Eladio can't understand what we see in them. Donkeys are not appreciated like they are in England and are considered working animals. Thankfully these lovely animals do not work and enjoy their days together in a field. And here I am stroking one of them. Thanks Oli for the photo.
With the donkeys which I adore.
We were to have more encounters with them as well as with cows and even a bull, as well as horses. That's rural life for you, which I love as you know. 

Our reward for walking to Senra is a nice cup of coffee there at Cumbres de Omaña served, unfortunately, by a surly bar owner. The walk back is quite long (4km) but we adore the views of the fields and mountains in the sun and always come back via the old path. Here are Eladio and Oli in matching colours haha on our way back that day.
Eladio and Oli (and Pippa) in matching colours on our walk back from Senra on the old path last Sunday
We came home to make lunch after which the 4 of us took a siesta. I must say I sleep a lot better in Montrondo than at home. It must be the walks, the food and the mountain air. After our siestas the family convene for coffee and on Sunday I contributed my amazing Victoria sponge cake which everyone found delicious. I shall be making it again next in September for Eladio's birthday. 

Of course, after the cake, and I had two pieces, another walk was in order, this time up the mountains as far as the birch tree forest, where my Father used to walk up to when he was in Montrondo. And here you have my lovely daughter and husband together there posing for the camera. 
Oli and Eladio at El Abedular on Sunday evening. 
That evening we had invited Eladio's brother and wife and their son, my nephew, Miguel and his adorable Cuban wife, Claudia for dinner. We went all out and served home made oxtail croquettes with chicken and mango salad followed by guess what? Yes, more of the fruity Victoria sandwich cake which I am sure had more calories than those we burned on both walks that day. Oh dear! 

Monday came and our routine on holiday here continued. It always started with a delicious breakfast together,  made by me as I get up so much earlier than Eladio and Olivia. I cooked chicken curry for lunch that day. I'm sure no Indian would think it is any good but we love it hahaha. This time it was only Oli, Pippa and I who went on the walk to Senra as Eladio stayed behind with his brother. They love to be together and always find an odd job needed doing here.  In the afternoon, there was more cooking as Oli and I made a cream of vegetable soup for dinner which we would eat with home grown runner beans and omelet made from eggs laid by Eladio's brother's hens. That was a real treat. But before dinner and, in order to build up an appetite, we went on our evening walk. No one wanted to go up the mountains so I had to make do with a shorter walk just to Murias. The temperature had gone down and for the first  time this week we had to wear fleeces on our walk. What a contrast to the 40ºc in Madrid. So nice to be away from the heat. 
Eladio and Oli walking in the distance. Notice they are wearing their fleeces as it was cooler on Monday. 
Monday turned into Tuesday and into another similar day in Montrondo. A group of family members had decided to trek up the Tambarón, the highest peak in the area but we preferred to go another day and at our own pace, admiring the views on the way. Instead we stayed at home and Olivia and I cooked. We spent part of the morning, before our walk, making "cocido madrieño" and oh so naughty but so nice, apple crumble. And here we are enjoying quality mother and daughter time together. Eladio was the cameraman for this great photo.
Cooking with Oli, one of the greatest pleasures here in Montrondo in our new house and well equipped kitchen.
Olivia and I always associate apple crumble with Montrondo as it is a dessert we usually make when we are here. This time I added oats and coconut to the crumble mixture.  We would be eating it all week. 

That morning we went on a different walk and were accompanied too by Eladio's brother and his wife. The men wanted to walk up the "Cueto" mountain to find the path that would lead to Murias via "el Camino Valle". They remembered the way from their childhood here but unfortunately there was not much path left, it was mostly bramble and lots of broom bushes we had to wade our way through. We also had to wade across streams and walk across big stones but the worst part was walking up "El Cueto" where the climb is very steep and feels endless.  Our reward, though were the views from the top, including a lovely one of our village here.
The view of  Montrondo as seen from the top of "El Camino Valle"
Once back in the village after a very strenuous walk, Oli, Pippa and I were parched and drank water from the small well which I think has existed here since before Eladio was born.
Drinking water from the well after a very long walk via El Camino Valle. 
We came home to a delicious lunch, especially the apple crumble.
Our apple crumble. 
Lunch was followed by a very long siesta after which we joined some of the family members who had returned from their trek up the Tambarón. In need of yet another walk, Oli and I walked to Murias and back via "El Bao" field which unfortunately had been watered that day and we got soaked hahaha. Here is Olivia trying to navigate through the soaked field.
Oli walking through the soaked field (El Bao) on Tuesday afternoon. 
We came home and after bathing Pippa in our claw foot bath tub which is for her almost exclusive use, hahaha, we had a delicious dinner of vegetable soup followed by duck salad.

I was happy on Tuesday to receive a new Airbnb booking which would make up for the cancellation of the American family. Next week we shall have a 5 member family from the UK, from the town of Rushden which I have never heard of. The Mother who did the booking, is a primary school headmistress so no doubt her 3 children will be well behaved. 

Wednesday was another quiet and relaxing day. That morning we only walked to Murias and back as we kept stopping to talk to people we knew. We also stopped to admire our neighbour's son's horses, a beautiful thoroughbred white one whose name I forget and an older brown one called Castaña. Oh how I love horses. But you know that don't you. I was so enamoured  I forgot to take photos, but Eladio took a couple and here is one of me in my element. 
Me stroking the neighbour's horses.
Once in Murias, Eladio, Oli and I had a coffee at the only bar there, La Palloza. It is famed for its tapas but we always get there too early for them. That day neither Oli nor I cooked as my sister-in-law had invited all the family for lunch. She made meat balls, rice and vegetables which we all wolfed down. It was on Wednesday that we decided to walk up the Tambarón mountain the next day, Eladio, Oli, his brother Toño and his wife, Pippa and their dog Nuba. I had climbed it for the first time last year in a 8 or 9 hour trek and remember saying when I got back that I would never do it again. Famous last words. It is 2.101m high and the highest peak of the local mountains. You can see the peak from the birch tree forest and it looks deceptively near but oh no it's very far and a hard climb up and a very difficult descent.  

So, on Thursday morning, we set off with a picnic lunch in our rucksacks at about 9.30 a.m. As soon as we hit the path at the end of the village leading up to the mountains, we had an encounter with a bull. Yes the same bull as last week. Eladio and his brother warned us to go past silently and of course we had to restrain the dogs. Oli was brave enough to take this photo hahaha.
An encounter with a bull at the beginning of our trek up to El Tambarón
Soon we were at the birch tree forest, one of the few points on our way where the Tambarón is visible. I had a photo taken to remember the very inaccessible but beautiful mountain I was to climb for the second time in my life.
By the birch tree forest with the mountain in the background.
We carried on up stopping for water at the Canalina spring and I took a photo of Olivia here.
Oli drinking water on the way
We carried on up past the Cabaña until we reached the last natural spring on the way to the mountain, "la fuente del cuadro". Here we had to fill up with water as there are no more springs and we wished we had brought more bottles as it would run out at the peak and we were thirsty coming down.
Oli, Eladio and I on the trek up
After 2 hours of walking up the main path of the mountain trek we reached the La Sistra and El Mular which are really two big fields at the bottom of El Tambarón. Here we rested for about half an hour, admiring the views. We rested quite a lot on our way to preserve our strength and stamina. I should add it was a very hot day and the temperatures were high even up in the mountains. We never wore the jumpers we took. Here we are resting on the way at some point before taking the ascent.
Resting on our way.
From El Mular we began our ascent which was not easy. We were surrounded by beautiful flowers, lots of heather and even bilberry bushes, although the berries were tiny. It would take us at least another 2 hours to get to the top. Oli strode ahead at a difficult angle while Eladio and the rest of us took a sort of path up. She reached the top first and I was second. My dear daughter made fun of me climbing the last part to the top by taking this video of me actually crawling to the top which you can see here if you want a laugh. It was amazing to have made it after a 4 hour trek. It was windy but not cold and the views were amazing. You can see both Murias and Senra from the top.
The view of Senra and Murias from the top of El Tambarón mountain.
Oli and I immediately climbed up a sort of stone structure at the top and had our photos taken. It was quite an achievement to have even got up there, so photos were in order to remember the day.
Oli at the top of El Tambarón. 

So happy to have made it to the top
And of course we had to have a selfie of all us and here it is.
A selfie at the top
We were all starving but were looking forward to our picnic which we had on the peak. I must say the picnic was the highlight of the day haha. I had made chicken, ham and chorizo sandwiches with tomatoes and all of them spread with olive oil. I had also brought yoghurts and fruit and we devoured all the food I had brought. We had to feed the dogs too as they were equally starving. The food tasted glorious up at the top.
Lunch at the summit
After a long rest, it was time for our descent which I was dreading as I remembered from last year just how long and difficult it is. In fact, for me, at least, the descent is far more difficult than the ascent. Eladio was our sherpa and his brother the assistant sherpa but even they doubted the exact path to take some times. Some of the way there are small piles of stones indicating the right route but they weren't always there at the critical turns. We had to walk down through thick heather which I did using my rear (hahah)  and through broom bushes and over wobbly stones and grass which if you took the wrong footing could twist your ankle in the holes which were not visible; all of this at a very steep angle. I stepped very carefully all the way, having once broken my leg on these mountains. The descent seemed endless until we reached the proper path and the sun was burning our backs and arms. Also we were all very very thirsty. On our descent I took a photo of the mountain we had just climbed, surrounded by heather, to remember our amazing feat that day.
The mountain surrounded by heather.
I took no more photos after that as I had to concentrate on climbing down and watching my feet. All we all wanted was to get to the "fuente del cuadro" spring on the main path and drink to our hearts' content. I think it took us about 2 or 3 hours to get there and oh how lovely the water tasted. From here it would take us around 1.5h to walk down to the village and we were all exhausted; too exhausted to take photos. I kept thinking of the lovely shower I would have as I felt so dirty from the walk, mainly from the dust and stones. We didn't get back until 7.15pm. We were not the only ones to be tired, the dogs were exhausted too. Poor little Pippa with her tiny little legs is the most valiant dog I know. She goes where we go so no way was she going to miss the climb with us.  We were all tired but pleased with the day and the great achievement of climbing this steep mountain. My fitbit was pleased too and recorded we had walked 22km.  
The recording on my fitbit the day we climbed El Tambarón. 

After our showers, all our clothes went straight into the washing machine, including my sketchers which were filthy.  Dinner was a small affair but delicious, soup and salad. 

It was that night that we heard the Spanish motorcycling champion, Angel Nieto had died aged 70 after an accident on a quad in Ibiza. He had won the world championship 13 times and it was ironic that he had to die when using a quad. It was big news in Spain. 

On Friday I was up with a headache at 6 in the morning wishing I could have slept more. That day Oli  and I went with my sister-in-law to the nearest town, Villablino, to shop at the Gadis supermarket and at the local market. At the latter Oli and I bought socks and stocked up on delicious summer fruit, local walnuts and a home made pie. We were home by 1ish and not particularly hungry for lunch so ate some leftovers.  

It was on Friday that Oli and I started playing ludo, something we used to do here when the girls were small. And here is Oli throwing the dice.
Playing ludo
I have always loved the game  but none of the family, apart from Oli and Claudia are interested. I should add that Olivia beat me nearly every time but I didn't mind. 

That night we were invited for dinner to Eladio's brother's house where we shared a delicious meal of tortilla made with eggs from their hens and great produce bought at the market that day. It was a very Spanish dinner and we loved it. 

Yesterday I was up at 7.20, very late for me but I was grateful for a better night's sleep. That morning I spent the time cooking lunch as we had invited Eladio's brother and family to our place this time.
Claudia by the lunch table yesterday

I made beef ribs and jacket potatoes and also served my delicious leftovers of curry and the last of the apple crumble which everyone enjoyed. Again we spent time talking afterwards until quite late after which everyone went off for a siesta. Oli and I took ours on the sun beds outside. Well, actually we read and were joined by Pippa but soon it got cold and we had to cover ourselves with blankets. Eladio caught the three of us unawares on camera hahaha.
On the sunbeds reading yesterday afternoon but covered by blankets hahahaha
 After so much food we were all in need of a long walk and I persuaded everyone to join me on a walk to Murias via the old path and the Camino Valle and through lovely woods like this one.
On our walk yesterday
We really needed it as we didn't go for a walk on Friday. We came home to play ludo again while Eladio and his brother spent time with an old friend from the village and his wife. After dinner Oli joined her cousins in nearby Murias where their fiestas were taking place. Meanwhile Eladio and I watched more of Ozark on Netflix until we fell asleep.

And today is Sunday, our last day here. We shall be leaving after lunch to return home after a very satisfactory week's holiday here. I don't want to go home but duty calls and we have to get everything ready for our next set of Airbnb guests. 

So, my friends, I have come to the end of the tales of this week. All that remains is to wish you all a great Sunday and week ahead.

Next week I shall be writing my blog from France where I am going to a wedding and to a family reunion. 

Cheers then till next time,

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