510 meters high in Besullo, Asturias

3rd September 2021

I wake up to a promising day. The bed is fairly comfortable, that combined with the blackness of the night and the quiet of the mountains, helped me get a great rest. We look out over the opposite mountain slope, north west of us, which is mostly covered with shrubs, some meadows and some larger trees in crevices. This morning the sun is ready to burst out and before long she graces us with her rays. I open the windows, push myself out till the waist and inhale the fresh air. How glorious to be here!

I make breakfast for us and plan this day to acclamatise and get the know the neighbours. The shower turns out the equivalent of a waterfall so it does the trick to further kickstart this day. We can hear the activities around us. A neighbouring farmer is fixing his fences below. He drives a little vehicle, not sure what you’d call it, which makes a tremendous noise. Once he passes below our window, we also get the cloud of diesel exhaust as a gift. He drives at a speed of about 5km per hour, at most. He must be around 80 years of age. When he returns, my mom seizes the opportunity to talk to him. “How about some fresh eggs?!” She also likes to get her produce fresh from the source. We buy a dozen eggs, which turn out to be some of the best eggs we’ve ever eaten! As we open all the doors and windows of our little house, and move around it, mom spots a man who can help her with the lock of our horréo (a traditional Asturian  wooden shed on four lifted pillars to store vegetables and such). The key is stuck in the rusted lock and he has all the gadgets to lube the mechanics. Meanwhile chit chat evolves which help us learn more about the local residents. Besullo is a tiny village with year round residents and weekend residents, most of them also from Asturias. It also gets flooded with tourists during summer months. With its rich history, traditional activities and many hiking and mountain bike trails, all ages seem to like it.

Anyway, not much later the wife of the man who helped with the lock, born in a village nearby comes to say hello. Soon after another neighbour comes by with fresh tomatoes (heirloom!) from her vegetable garden on the other side of town (I reckon a good 200m further up). Her names is Matutina which means ‘morning glory’. She lives with her son and grandson in a rather large house. In fact, all houses here are quite large and seem to have been in the family for generations.

Exploring the valley

We decide to go for a hike around the valley. Not the smartest of timing, as it’s the middle of the day with the sun blazing. We are beckoned by the chapel across from us, though, so we go anyway. First part is down hill and we are greeted by the cows, calfs and one bull in the pasture nearby. They are a local breed and used for their meat, apparently quite tasty. We are past by our neighbour Miguel who beats us to the chapel. When we arrive, he is in deep telephone conversation, and we decide to move on. From the chapel we see our little house on the hill. Picturesque and silent in the afternoon sun.

We march on and I spot a little bridge that could take us back up to our side on the hill. This means we could do a complete circle to get back. Then the adventure starts! We have to climb over some walls build with local rocks that divide one meadow from the other. Mom braves the course as I guide her over the uneven terrain. We walk towards the narrowest part of the little river and I look for a good place to cross. This demands some further exploring as it has to be accessible for my mom to cross. No jumping, leaping or sum such things. The little river is full of rocks and natural debris. To get there, we first have to climb down a very steep bank. I am thinking this is a no-go, but mom wants to go for it. She slides on her bum down the bank. And yes, this means she also has to climb up one again. One thing at a time, we still have to cross the river! We are wearing our hiking boots, so we are dry to our ankles at least. I tell her so and lead the way. Mom follows using her hiking stick for balance. We cross without a hitch and lots of patience.

Next obstacle: electric fence. I use my common sense and decide that it is unlikely this fence is charged, seeing that it’s in the middle of no where and there are no animals in the pasture. I grab it and lift it so mom can pass more easily underneath it. Eureka! We made it. The tiny stone bridge it ready to help us cross the next leg and take us to the trail back up to the village.Delighted and distinctly more sweaty, we walk on the inclining trail.

Not long after we bump into a fence with several layers of barbed wire. There is no way around or over it…Leaves us only to crawl underneath it! I lift it as much as possible as mom drops to her belly and starts crawling. Her voluptuous derriere is the biggest challenge to get through without scratches. And she is victorious!  But at this point we are starting to overheat. The sun is pounding and we didn’t come prepared with water. I give my mom my hat and slowly we climb the last part of the trail to get back home.

Getting smoked

Grateful we arrive back and rest for a moment. Our elderly neighbour is working his field again, this time burning debris from his land. Big flames and a large cloud of white soon follow. The wind is pointing the other direction, so thankfully it doesn’t affect us. This lasted a few moments before the wind changed direction. With eyes stinging and our throats getting rough, we quickly close all the windows. Lord, we are totally getting smoked here! The way I look at it, is that he is burning gold! Could have become perfect mulch for his soil and now it has gone up in smoke…

As the evening settles in and the temperature drops, it has become a good time to try out our own chimenea. This is my mom’s happy place: playing with fire. However, our fireplace hasn’t been used for a very long time and it starts smoking like mad. With the door opening and closing, the smoke escapes into our house, and god all mighty, we are smoking ourselves out now! We open all the windows and door to let the air move and get the smoke out. Our neighbour Manuel comes and looks what all the fun is about. Before long, he too is on his hands and knees in front of our fireplace trying to figure out what is happening. He gives us proper wood and solid advise how to handle our chimenea the coming days.

Another eventful day and we are ready to hit the hay!

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