Stranded In The Southland

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Canoaing (Well, Canoeing in English) the Silla

As much as I enjoy bouncing around all these old cities, I've been casting some yearning looks at the beautiful mountains here lately. I'd take a crack at one or two if my feet weren't so bad off. Fortunately, I found out that there was a river nearby that had some good canoeing concessions on it.

M. and I have our little jokes about canoeing -- on a trip just a year or so after we'd met, she refused to get into a canoe with me, not believing that I was a pretty capable canoeist, having paddled all through the scouts and with my parents growing up.

Anyway, it seemed problematic to drag her out and get her sunburned and possibly dunked in the water, so I just went by myself, leaving M. to investigate one more pre-Romanesque church. We decided to stay an extra day here in Oviedo, just so I could get some outdoors time -- yay, M.

I had to make a one-hour bus trip down there, which had its logistical issues, but friendly ticket people hooked me up and I made it pretty much on time to the river. I'd figured that they took a bunch of us upstream, dropped us off, and then let us paddle back to the office by the river -- nope.

Instead they dumped us in right there at the office in a cute little town. And I do mean dumped. They had a 20-foot high ramp that ended in the water. They set the little canoe/kayak/sit-upon at the top of the ramp and had me get on. I actually asked, "Are you kiddin'?" which was sorta useless since nobody there spoke English. Anyway, the guy wasn't kiddin', and he gave me a good shove and I had a quick and fun drop down into the water. It wasn't nearly as horrible as I thought.

In fact, it was a great experience all around. This river was incredably clear (and cold), just like the springs back home in Florida. You could see probably six or eight feet down into the water, where there were a million and one fish.

The river was dense with them -- I guess they were trout, but they were everywhere. Plus there were a number of small rapids. Nothing dangerous, or even difficult (given the plastic boat just bounced off of rocks), but enough to keep you awake and happy.

Not only that, but the river wound around a bunch of amazing, rock-strewn mountains that had blown me away on the bus up to Oviedo. Seeing them from the river, as I slowly drifted along, was just amazing.

Yow, what a great day, I feel totally invigorated. It was so nice to get outside, and away from most folks (there were school groups and other paddlers on the river, but with a few strategic stops, and some enthusiastic paddling, I managed to let 'em all past or blow by 'em, and I eventually felt like I had the river to myself). Pwhew!

Okay, here are the details, on the off-off-off chance that Google throws this up for somebody who cares:

I used the Jaire company in Arriondas. You probably want to take your swim trunks -- I was wearing nylon hiking pants because I thought it'd be too cold. It was plenty hot.

They supplied a lunch, and gave me a five-gallon or so plastic can to keep my stuff dry. This was strapped to the back of the boat, and was very handly. If I'd only had one while I was canoeing back in the day!

The boats themselves are sort of sit-upons -- they're made out of plastic with a small depression in the middle to sit on, which is self-bailing (that is, there are holes in the bottom which go straight into the water). It ain't much, but it was fine for this, and I didn't have to worry when I banged into a rock or bottomed out or just generally did something bone-headed.

Bilbao to Oviedo

After a mediocre dinner and an okay breakfast (along with some yogurt), we headed out to Oviedo. We've been having good luck in less touristy places, so we figured we'd give this one a shot. There was even a big revolution in Oviedo a couple of years before the Spanish Civil War, so it is historically interesting.

The big attraction here for me is that Sidreria -- Cider Bar. There are lots of 'em scattered all over the city, serving cider. Unfortunately, the cider is reportedly kinda nasty even when fresh, and we're way out of cider season.

M. declared the stuff too nasty to have more than a taste, but I gamely drank down a fair amount of it. In an attempt to get some fizziness into it, they tend to pour the stuff from about three feet above the glass. It tastes a little better that way, but I have to admit it still ain't great.

The food, though, pretty much rocks. We've been having great cheese plates and weird little other plates, including wild boar. Not too bad for an out-of-the-way place!

The place is also famous for its pre-Romanesque architecture. It was apparently a bit out of the way, and developing at just the right time to come up with somewhat unique buildings. M. went rumbling around checking out some of these while I rested my feet. Then we wandered through the attractive, but not all that unique cathedral.

It's just a very pleasant, relaxed place to be.