A wild and rugged mountain range stretches across northern central Spain. There are few north/south roads. Those that exist meander up and down steep slopes to traverse Los Puertos (high passes) that are cut by snow during the winter; follow the wild courses of rivers at the bottom of deep, narrow canyons; or burrow several kilometres through the mountains. All are feats of engineering.
The Puerto de Piedrasluenga (1355m), Puerto del Ponton (1260m) and Puerto de San Isidro (1520m) each provided spectacular driving experiences. Furthermore, with the roads’ gradients ranging between 6% and 12%, patience was essential. If you’re stuck behind a truck – enjoy the view. If you have a truck on your tail, hope there’s a safe braking distance!
The road trips along the wild rivers required also required nerves of steel. Blocks of stone occasionally marked the edge between the narrow road and a many metre drop into the rivers tumbling over rocks. Quite a number of the blocks had gone over the side. Then there were the cliffs overhanging the road where it had to be cut into the rock face. A light truck could suffer roof damage. Where cliffs had to be cut into to make way for the road, steel netting was anchored into its face. Alternately, there are the signs warning drivers of falling rocks. Oh yeah – saw that one coming. There are no signs warning drivers about wandering wild goats. Blaaaah!
Of special note was the drive along the Rio Gallego which cuts deep through ancient red rock, leaving towering murillos (walls). Riglos, a small pueblo sitting at the base of the rock wall, was dwarfed into insignificance, the looming rock pressing down upon it.
I found travelling through tunnels, which ranged from a few hundred metres to several kilometres, disconcerting. The thought of all that mountain above just didn’t work for me – exacerbated by the changing air pressure you can experience, particularly in the longer tunnels.