Friday 21 June 2013
After our walk along the coast the previous day, we reserved a morning to explore the town of Cudillero, which is a short drive away from our base in the tiny hamlet of Castañedo. As we drove along a road that snaked down to sea-level and around a charming marina, the town of Cudillero gradually came into view. It is nestled into the armpit of a sharp turn in the coastline. As you approach it, it appears as an inverted isosceles triangle whose apex points to a boat ramp which spills out of the town’s main street into a tiny harbour formed by a series of sturdy seawalls that baffle the swells of the Cantabrian sea. The harbour is crowded with fishing boats, and seabirds climb the thermals above it, filling the air with plaintive cries. Cudillero is, quite simply, a lovely fishing village that has somehow managed to survive the worst excesses of modernity.
On arrival, we walked around a small market which had a few stalls with food, clothes, and items to attract tourists. Susan purchased a small, imitation leather bag, and we climbed up onto a seawall to admire the marina beyond.
We surmised that there must be some amazing views from streets located high up on the hillsides, so we began to meander up the main street. We took our time, pausing to examine architectural details such as the tile work on dilapidated buildings, and the handsome designs that were imprinted onto iron discs that marked access to the town’s water supply and sewerage system. The town seemed to be in some kind of economic hiatus; there were signs of decay, and few signs of growth or renewal.
When we reached the town’s limits, high up on the hill, we realised that we must have missed any turnoffs to local lookouts. So we returned to the heart of the town, which was located within a small radius of the boat ramp which forms its visual focus. As we inspected the menus posted outside the restaurants by the tiny harbour, we were invited in by touts who were sometimes rather insistent (which usually has the opposite effect of the one intended). Seafood was represented equally well on all of the menus, so we opted for a restaurant that served a typical Asturian bean dish that I was interested in. We were welcomed by the proprietor and enjoyed a fabulous meal in an outdoor setting. After Wednesday’s dramatic rain, we had been blessed with sunshine and light breezes. Asturias was being kind to us after our watery baptism.
From Cudillero, we drove to Playa del Silencio (Silent Beach) which lies 16 kilometres west of Cudillero near a rather dilapidated village called Castañeras that is bordered on the ocean side by fields planted with crops. The road access to the beach is precarious at best. Fortuitously, we ignored the first turnoff that the GPS recommended and took the second, which took us through a tiny village and down a one-lane goat-track of a road. When we reached the descent to the beach, it was impassable in an ordinary vehicle, so we kept going along what turned out to be a one-way loop back to the main village. There was almost nowhere to pull over safely so we parked the car in the village outside what looked like a disused sawmill, and walked back down the narrow road on foot.
After scrambling down a steep slope we found ourselves atop a set of stairs that led down to a short, rocky beach. The landforms were rugged, striking and more than a little foreboding in the grey, windy weather. We ascended the 100 stairs to the beach and walked amongst piles of garbage that had been washed up from fishing boats. This included a large commercial refrigerator, and reams of plastic. This was a reminder of the environmental costs of human industry; but it did not spoil the rugged beauty of the place. We poked around in the flotsam and jetsam and tried to take photos of the dramatic coastline at sea level. ‘Playa del Silencio’ turned out to be something of a misnomer, as the beach was covered in pebbles and shell-grit, so the sound of the waves sucking onto the shore filled the air with a sibilant rattle. This “rhythm track” was overlaid by the sustained breath of the wind, and solos of screeching seabirds.
Prom Playa del Silencio we drove back East to Cabo Vidrío, which lies on the ocean side of the town of Oviñana. The cape is skirted by cliffs that afford dramatic views of the Asturian coastline to both the east and west, and there are several lookouts to explore. Best of all, a lighthouse lies at the end of the cape atop cliffs that plunge 100 metres to the rocks below. There were signs posted around the lighthouse that bore a cheerful message to the effect that, “if you have an accident here on the cliffs, don’t bother phoning emergency services because we won’t respond.” I suppose it was a pragmatic policy, given that there would be little more they could do for you than hose your remains off the rocks.
It was possible to walk around the walls of the lighthouse on a track that skirted a precipice with the sea breaking on rocks below. Normally, I love to exchange gazes with an abyss, but this one infused me with uncontrolled vertigo so I beat a hasty retreat. I watched Susie try to take some photos of the gaping horror, and even that inspired me with unspeakable dread.
We returned to Castañedo around 9 p.m., where Susie wrapped herself around her iPad on the bed and watched what I call “scary corpses” (i.e. television dramas whose main protagonists are forensic pathologists). I sat up into the night, composing one of the previous entries on this blog, trying not to think of the abyss.