"COVADONGA AND PUENTE REPELAO" Covadonga by AsturArcadia

Covadonga Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 73 photos

Worn cables linking the battery and sparking plugs on the ageing Tico prompted me to take it to the garage in Villamayor one day early in July 2009 to have them replaced. Fortunately, it was a cool, overcast day, with a touch of 'orbayu' in the air - a welcome break from the heatwave we had been suffering. I thus decided to pass the time by catching the local ALSA bus to Covadonga, and walk back down the valley through Cangas de Onís (for lunch) to Arriondas, joining a mid-afternoon bus to Villamayor there.

The results of the 16 km walk are on this page, and also on those for La Riera, Soto de Cangas, Cangas de Onís, and Las Rozas. It is amazing how much more one sees when walking rather than when driving 9or travelling by bus)!

Covadonga, like Montserrat, is touring coach terrain, an obligatory stop on any excursion covering this part of Spain. Coaches, large buses and country roads are incompatible. The ALSA bus I caught in Villamayor, which had started its journey in Oviedo, 55 km distant, was running nearly 15 minutes late. Having called at almost every bus stop between Villamayor and Arriondas, it then had to negotiate the narrow street to the bus station (opposite the railway station) in the latter town. Matters here were complicated by the fact that some sort of music festival had recently (the previous night?) been held, and the equipment was being dismantled and stacked into vans ready for transfer to the next venue. So - a tricky job for bus drivers, squeezing their vehicles between these! I would imagine that even under normal road conditions accessing and leaving the bus station in Arriondas costs an ALSA bus five minutes, and it is amazing that the FEVE station has not yet been struck by a vehicle reversing out of the confined bays. Surely, when this facility was planned in the early 1990s, a more sensible arrangement would have been a couple of bays at the main road level, where the bar is now, with steps up to the railway station? There is a ticket office at the upper level - I have never seen it open. The rest of the facility looks decidedly tatty.

We were about twenty minutes late at Cangas de Onís, where the new bus station is, sensibly, accessed from the by-pass, so that buses and coaches no longer have to lumber through the narrow main street of the town. According to the timetable, here it was necessary to change to continue to Covadonga. The Covadonga bus had not awaited its connection, since doing so would have disrupted its diagram for the remainder of the day. Instead, the bus from Oviedo continued up to Covadonga as well, being further delayed by roadworks (new sewage pipes being laid, and road resurfacing) between La Riera and Puente Repelao. In the end we squeezed into the parking bays outside the museum and visitor centre 35 minutes down on schedule.

Covadonga is not designed for 55-seat coaches and buses. The area around the Basilica was laid out in the days of horse-drawn traffic. Montserrat has been crudely adapted over the decades to cope with the road vehicle influx. But now Montserrat has an efficient and effective (as well as cheap) rack railway from Monistrol (and connecting trains to and from Barcelona).

Both Covadonga and Montserrat receive similar numbers of visitors each year. It is high time the local, and provincial councils in Asturias saw sense, tried to find a private business partner, and built the often talked about new tramway (or railway) up the valley from Arriondas and Cangas de Onís. Instead, during the busiest times of the year a frequent bus service is operated from Cangas, calling at various park+ride car parks (a waste of good agricultural land) en route.

'On your left is a loony VT member, photographing us.'

There were not many pedestrians out and about that morning.

So, I took a couple of representative photos of touring coaches speeding past as I walked. This one - a bit blurred - really was motoring!

The fun starts when 55-seaters take to the mountain road up to the lakes above Covadonga (on very busy days there is a ban on private cars). Later in the year I plan to catch one of the buses up, then walk back down, to sample it for myself and to do a visual survey of where a rack railway might run (I already have a few ideas on this). But for that sort of walk you really need crisp, clear autumnal weather.

Another day out to look forward to . . .

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Landscape, cooling, refreshing 'orbayu'.
  • Cons:Buses, buses, buses, buses . . . .
  • In a nutshell:Needs a tramway - the sooner the better!
  • Last visit to Covadonga: Jul 2009
  • Intro Updated Jul 4, 2009
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