Asturias Days


By Clellan Coe | February 3, 2021
Oscar F. Hevia (Flickr/oscarfh)
Oscar F. Hevia (Flickr/oscarfh)

Rincón means corner, and a little-traversed area. A surprising spot, or a beautiful out-of-the-way stop is often called a rincón, and the word applies to the Xurbeo Falls in the mountainous county of Aller, an hour’s drive from Gijón. In September, a friend and I hiked there from the nearby village of Murias just after a rain, and the falls were wonderfully loud. I stood on a bridge spanning the tumbling stream, looking up at the cascading water on one side and then down on the other side of the bridge, into the pools where the stream joined the river. On a warmer day we’d have been yanking off our shoes to dip our toes from the rocky edge. But the day was cloudy and cool. The woods all around us were motionless, though on the bridge we felt the draft from the rush of water cascading down the face of the hillside, and on branches extending over the water the leaves trembled. Elsewhere, all was still.

The landscape of Asturias is rough and crinkled, full of narrow canyons and gullies and a few high plateaus between pointy pinnacles. More than corners, it has peaks and pockets, like a wadded-up handkerchief. After the visit to the falls, we climbed up the steep slope on a trail, and came out on a sort of ledge on the mountainside, wide enough for a vehicle though it wasn’t a road but the overgrown route of a covered channel collecting water on the hillside and taking it away. We trotted along, following the wide track of mossy cement slabs, listening to the water flowing beneath. Each numbered slab had an iron ring in either end, and fit tightly in place, like a piece of a puzzle. Not yellow bricks but gray slabs, enticing as is any path that surely leads somewhere.

After passing through numerous gates and crossing the stamp-sized fields between them, some with a tumbledown stone barn, we came to a patch of a field that was especially narrow, occupied by a pair of horses. One was a mare and the other a colt, though whether one year old or two I couldn’t tell. The mare paid us no attention but the colt trotted over to stand in our path. As we skirted him, he turned and, tossing his head, ran a few steps at our side, frisking like an enormous dog. A dog can’t kick. Nor can sheep, cats, goats, or chickens. A rabbit, on the other hand, squirming to get free will batter you with kicks, a cow with a quick, sharp side kick can knock you off your feet, and a horse will turn its rump to land a deadly blow. Would this spirited creature kick? He was sturdy with a short spiky mane and the large hoofs of working horses. He didn’t want to run us off, though, but run with us, and he kicked up his heels in a lively fashion, slowing when we did, then speeding up to match us. Half a kilometer across, the field afforded too little space and time for us to become more than acquaintances, and the look the colt gave when we passed through the sty at the next gate and left him behind was not sorrowful, only disappointed.

Shortly after leaving the colt, we cut down on an old trail to reconnect with the river and the way back to the car in Murias. Back at home, I reviewed on a map the route we’d taken and what we’d seen. The covered channel we happened on is one of two diversion canals built in 1989 for the Murias hydroelectric plant. Together they are seven and a half kilometers long. Starting at the parking area by plant, and following the covered channel, a 14-kilometer trail takes you along one side of the valley, crosses to the other, passes through the town of Murias, and returns to the plant, making a circular route long enough to warrant the drive back some clear day. More than the seven plus kilometers of covered canal, or the plant where the collected waters meet, or the 14 kilometers of new sights, I’d be looking for 14 hands of burly colt. If I do return and find him, I hope he’s ready for a rematch.

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