Colletts delivered a well organised holiday giving good attention to detail whilst maintaining a relaxed approach. You can opt for all transport to be included in your package which leaves you free to concentrate on just enjoying the walks and the scenery. Great care was taken to balance the varied needs of the group and accommodate everyone’s needs – quite a challenge when you have a group whose interests range from strenuous mountain walking all the way to gently paced flower photography. Admin was efficient and guests were given ample opportunity to tailor the trip according to preference depending on weather conditions, physical fitness levels, individual areas of interest etc. “Office hour” at 7 – 8 each night provided the opportunity to discuss plans for the next day and the chance to listen to a couple of interesting presentations on the flowers you can see in the Picos and on alpine gardening when you get back home to the UK.
Our tour was led by David Charlton (who works on a voluntary basis) accompanied by two/three full-time guides – generous for a group of 14 (reduced to 8 mid way through the week). David made every day a pleasure as he shared his infectious enthusiasm for alpine flora and expertise generously, mixing it with a generous helping of a great sense of humour. You could do this trip self-guided, but you could potentially miss such a lot if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for. With Potes as our base, we visited five locations during the week and a wide variety of habitats to ensure we saw as many species of flowers as possible. We walked through meadows, natural rock gardens, woodlands, high mountains and past rock walls and river valleys.
Wish I had seen: Lady orchid, fritillaria.
What I’m bringing home: Not your usual souvenirs, but these are worth much more and will last long after the trip has ended:
- A deepened love of alpine plants – their delicacy and intricate beauty prevails as they survive against all the odds.
- A renewed enthusiasm for group holidays and the real benefits that can be derived from sharing a great experience with others.
- A new appreciation of vegetarian food.
- Improved photography skills. I learned a lot about depth of field on this trip. I also learned a great tip which I will share with you. If you want to focus close up on something really tiny, it really helps if you hold your hand behind it so the camera can latch onto your fingers and avoid getting distracted by the other plants and grasses in its field of view.
- A clutch of new friends.
Glad I left behind: A tick; my worn out Birkenstock sandals which made my feet ache – life is far too short to keep them!
For further details of the itinerary we followed during the week, read on …
Day 1 – 7kms circular walk from a village in the Hermida Gorge through the woods to stunning wildflower meadows full of orchids and other alpine flowers. We walked carefully around the meadows in single file to avoid causing any damage to the flowers.Day 2 – 9kms circular walk through Puerto de San Gloria with fine mountain views and many narcissi and other dwarf bulb species. If you wanted to see carpets of daffodils in full flower, you would need to come slightly earlier than we did.
Day 3 – Exploring the meadows at Fuente De to discover a wide variety of flowers, some of which only grow in this area, which makes them extra special. 6kms circular walk through the nearby Pido meadows where many orchids were in full bloom.
Day 4 – Rest day. The group split into two: some went for a drive and a walk through the spectacular Cares Gorge; others strolled into pretty Potes (around 35 minutes walk) to explore the many shops and restaurants there.
Day 5 – Cable car from Fuente De up the snow capped mountains where Pasque flowers and gentians were in bloom. A circular walk of 9kms yielded spectacular mountain views.
Day 6 – Exploring the natural rock garden on the limestone rocks at Piedrasluengas and the flowers that grow alongside the river leading to a dramatic limestone gorge.
Next trip: Amsterdam.
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