Wednesday, November 26, 2014

El Ventanón: an impressive natural bridge

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A fantastic vista through a natural window.


"El Ventanón" is a natural bridge carved into a limestone ridge. The geological origin must be sought into the fact that water streams often sink into gaps which are located close to the edge of a limestone plateau. When such a stream dissolves a lot of limestone it can form a short but very large cave. The "El Ventanón" bridge is what remains of the roof of such a cave. The stream literally flowed below the bridge. The bridge of "El Ventanón" has a length of 30 meters and a height of 20 meters and is several meters wide. On the left side of the bridge we have found some small caves, which is an additional indication of a solutional cavernous origin of this bridge.
This geological phenomenon is included in a local walking route called the PRC-BU 32, which starts at the Ojo Guareña cave. Part of his cave, with a total length of more than 110 kilometers (110,000 meters) of galleries is one of the longest caves of Spain, can also be visited as a show cave.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Video showing enormous waves breaking at the Spanish coast.

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When the sea attacks the coast.

In recent months the northern coast of Spain has been " shaken " five times by towering waves (red alert warnings). Apart from the damage to buildings which in general have been erected too close to the shoreline (not much fun for the people involved), it also offered an unusual spectacle of nature. Red alert is given when waves reach a mean height of about 8 meters, but two of the storms had waves with a mean of 12 meters, which means that occasionally there are waves of more than 22 meters, often arriving  in "wave trains". The following video is a summary of the last storm of March 3. This storm was of a 12 meter waves quality and with a special addition of arriving just when there was a spring tide at the highest point. As a result, the water depth increased by several meters so that also be the big waves could come much closer to the shoreline before breaking, often hitting the limestone  cliffs with full force.


Monday, February 17, 2014

The first blooming orchids and other wild flowers of 2014 in northern Spain

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To my great pleasure, last February 8 I have been able to see the first flowering orchids of the Cantabrian Mountains of this year. Because this winter is actually relatively mild and damp, these orchids have appeared  more than a week earlier than last year. Off course these orchids were not yet in full bloom, but on the lower part of the spikes many orchids had already several flowers. The orchid  I am talking about is the giant orchid or Himantoglossum robertianum. The name giant orchid is due to its large size and great length, sometimes with a height of about 1 meter. When an orchid is not blooming, it is often very difficult to determine the exact species or even the genus it belongs to. Nevertheless, with some practical experience it is possible to distinguish some species, using characteristics related to leaf color and leaf shape, which can be recognized but are often difficult to explain.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Liebana, a Mediterranean valley in the middle of the Cantabrian Mountains

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These days its quite cold on the northern Spanish Meseta and the Cantabrian Mountains. However, in the heart of these mountains there exists a low-lying valley that is completely surrounded by high mountains, with a difference in topography of almost 2500 meter. This valley is called the Liebana and lies at the foot of the Picos de Europa, a limestone mountain range that already in 1918 was proclaimed the first national park of Spain. The surrounding mountains keep the wind and rain away, while the low altitude is very beneficial to the average temperature. The Liebana is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, which is unique for the Cantabrian Mountains, which is also clearly evident in its vegetation.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The bufones of the Asturian coast (Spain)

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As promised in the previous post, the turn is now to the bufones of the Asturian coast. Because of the rain and splashing water of the waves and the bufones, most pictures failed or are of a poor quality, but I think I still have been able to make a reasonable selection. By the way, we went back last weekend with some very spectacular results, especially regarding the Bufones of Pría, but these photos will be addressed in the near future.
The bufones are holes, crevices or even small potholes that are connected to the sea through an extensive cave system which is open towards the sea. When the waves fill the caves the air inside is compressed and violently blown upwards through the fractures with a loud bellowing. So a bufón is a fracture which exhales air with great force and noise. This sound is what has given the name to the bufones because "bufar" means "el resoplar con fuerza del toro ", or "the hard and fierce snorting or bellowing of the bull". When the swell of the sea is great the bufones can be heard miles away, but also during summer and insignificant swell most bufones will blow. The big difference is that if there is a considerable swell, the bufones also expel high fountains of water. A Bufon in action is truly an amazing spectacle, and therefore it is astonishing that outside the province of Asturias it is almost an unknown phenomenon. I live only about 140 kilometers away from the bufones and in my village the bufones are practically unknown.



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The snow capped valley of Oseja de Sajambre.

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Last night, the 27 of Januari, I saw on the Spanish news footage of massive waves spilling over the quay of San Sebastian, located in Basque Country (Spain). Along the northern coast of Asturias there exists a long karst-landscape with a large number of bufones. A bufón is a hole in the rock which connects with the sea and which makes a lot of noise due to the waves which enter underlying cavities. But when the swell and the waves are considerable, these bufones also spray lots of water like the fountain of a gigantic whale. According to internet the waves for today were expected to be between 6 and 8 meters, which is more than enough for an impressive spectacle. So last night I tried to get over the mountain pass which lies between León and Asturias, but this was impossible because of the heavy snowfall. But this morning I tried again and using a road cleared of snow I got to the mountain pass El Pontón without problems (the Spanish are very efficient in clearing their roads). Driving down the pass the sight of the snow capped landscape and the snow covered trees was wonderful. The following pictures testify of this white beauty, except the last two pictures which give a first impression of the Bufón fountains, but these are covered in the next post .


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mountain hike to a millennial Taxus baccata tree.

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Yesterday afternoon we went for a trip to visit a millennial Taxus baccata. This tree stands completely alone and isolated at the foot of some high mountain peaks. So it was quite a climb, especially since there is no clear path going to the yew. The Taxus baccata is a very poisonous yew tree, although the cattle and specially the goats sometimes eat the twigs. The only edible substance of the tree is the red flesh of the fruits, although the kernel is poisonous again. The best is to be very careful when eating the fruits or simply not eating them at all.