A Ride That's Downhill All the Way; Lucinda Labes Takes Her Children on a Bike Ride through a Bear Sanctuary in Northern Spain

The Evening Standard (London, England), May 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Ride That's Downhill All the Way; Lucinda Labes Takes Her Children on a Bike Ride through a Bear Sanctuary in Northern Spain


Byline: Lucinda Labes

Asturias did something strange to my husband. After touching down at Oviedo, our three sons and I watched open-mouthed as he filled the rental car with all the paraphernalia for a Boys' Own adventure: fishing rods and boogie boards, flippers, crabbing nets and kites. For a man who is habitually pinned to the sofa, this was all very odd.

So when he told me he had booked a three-hour bike ride through a bear sanctuary, my heart sank. It might sound fun, but with three boys under seven? Imagine my joy then on discovering the ride was to be all downhill, with a van to bring us back to the top of the mountain at the end of the day.

The 22km-long Senda del Oso, or Bear's Path Greenway, was built as a rail line by coal miners. When the mine closed in 1963, the path became the preserve of walkers and cyclists. It carves its way along the Trubia river, through sheer cliffs and ancient forests. There are still around 60 wild bears in the region, although these days they are never seen on the path itself.

Most people start at the bottom and work their way up, but bike tour company TeverAstur had the genius idea of doing it the other way round. We rented a bike for each of us, plus a little attached chariot for our toddler, then off we set, whizzing down the path, the boys racing and grinning. On one side the Trubia made its chaotic hurdle over white boulders, on the other the forest cascaded down steeply, the limestone cliffs streaked in hues of butterscotch toffee and caramel.

As a parent of too many young children, part of the joy was being able to really take in my surroundings while still being with them. Usually, any landscape, no matter how fabulous or dreadful, is eclipsed by their demands, squabbles and sweetness. Here, with the baby safely tucked in his chariot, I could glide along, day-dreaming. Of course, this couldn't last for all 22km. My four-year-old ran out of energy twothirds in. Fortunately, the Bear's Path provides both carrot and stick; the carrot being the restaurant at the bottom, the stick being the bears that would appear if he didn't get a shift on...

We had lunch at l'Esbardu in Proaza, where the local bean and pork stew was served with cider poured the Asturian way - precariously, behind the waiter's back. …

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