Monday, September 04, 2017

Cantabria, Costa Quebrada

Los Urros de Liencres panorama

While Kirill had already lived and worked in Santander a couple of years ago, it was only this summer that me and Timur visited it for the first time. Santander itself, at least in summer, looks like a good place to be, but I was more interested in seeing the surroundings of it, the coast of Cantabria. It didn't disappoint.

Approaching Playa de Covachos

Part of the coastline, looking towards the Bay of Biscay, is called La Costa Quebrada. It translates into something like "The Broken Coast". And it is indeed well and truly broken. I am not a geologist and can't explain the hows and whys, but what looks like the original sedimental strata broke into pieces and large blocks turned themselves at various angles to the horizon and to each other. The result is striking and appears somewhat artificial, as though it was a work by a mad scientist or by a giant toddler in a playful mood, complete with her spade and bucket. I remember experiencing a similar feeling visiting the south coast of England in the West Lulworth area. The coast is not at all similar, but the same thought, "it can't be real", was very much there.

The impossible landscape
Although its sandy beaches are very popular (in fair weather) with Spaniards, it seems to be not well known outside of Spain. So much so that I had difficulties finding where exactly it starts and ends. I more or less worked it out, but keep in mind it might be not the "official" version.

It starts at the east close to the absolutely spectacular beach Playa de los Covachos and ends at the (predictably, absolutely spectacular) Dunas de Liencres.

The parallel lines in under water are rocky crests
The main feature of Playa de Covachos is the smallish islet, la Isla del Castro, (dis)connected to the mainland by a sandbank. That is, sometimes (in low tide) it is connected and sometimes (you got it, in high tide) it's not. Even at the lowest of the low tides you still can't get to the beginning of the sandbank by just walking - you have to either scramble over some large rocks piled up under the steep cliff or you have to wade, approximately chest-deep, in the water. You can swim of course, the distance is small, but if you have stuff to carry it is tricky. A truly waterproof bag will be an excellent idea. When we were there, the ocean was calm and that wading holding your possessions over your head was just about doable, but I am told it is rarely as calm.

Playa de Canallave, just to the east of the Dunes of Liencres

Dunas de Liencres is a Natural Park of dunes and a pine forest, a bit to the west from Liencres village. There is an enormous car-park where the dunes begin, and a proper bar (or maybe even two) with inside seating, which makes a nice difference with the dunes of Corralejo where you invariably have to sit outside. The beaches by the dunes are wide, flat and quite windy. Unlike in Corralejo or Maspalomas, the dunes are covered in plants, some of which are quite thorny (sea-holly and blackberry), so crossing the dunes barefoot can be a painful experience. The pine forest looks promising for mushrooms, but we didn't see any and we were not looking very hard as we were heading to Finland after Cantabria.

Los Urros, another panorama. The tall rock on the right looks like a caravel heading for the open waters
Visually for me the most striking features were Playa de Covachos and Urros de Liencres. The Urros is a group of small rocky islets arranged linearly parallel to the shore. The coast is at its most broken at this point, and the Urros are the fragments that wandered off a bit.

The name is funny - apparently it just means "islet", but one other meaning that I found was "errors". They are large rock solid errors close to Cantabrian shores. Opposite from them there is a giant sinkhole in the shore, which, I don't mind to admit, made me a bit uncomfortable - if it wasn't already clear that the whole of the shore will tumble down at some point, the sinkhole made it totally transparent.

Impossible parallels

and more of them
You can walk along the shore from Covachos to Las Dunas, although in Liencres you might want to abandon the path and go on the street for a bit - walls and fences of private properties come almost up to the edge of the cliff.

I mean, how on Earth?
The public transport exists and is reasonable, but you have to walk some distances in all cases (see the map). From Santander you need to catch the buses that go towards Liencres. Once the bus is out of Santander, you can get off almost at any point, navigate your way towards the coast and start walking along the coastal path.You can catch the bus back in Liencres. The walking is very easy, and very obvious too. There are almost no signs, but you don't really need any.

Photos of Cantabria on Shutterstock

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