Monday, 19 August 2013

Arriondas – Kayaking on the River Sella

On the weekend when we arrived in Oviedo it was the annual Descenso del Rio Sella 2013, when a thousand people in their kayaks start from Arriondas and finish at Ribadesella. It´s a great race not only because of the spectacle but also because they do this in a Spanish way, they have a three day fiesta at the beginning and at the end town of the race.

Even though we couldn´t see the event as we had to move to another flat the thought of doing a river kayaking stayed with me and I searched for options. The River Sella is an optimal choice and we found many companies that do kayaking. We picked one and booked our places. It´s very easy to travel from Oviedo as it is in the heart of Asturias´ infrastructure. We found a bus that took us there in 1h20min. 

We were worried about the weather a bit. The forecast said sunshine for the whole day but the bus went through whole villages we didn´t see any hint of sun as they were all in the cloud. Due to this my first impressions of Arriondas weren´t very good either. It was just houses next to each other. After every corner I was hoping to see something interesting but even on the main square the statue was one of a cannon! I gave up on the place.

It didn´t have any nice sights but it did have a lot of one thing: LOADS of kayak shops! We counted at least 10 different companies!

We also found the river and the kayaks were in the process of getting ready for the swarm of people. We saw this guy pushing the kayaks down on the stairs, was quite funny to watch.

After a little walk we found our place, too. It was a nice place with friendly people. We got there at the same time with a huge group so they dumped us together with them. We got a big plastic sealed container as a waterproof place for our stuff (there was even lunch provided!!), paddles and life jackets (when the weather is cooler you get a wetsuit, too) then we had a little demonstration about how to paddle. By the time we finished the clouds have disappeared and it was all sunny.

Then we were off to get our kayaks. They pulled out a kayak of a huge pile, sit you in it and push you down a kind of chute like this.

We asked for individual kayaks but there were double and triple seaters, too. We saw families where the parents were sitting on the ends and the child was waving the paddle around in the middle. We also saw a three seater kayak with two dogs in the middle! Soon we were on our way.

The kayaks are very stable and practically unsinkable so you can try it without having to try kayaking before. The River Sella is an ideal river for kayaking. It’s very shallow so no need to worry about drowning. Sometimes it’s so shallow that you have to get out of your kayak and push it over the rocks. As the river flows slowly you hardly have to work at all, we very often just laid back and enjoyed the scenery. There are a few currents here and there, though, to make the descent exciting. They are not dangerous at all, the biggest danger is that if you don’t steer your kayak properly, you get beached on the side.

The whole length you can kayak is 14km but if you are with children or you get tired there are two more exits on the way, one at 6km (Torañu) and one at 10km (Llordón). Your company will wait for you there with a car and they can take you back to Arriondes or Ribadesella.

As the Spanish are a very enterprising nation after the first 2km came the first ‘chiringito’, or ‘bar at the water’. It is announced with loud music and huge signs. Many people stopped here for a drink.

The experience is really relaxed. The river does the work for you so you hardly have to paddle. Now that the sun was up we were able to see all the hills that surrounded the river. Hills on the side, the sun was shining, the river was gently flowing, it was lovely. Sometimes dragonflies stopped on your kayak to have a little rest. At the end of the route we saw huge fish swimming in the crystal clear water. The kayaks were very colourful and it made you laugh to see other people trying to take control of their kayaks.

We stopped after the second exit for lunch. In the plastic container we had a bocadillo each, a bottle of water, 2 packs of little palmeras for dessert and even oranges! It was lovely lying on the sand in the sun, watching the kayaks go buy, munching on my sandwich. After lunch we were back on the water again.

We went VERY slowly and it took us about 4.5 hours to get to the end point. By then we were pretty tired. They packed up the kayaks on a trailer and took us back to the centre. For my biggest surprise they had showers and even shower gel! I took advantage of these while Paul lay in the sun.

When I came out all and clean I realised that we can actually see the Picos the Europa in the background.

When we walked back Arriondas showed us a completely different face. The sun was shining and the mountains gave a lovely background to this little town.

After a nice cold drink we went back to the bus station and returned to Oviedo. It was a lovely day and we would do it again any time.

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