I was ready to get out of the city. I found various alternatives for not too high a price but most would have involved more looking at buildings so I decided on the one that would be country only. My only reservation was that I found it hard to believe in the cost I had deduced from the Internet.
I was reassured on this final point by very clear notices at Atocha Renfe Ceranias station and confirmed it with enquiries. It was indeed only €10 return to travel on two trains each way, one of which was a special narrow gauge route through the mountains for about two hours (each way) including about a quarter of an hour between trains.
The first train was to Cercedilla, a small town on the edge of the Sierra de Guadarrama and on the line to Segovia. The scenery was increasingly attractive as we approached the mountains. For a short time it was possible to see the huge cross at the Valle de los Caidos, not an attraction from my point of view but we all have our own political reaction to such places. I had no breakfast before leaving Atocha and I was delighted to be able to get a coffee before the next train.
This was a real treat and even if it had been one of the days on which I feel unable to walk far, I would have regarded the train part of the day as a thoroughy worth while trip out. It was the only Madrid Cercanias line that goes nowhere near the city of Madrid, narrow gauge and for most of its route single track. A number of halts are shown on the timetable but stops at them are only by request. There was only one actual stop before the terminus where there were two lines to allow trains to meet. The views were excellent as the route snaked up into the mountains. The terminus was Los Cotos, a place of which I knew nothing except that there was a ski resort somewhere around.
Never having been a skier, I don't regard the signs of the activity left for the summer as an attraction but I quickly realised that it was easy to avoid being inconvenienced by them here. I had thought of going straight back but it was only an hour later to the next train and I was hungry. So I would eat on the station but I might have a quick look at the scenery first. I had only gone about three or four minutes when I came to the entrance to the Pe ñalara Natural Park. A map post made it look as though there was a viewpoint close by – and the park office was only a very few more minutes away – so I would go there and ask about it. Nature and habits are not so easily denied however. I did not ask about the viewpoint! What I actually asked was whether there were any easy walks and there was one. Hunger?? - acute but it would have to wait
The walk was supposed to be about an hour each way. I was right in guessing that for me it would be an extra 50 minutes going out and an extra 5 coming down but that would leave me time for the 15.45 train with luck and if not, definitely for the 17.45. The first part of the walk was qite rough and steep but that did not worry me much (the very helpful lady at the office had told me about it) as I was fresh from the train. After only about 150 feet the path became a contour route for all of two miles. The path left the trees and the open views across the valley were just what is needed for a break from a city. Then came what for me was the difficult part. The path going upwards to the Laguna Grande de Pe ñalara winds through one of the specially protected areas of the park and the park lady had told me that the laying of planks to preserve the environment had made it easy, Certainly it had obviated any roughness but it had not reduced the slope! If I had not been able to see clearly where the lake had to be, I think I might have chickened out!
Laguna Grande de Peñalara
As it was I persisted and reached rocks where I could sit and look at the wonderful lake below the peaks. By this time I was really concerned to get the 15.45 train if at all possible and this prevented me exploring further. I took the same route back and arrived at the station at 15.28. That left me time for a drink, after doing what a chap has to do, but hunger was becoming dreadful!! Fortunately in country areas the traditional tapas habit still lives. The free slice of tortilla was just small enough for me to enjoy it (ENJOY - I mean) before the train.
All in all a great day out – and, incidentally I reached the Mirador del Gitano (viewpint of the Gypsy) only a very few minutes into my walk so if I had asked about viewpoints - - -