As I had a visitor, I proposed a hiking route I had heard about as a silly adventure. The area around the reservoir Pantano de Buendía is home to an… interesting hiking route.
In the early 1990s, a couple of friends called Eulogio Reguillo and Jorge Juan Maldonado, a builder and a pottery maker, got the idea to create a sculpture on the rock. That, which in other circumstances could have be just been considered “defiling nature” became a Land art project – the two “artists” have carved gigantic faces into the sandstone, and the route has become a tourist spot – the Route of the Faces or Ruta de las Caras.
The route has been on my radar for a while (but I’d been feeling lazy about the drive) and I thought it would be a fun bizarre thing we could do together. It did not disappoint. You can do the complete route from the nearby village of Buendía, which is around 9 km, or drive up to the beginning of the route at the edge of the reservoir and hike around 2 km. We decided to do this, as the complete route did not offer much else to do / see.
The route features a lot of official and unofficial sculptures, along with graffiti on the rocks. It is circular and runs through a pine forest which makes it suitable for both warm and cold weather – as long as the roads to get to the village are not frozen. Though temperature had plopped down compared to the previous day, it was still mostly over 20 ºC, so nice enough to be out in a sweatshirt.
The rock carvings vary in size, style and elaboration. There are some religious motives, such a couple of Christian Virgin Marys, and some figures from Indian (Hindu and Buddhist) inspiration, but the ideas are so all over the place that they probably just let the artists do whatever they felt like. While the first carvings date from the 1990s, the route is still being carved, and we missed one of the faces as it is in a “new” area which is still not signalled. Some of the sculptures we did see include:
- Moneda de Vida – The Coin of Life
- Cruz Templaria – Templar Cross
- Krishna (Hindu deity)
- Maitreya (future Buddha in Buddhist eschatology)
- Arjuna (a character in one of the Hindu epics)
- Espiral del brujo – The Male Witch’s Spiral
- Chemary (short for the name “José María”, Joseph Mary)
- Sin nombre – Unnamed (and unfinished)
- La monja – The nun
- Chamán – Shamman
- Beethoven (the composer, yes)
- Duende de la grieta – Goblin in the Crack
- Dama del pantano – Lady of the Reservoir
- Virgen de la flor de Lis – Virgin of the Fleur-de-lis
- Virgen de las caras – Virgin of the Faces
Our favourite was the skull overlooking the reservoir, called De muerte – Deadly – which one could actually climb – noooot absolutely sure it was “legal”, but the rules only said “do not carve or alter the rocks” and the sculptures are coated in a protective liquid. And after all, this started as a random art-vandalism thing.
On the way back we stopped at the dam that closes off the Reservoir Presa del Pantano de Buendía, where we played with the echo.
Then, we moved on and once again stopped at the dam in the Entrepeñas reservoir Presa del Pantano de Entrepeñas – and I got the exit wrong again afterwards, exactly like the previous time. We saw a flock of vultures, and as they were circling in search for prey, they were a ‘kettle’.
To end the day with befor my friend was off to the airport, we headed back and stopped to have lunch at a tiny Mexican place in the shopping centre on our way. And there I discovered that yes, there is such a thing as too much cheese on nachos. In the end, we walked around 4.11 km (6464 steps), so I think we were allowed to deal with the junk-y food.