If you’re lucky when hiking in the Pyrenees you’ll see a huge bird flying by overhead with beautiful rusty coloured feathers. If you’re even luckier, you’ll see it carry a large bone high into the sky and drop it to smash it into pieces before landing and swallowing them. What is this bid and why is it eating bones?
Bearded vulture or Lammergeier in the Pyrenees
With a wing span of nearly three metres, the enormous bearded vulture or lammergeier is one of the emblematic species of the Pyrenees. They live in the high mountains of Europe, Asia and Africa but the Pyrenees has the highest concentration in Europe of these magnificent birds.
The bearded vulture is the only bird in the world to live almost entirely on a diet of bones. It makes it’s spanish name of ‘Quebrantahusos’ – the bonebreaker – very appropriate! The vultures swallow bones of up to 20cm. Powerful acids in their stomachs then dissolve the bones and they digest the marrow.
For large bones the bearded vulture circles high in the air above stony sites called ‘rompederos’ – breaking places. They drop the bones breaking them on the stones below and then swallow the broken pieces. There are various feeding sites n the central Pyrenees where the vultures are left bones such as pigs spines by park rangers as part of the conservation program.
Read more about the bearded vulture…
The dates for the shuttle bus into the Ordesa Canyon from Torla have been published for 2019.
The bus operates from the visitors centre in Torla to the Pradera in Ordesa where the main hikes in the valley start. Private cars aren’t allowed into the valley during Easter, from the 29 June to the 15 September and from 12 to 13 October (2019 dates).
Since last year, there is also a shuttle bus that operates for the Añisclo Canyon that runs from the village of Buerba to San Urbez – they haven’t confirmed the dates for this yet but last year they ran on the same dates as the Ordesa bus.
2019 shuttle bus dates and times
Last days of June, July and August (29 June to 31 August) - first bus 6 am – last bus into valley 7 pm – last bus back to Torla 10 pm
September (1 to 15 September) – first bus 6 am – last bus into valley 6 pm – last bus back to Torla 9 pm
October (12 to 13 October) – first bus 6 am – last bus into valley 6 pm – last bus back to Torla 8.30 pm
2019 Bus prices
Standard fare: 4.50 € return ticket – 3 € single ticket
Older than 65 years*: 3,50 € return ticket – 2,50 € single ticket
Younger than 10 years*: free
Dogs: 2 € return ticket – 1 € single ticket
* it would be necesary to show your passaport to claim the discount.
The service works pretty efficiently with buses every 20 minutes (more in high summer).
Tickets can be bought at the small wooden hut outside the visitors centre and some hotels in Torla (such as Hotel Ordesa) also sell tickets at reception.
Please note that although they do allow dogs, they have to be put in a dog carrier in the luggage area of the bus. In the park dogs have to be on leads.
After a long day on the winding, demanding and beautiful hiking trail, returning to your hotel room can feel like stepping into paradise. However, before you soak your aching limbs in a hot bath or flop on the comfort of your hotel bed, stop and stretch those burning muscles. If you don’t, you’ll pay for it by either the inability to get out of bed the next day or, worse, sudden injury.
What are you thinking about doing this weekend?
I wondered the same question last week and I decided to go snowshoeing. On the border with France, at the head of the Valle de Canfranc there are some fantastic snowshoeing routes.
Making fresh tracks in the snow – fantastic!
I decided to go to “El Bosque de las Hayas” or Beech Forest; between Candanchu and France. You can park at the ski resort and head out from there.