A SMALL TRANSHUMANT ROUTE BY THE LUNA VALLEYS
The Luna region is part of the Biosphere Reserve Omaña and Luna valleys, León. It`s land of transhumant shepherds. They’re the ones who forged the character of these valleys, in their eternal search for green meadows for their merino sheep.
This semi-nomadic way of life, amid cañadas (drover’s roads), cordeles (tracks) and veredas (paths) moulded the landscape. The transhumant flocks walked from the the Leonese mountain passes in summer, to the pastures of Extremadura in winter, created a trail. And i’d like to invite you to hike it:
Abelgas de Luna is at the start of a small hiking trail that leads to the merino sheep track of Babia de Abajo, route of shepherds transhumants fo merino. An old sheep path that is still used by shepherds today, to drive their flock to the summer passes. The circular trail is scarcely 9-km long, and it takes about 3:30 hours. It couldn’t be simpler.
In the high part of the village is the simple hermitage of Vera Cruz, known as the Hermitage of the Shepherds, built in the seventeenth century. Of all the villages in the region, Abelgas is one of the enclaves that has best conserved its traditional shepherding buildings. There, you’ll find what are known as “de patín” houses, which have two stories. The ground floor is for the stables and storeroom, and the upper one is the living space. It’s worth, warm up by exploring the village, to identify its unusual buildings, before you set out on your hike.
The path starts in the southern part of the village and follows the course of the Arroyo de Cuartero river, which has created a limestone ravine. The bottom of this small gorge is home to the river, this trail, and allotments belonging to the locals.
At the end of the ravine, the trail continues towards Mallo de Luna, but you should come off it and take the detour to the left, which specifically goes to the Babia de Abajo cordel (track). According to the old Mesta laws, it’s 45 Castilian varas wide, which is why it’s a cordel (track) and not a cañada (drover’s road). It directly connects to the Puerto de Mesa pass.
Along the first part of the stretch, the track goes through important grasslands and a small gorge called Las Focicas. At that point, which is the highest on this route of shepherds transhumants fo merino, you can enjoy the impressive mountainous panorama of Luna. With its deep valleys and high peaks, extensive pastures and austere stone villages. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the powerful mastiffs guarding the livestock.
This is followed by a descent, which crosses one of the best oak woods in the region, and which will take you to Láncara hydroelectric power station. The trail ends at a nearby road, which goes to Sena de Luna. Follow that road in the opposite direction, back towards the starting point, in Abelgas de Luna.
Now you’ve walked up an appetite, there’s no better choice than to enjoy a warming caldereta del pastor (lamb stew), slow cooked in an iron pot, by expert hands, in Sena de Luna. After lunch, take a pleasant stroll through this lordly village, to immerse yourself in its history and discover the family home of Los Hidalgos, owners of the herd with the same name.
The Las Hidalgas livestock was an extremely important merino sheep herd in the first half of the 20th century, and it’s the only one that has managed to survive until today. Hidalgas sheep are very special, with an extremely fine wool that is rich in suarda (wool grease). That’s what gives merino sheep their characteristic greyish appearance.
Before heading home, you may like to drive to Rabanal de Luna and visit Pruneda hermitage. This simple rural building has a strategic position, near the main transhumant trails, and on the border between Babia and Luna. The oldest residents can still remember how the sheep would rub their fleece against the walls of the temple on their transhumant journey.