It should be clarified that in the town of Avín there are two types of options around glacier fauna. One of them is the cave/museum, which involves a didactic tour of a very accessible cave, set up to house reproductions of glacial fauna -and well worth a separate visit. The other option, to which we refer here, is a steeper chasm, the cave of La Peruyal. Inside, in a small and fascinating chamber, it has been preserved for 45.000 years the skeleton of this prehistoric rhinoceros; a species that ate grass like the current ones and was occasionally hunted by Neanderthals.
The calf of this animal found in Avín was baptized long ago as the «Osorrino». It was the children who gave it this name, with their facility to simplify things and the theories that took place about the origin of the skeleton.
In search of the "Osorrino"
Experienced guides await us after booking the activity. Groups have a maximum of 8 people. We put on the overalls, and with the helmet already on we walked determined towards the cave that we must explore. It is not every day that one can get within a few centimeters of an ice age rhino. That is our great objective.
A metal staircase allows access to the front door; from there, another staircase (this one spiral) leads us to the depths. We turn on the front lights of our equipment. Experienced and passionate guides With their work they explain to us that the remains of animals that have appeared in this chasm are mainly herbivorous and omnivorous mammals. They are the most likely to fall in these types of caves because they lack peripheral vision. They also explain that the first explorers de La Peruyal were British researchers in 1973. Expert geologists who pioneered through part of the infinite network, of karstic origin, that exists under the Picos de Europa.
The English initially thought that the skeleton of La Peruyal belonged to a small donkey. The locals who began to frequent the cave said that it was about a bear. Years later, when the find was scientifically dated, it was learned that it was the calf of a steppe rhinoceros. Experts believe that the animal rushed into the cave and then walked through it trying to find another way out. His remains were found, thus, next to the only water source in the cavern. And thanks to being in a permanently flooded area, the skeleton was preserved in perfect condition, varnished with calcium carbonate due to the effect of water.
The excursion through the Cueva de La Peruyal
The underground tour is easy, although in two specific areas the ropes are necessary to bridge the unevenness. It is not something that is very difficult, although the presence of the ropes provides a touch of adventure that children usually love. The temperature underground remains constant throughout the year at about 13 degrees. There are small galleries and other larger ones, but they are all awe-inspiring and exude great magnetism. La Peruyal is full of impressive formations by endocarst. Stalactites and stalagmites that have been forming for millions of years.
When we arrive in front of the promised fossil, the sensation overwhelms us a bit, since it seems incredible to have it so close, lying in a small natural niche; a sort of caveman sanctuary. The explanations of the guides in front of this fascinating animal are lengthened. They clarify, for example, that it was in the year 2000 when the archaeologist Ana Pinto He wanted to study what for some was a bear and for others a donkey. After analyzing the shape of its skull and the age of the remains, he concluded that it was a very primitive rhinoceros (45.000 years old) that was only between 18 and 24 months old when it died. He had eaten a lot of dirt in his last days, which made his guts solidify and can now be seen clearly.
La Cueva de La Peruyal is a cave of about 300 meters, located one kilometer from Benia de Onís.
The guided excursion begins at Camping de Avín and prior reservation is essential.
Tno 616 212 483
Duration: 3 hours.
Indicated for families with children from 8 years.
Adults: € 25
Children (from 8 years): €20
The activity includes: specialist guide, caving suit, LED frontal helmet.
From June 15 to October 1 (previous reservation). Mornings: 10:45 a.m. Afternoons: 15:30 p.m.
Tuesday there is no visit.
Text: © Ramón Molleda for asturias.com