Saturday 11 July: Torla to L’Ainsa
Torla GPS Position: 42.623685, -0.111534
Excited today we are going on an off road adventure…in a Motorhome.
Saturday’s in resort areas are notoriously busy and Torla is no exception. We’d parked on the lower car park with no one around until this morning. We couldn’t believe how busy it soon became, so glad we chose to set off today.
About 6km out of Torla is a small single track road. It had no restrictions but you can tell it is not really designed for larger vehicles. However, it’s a road that Craig wants to go down as he believes it will be a good drive and when Craig wants to go…he goes. We wound up and up in to tree line pass and what stunning views but it didn’t stop there. The whole road just continued to either hug a mountain, balance on a ridge or meander through glazier valley, it was one of the most dramatic drives this year. Craig got plenty kicks watching me scream and squirm as Vins tread clung to the edge of the road. At one point he said “what would you do if I had an heart attack now?” What a blinking question to ask 2000m up with nothing but sheer drops on either side of the Motorhome. My reply…well I might as well join you and have one too.
We found out we were in the Valle de Vio at the mouth of the Añisclo canyon. And boy did the canyon demand a stunning view! This deserted valley offers nothing but scorched grasslands to the north and fir forests to the south. Only a handful of hardy farmers stay in the region in small, traditional stone shacks. It is remote, unspoiled and raw, it is stunning. The narrow dirt road offers the odd occasional lay-by that we fully utilised at every opportunity. Jumping out of Vin to savour the tremendous views. By the time we reached Ainsa I was a hardened hairpin bend pavilion with no more slamming on the passenger brakes!
We pulled in to the main car park and stepped outside for a toot. It is here the river Ara and the river Cinca meet to form extreme Rapids but not today. The river beds are nearly dry and offer just a trickle in comparison to normal. The parking spot was fine but it had a certain feel about it that made us feel a little uneasy.
We couldn’t quite put our finger on it but none the less, when we are uneasy, we move. Across the road and down a little dirt track to find the perfect spot. Small, loose stone space behind the municipal sports facility with panoramic views of the hilltop village.
Ainsa spot 1 GPS Position: 42.414842, 0.143828
Ainsa spot 2 GPS Position: 42.416061, 0.141299
Despite being in the Pyrenees the weather is still extremely hot at 40 plus, so we closed all the blinds in an attempt to keep the sun out and the van cool. For our evening meal, a BBQ with slat n pepper chicken, prawns, potato wedges, and garlic pork. . We love BBQ but it can be difficult to use the BBQ when wild camping, so we seize every opportunity. All swilled down with a cheeky cold beer and a cracking view.
Our Bumble verdict – belting drive (best drive of 2015) but not for the faint hearted.
Sunday 12 July: L’Ainsa to Guara National Park
We spent the morning finishing of our latest Bumble before heading in to the town of Ainsa. The new town is not pretty at all with concrete square buildings and soulless streets. We wound our way up to the old town or the medieval town as after referred to. The castle wall runs around the perimeter of the town and you enter through quaint archways. As soon as you enter it feels completely different to the rest of the place. Nice, quaint and unusual. The cobbled streets and stone buildings had a rather rustic feel to them. We noticed the door handles…eek men’s willies, which we later discovered are a traditional fertility blessings. Well lots of blessings going on in this village. At the top, the plaza mayor is a large square surrounded by archways. Inside, tables and chairs full of Spanish families enjoying some Sunday chomp and vino. After the square the remains of the medieval castle dating back to 2nd century, which offer stunning views of the village and the surrounding area. Back in the square and just to the left a tiny church, which was very unusual dating back to 1181. Inside you where guided to a little archway, which led you to a quaint and charming little courtyard full of naves. Don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this before. Back inside and down in to a small and rather pungent crypt. A quick stop at the bank before we headed back to Vin.
Our Bumble verdict – skip the new town and head straight for the old village.
Back in Vin and we battened down the hatches before heading to our next point. The fuel in this region is a lot cheaper than we expected at €1.13 compare to €1.21 on the coast. We really don’t need any fuel but thought it better to top up given Craig has his adventure head on. Rather than follow the main road, yet you guessed it, we took the beaten track through farm land. Once again, brilliant views but this time more low key, with lots of grazing land. In fact, at one point Craig had to slam on the brakes at one point due to a massive herd of sheep. After several mountain passes, we entered the Guara national park. Lots of trees and bushes and quite a let down after Ordesa and Voi. Gosh, we felt bad, we are getting too picky for our own good. But then we turned a corner and wow. A wonderful gauge with a balcony car park. Craig hurled on the brakes and spun Vin straight in to the spot. What a view to end the day!
Guera National Park GPS Position: 42.219740, 0.045281
Monday 13 July: Guara National Park to Capella
5 in the morning…Whats that beeping noise. Oh bloodiel , it’s the fridge and freezer. My heart sank as I jumped up to shut the door. I got there and the door was fine but the red alarm was flashing. It couldn’t get any gas? Craig went outside and checked the cylinders, which were fine. We checked the gas cooker etc, to make sure gas was still coming through…yip that’s fine. We turned on the heating…that always uses loads of gas. Craig checked everything and then decided to switch everything off, flush the system and see what happens. 10 minutes later the fridge and freezer were back on track and starting to chill. Phew, don’t fancy a broken fridge and freezer in this heat.
I went back to noddy land whilst Craig went canyon walking in his 4×4 gripper crocs. Apparently, only a trickle of water left in the river but he did see an abandoned stone hut and a few good views of the canyon.
By 9am cars were arriving and folk were starting to descend to the river. This is so called France’s best kept secret, so no surprises to hear lots of French people. The men’s attire was simple… swimming trunks, socks and shoes but have to say, they looked pretty darn stupid in socks and trunks!
After a scrambled eggs on toast we set off to Alquezar. This moorish village is a little out of our way but it is meant to be stunning, so worth the detour. The drive through the Guara national park was good but not great. You need to get out your vehicle and peel back the trees to see the great bits…hidden canyons and rock formations and in winter, the rapids. If you didn’t know any better, you would think you were just driving through a forest.
We arrived in Alquezar and parked on a terraced car park just outside the village.
Alquezar GPS Position: 42.169520, 0.021411
We positioned Vin to get the most out of the breeze albeit rather warm. We got the cameras and walked to the town, it was painfully hot and within minutes sweat was dripping off both of us. We wound down to the main street…not a lot of people around? A wander in to the little Romanesque church, which was only basic inside (fine) but what we didn’t like was the dirt. This place hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, it was horrid. We wound around the outside of the village until we arrived at the grand collegiate church and alcazar. About half a dozen people were lingering outside the entrance looking perplexed. The signs says open but the door is closed? That’s the Spanish for ya. We had a toot around the outside, which was ok but disappointing to see poor restoration to a wonderful historic building. The views however were spectacular.
Back in the village and we did spot a few nice bits but not many. This place has so much potential but no soul. It is fabricated beyond belief. It looks like many years ago the village attracted some tourists and in an attempt to attract more, they knocked down and rebuilt, which spoiled the village. Now in a second attempt they are building apartment blocks and making it even less attractive. A wonderful setting completely destroyed through greed.
Our Bumble verdict – passed its heyday, don’t bother.
Back in Vin and we felt rather deflated. I had a dozen showers to try and cool down whilst Craig did the plan. Inside Vin is was only 41 degrees compared to 50+ outside and it got so hot, I melted and got a visual migraine. It the humidity that cripples. Craig could tell the heat was too much, so we packed up and set off with air-con on full whack. Thank god for air-con!
Half an hour later, we arrived in a rather large but nice town. Craig spotted a Mercadona with his beady eyes! Supermarkets work well for us, I get to cool down in super air-con and Craig gets to shop, perfect. We tried the local drink (not to our taste buds) €60 lighter and we were heading to Grous.
Wow look at that! Right in front of Vin the shadow of a vulture, it was massive. We looked up and boy they were big. No idea how big but we are guess a wing span of around 10ft? Put it this way, don’t fancy getting in to a fight with one of those rascals. The road to Graus was very scenic with 5km of tunnels, gauges and rock pinnacles. It’s about the only time we both go quiet! After the tunnels an inviting lake. We drove around the waters edge in hope we could find somewhere to park but when we spotted a sign informing everyone the area was infested with insects we opted to drive on. The village of Graus was dirty and dodgie, so we ploughed on, again. Eventually we found a decent spot in San Martin, Capella.
A small village with only 300 inhabitants but it has a lovely feels to the place with a river, a nice bridge and a small park/picnic area. The village gardener, an retired gentleman was watering the lawns when we arrived. He had a right old conversation with Craig and completely ignored the fact that Craig couldn’t understand a word he was saying. A great spot to tend the day including a nice lullaby from our friendly river frogs.
Tuesday 14 July: Capella to Roda de Isabena
CapellaGPS Position: 42.194808, 0.397808
The gardener was back early doors to turn on the hosepipe and tend to his lawn. A few of his buddies decided to join him and before long they were all having a right old chin wag. We had a little walk around and then over to the municipal sports facility which included an lovely out door pool. A shed serving refreshments including a 10p mix for the kiddies. Gosh it brought back memories of our visits to the sweet shop. Tell you what though, the Spanish provide fantastic shared facilities for the town. All over Spain, you find parks, sports grounds, pools etc and all well maintained and at an affordable price.
Our Bumble verdict – Capella, it’s a lovely, welcoming place and worth a stop over if you are looking for somewhere to wild camp.
Not long and we arrived at our destination of the Roda de Isabena. Perched on a pinnacle of a hill, we wound up and up until we reached the municipal car park. What a wonderful view of the valleys and mountains, think we will stop here for the day. On top of the view we had a little shade and plenty breeze…and you can’t have too much breeze.
After a good gawk at our view, we sauntered up to the top of the village. It felt like you were stepping back in time. Cobbled streets, stone houses, timber balconies and a real untouched but loved feel about the place. Nothing fancy just simple and basic but very beautiful. At the top, a small plaza with one taverna, a church and a raised area with table and chairs (which we later discovered is for the daily cards tournament). The church was closed, so we just continued walking around the village. At the back of the church some old wooden beams with a sort of pulley system. We walked around trying to suss out what it could have been but the puzzle was just too big and broken. At the side of the church a small palace with a beautiful balcony, which is now converted in to someone house. Then we wandering in to an archway and found the most beautiful garden, which used to be the cloisters. We walked around and around the village and whilst nothing much here, it just felt so different, so authentic, it captured our attention.
That evening, we celebrated our little find with a fine steak done to perfection on the BBQ. No iPad tunes tonight just the sound of El Don the donkey and the Yap the owd dawg.
Wednesday 15 July: Roda de Isabena to Naut Aran
Two walks around the village this morning. One for a general toot and the second for a scheduled visit to the church. Well, I say church it turns out to be Spain’s smallest cathedral. We arrived promptly at 11.10 and purchased a ticket for €3 for our 11.15 tour. At 11.15 precisely the guide opened the huge Saint Vincent cathedral doors and we along with half a dozen other people stepped inside. Next minute the doors were shut tight! No messing with this guide! She turned on the lights to the central alter, it was nice but then she pointed downstairs to the crypt. Wow, it was amazing. The guide turned out to be really good, she couldn’t speak any English but her passion for the cathedral just oozed out of her. She took each section of the cathedral, turned on the lights and then pointed out all the different elements. The cathedral was like a mini museum that dated back to 10th century but it didn’t really have any defined religion, it felt very pagan. You would see over time now the different eras had added their stamp on the church but yet, it still remained simple and elegant. This place clearly isn’t on the mass tourist trail but you get a feeling this hidden gem could quite easily become a national treasure, it is spectacular.
Our Bumble verdict – definitely worth a visit, a top 10
After our cathedral visit, we headed back to Vin and prepared for take off. I plonked my feet on the dash and sang a bit sweetly to my dear husband, who didn’t quite appreciate my Ed Sheeran singalong. At the bottom of the hill we took a swift left and followed Rio Isabena. Along route we picked up a crusty cob and a chocolate florentine, which will do nicely for lunch. We passed through loads of small tunnels and wonderful countryside with amazing views. STOP! We hit our first road work in months…it felt weird to be held up but at least the traffic light timer counted down the remaining minutes, how cool. Ten minutes later and we were back on track until we spotted a waterfall and a dirt patch…HALT! Vins breaks jammed on and Craig spun the Motorhome in to an awesome lunch spot were we enjoyed some grub, whilst watching the waterfall.
We arrived at Vielha and it was rather a large town. The stone and wooden chalets surrounded by fir trees gave the town a rather alpine feel but the large decathlon and large department store sort off spoiled the alpine retreat feel, so Bumbled on a bit further. We drove through an extremely long tunnel, which felt bazaar as we didn’t expect it to be so long and so downhill! What’s going on? We just drove 1000’s feet up and now we are going back down. We want high ground to get cool! About half an hour after the tunnel we spotted a nice place at the side of the river in a place called Naut Aran.
Naut Aran GPS Position: 42.705850, 0.902001
After parking up, we took a stroll in to the village. It was nice but a rather purpose built feel about it, which was more geared up for the ski season rather than summer hikers. But none the less, it was a nice place. We personally enjoyed dunking our tootsies in the river albeit bloody freezing water.
That night, the temperature dropped to 19 degrees and it was just wonderful. The cool air filled Vin, it was heaven to not be hot and sweaty! Craig watched one of this films and I listened to some tunes. A totally blissful evening.
Our Bumble verdict – good wild camping spot but that’s it.
Thursday 16 July: Naut Aran to Llovorsi
Last night the temperature dropped to 19 degrees and it was heaven. A great nights sleep without any huffing, puffing and sticking to the bed sheets. We got dressed and rather than have breakfast here we set off up the mountain road. At about 1800m we spotted a wonderful lay-by, so we pulled over. The views down the valley were stunning, what a place to have yogurt and muesli next minute, we noticed a lady having a dump in the bushes! Some how the view didn’t seem quite as appealing. Next minute, she was shouting and wafting her arms at us telling us to move the motorhome. Clearly we’d put her off her moment and she wasn’t impressed. Oops but we weren’t to know!
Near La Vall de Gerber GPS Position: 42.673135, 0.966154
La Vale de Gerber GPS Position: 42.653238, 1.000170
Next minute, Vin was off, he was all for doing the ski run at El Pillars Sobrena. At 2076m above sea level he broke the record for his highest point to date. To celebrate, he kicked in a little turbo and did a wheel spin just before he began his descent. A few meters down the road and we pulled in at La Vall de Gerber. Craig admired the views whilst I admired the wild horses. Where is everyone? The Pyrenees are meant to be a haven for walkers this time of year but for some reason it dead as a dodo.
We pulled in at lake for brunch and watched a couple of chaps fly fishing before setting off to Escalo for today’s final stop. (you could camp on the other side of the river though.)
La Guingueta d’Aneu GPS Position: 42.592781, 1.132583
Once in Eacalo we walked around the deserted ski resort. Admired the lift, pondered over the ski run before sorting out the best parking space on the huge car park. After moving 500 times Craig decided he couldn’t get comfortable, so we moved on, well maybe not our final spot of the day! Escalo wasn’t doing it for him. We wound all the way down the mountain side and after about 20 minutes pulled over by the river. A wonderful little spot right beside the river. Not a soul around, so peaceful.
Llavorsi GPS Position: 42.516871, 1.195725
That evening the heavens opened and we experienced a dramatic thunder and lightening show. Craig watched the lightening bolts land all around us, it was pretty scary. Beside the river and under the trees is not a place you really want to be when a storm breaks out, but we couldn’t really move. I got severe stomach ache that lasted all night. Poor Craig spent half the night with one eye on me and one eye on the lightening… wondering which one would strike first!
Our Bumble verdict – stunning drive day.
Today, we spent time by the river albeit the water level is a good 2 feet higher than when we first arrived.
As you can see in the picture above, Vin is well hidden under the trees, wonder if anyone spots us?
I still didn’t feel great, so we finished our Bumble early (sorry if it feels a bit half baked, a bit like I feel at the moment), which ties in with visiting Andorra, as we won’t have any internet access. Or so we think! Anyway, we are off to Andorra now folks, not sure where or for how long, so will see you in a few days or weeks!
A flowing river means wash everything before we set off including Vin. Time to get the buckets out again.
Friday 17 July: Llovorsi to La Seu d’Urgell
After we finished Our Bumble update we left our little river spot including all the nasty horse flies and ended up at the town of La Seu d’Urgell. Along the way, we stopped off at several points in a hope we could get an Internet signal in order to send our weekly Bumble. When we finally got connected the email server had a dicky fit. Aargh today is not a good day for technology folks, it’s testing us a wee bit! In the end we managed to get the email out as well as delete half a dozen emails that we didn’t intend to delete! That’s life on the road!
Our journey to La Seu d’Urgell travelled along the Noguera Pallaresa river, which is one of the most powerful rivers in the Spanish Pyrenees. In days gone by they would use the river to send logs downstream but nowadays, it just attracts humans wishing to propel themselves through its white water rapids. About half way through our route we stopped on the apex of a mountain to admire the views. We spotted a few wild horses and a mother with a very young foal. The foal had just discovered it’s legs and it was having a ball bouncing all over the place until it crash landed on mum.
We climbed to around 1800 meters with stunning views that were a little clouded by haze and distant rain clouds. Up here, felt very rural and traditional. No resorts or bling just simple stone huts and hard grafting farmers. It truly did feel like stepping back in time. We continued on the road through successive outcrops of bare rock with the odd tuft of grass. As we start our descent, the rock walls start to rise high above and close in, along with the stifling heat.
La Seu d’Urgell GPS Position: 42.359173, 1.465392
Upon arrival in La Seu d’Urgell, we noticed signs for camper services, so we followed and ended up at a lovely free aire. There were around 15 motorhome parked up, so we popped Vin on the end. Not long and another motorhome tagged next to us. After about 10 minutes we were laughing our heads off. It was so noisy with televisions on full whack and Spanish whispers. It was like moving from a quiet detached house to a busy apartment block.
We arrived late and so a simple, elegant evening meal…crisp butty before bedtime.