After some thought we have decided to head home for Christmas – our first with the family in 6 years. This has meant shortening our trip slightly, and we won’t see as much of Spain as we’d hoped, maybe we’ll come back in the future, it’s a huge country to explore.
So what we will see of Spain is the far north, mainly the foothills of the Pyrenees. We contemplated a diversion to Barcelona but we’re nature lovers, and we can always fly to Barcelona, we may as well take advantage of having our own wheels and visit more remote areas.
And boy has it been remote so far; it feels like everyone’s received a warning to stay inside due to an outbreak of some deadly disease and we’re driving through blissfully unaware. The villages and towns we’ve passed have been so quiet and their very undeveloped compared to France where every town has a McDonald’s and hypermarket.
For once on this roadtrip, we speak enough of the local language to get by and it’s so nice to have a rough idea of what someone’s saying. We learnt Spanish in Guatemala about 3 years ago and haven’t spoken a word since, now it’s all flooding back.
We visited a beautiful park called ‘La Sierra y cañones de Guarda’. We found a carpark from where a path led through a deep river which we cleverly (took us 10 minutes to realise) avoided by taking the road bridge. The route we followed was a canyoning area, so only part of it was hike-able and the rest you needed special gear for. We got to a massive open cave and from there it got very interesting. We had to walk under a dripping cave and then crawl behind a waterfall. The next section had ropes chained to the wall to hold onto, which was handy as the ground was slanted, wet and slippery from algae, one slip and you’d have a long fall into the canyon. We decided to turn back after that and just admire the views. It was so warm in the sun that Craig had his top off, in December!
As we got back on the road we could see how the pastures and bushes raised up gradually and suddenly dropped into a black abyss – inside was the canyon where we’d just been hiking.
It was a really fun drive around the park and we saw more rock and mud slides spilt onto the road than other cars. The whole area was gorgeous; the Pyrenees in the distance were snow covered and had such prominent ridge lines that they looked like perfect sand dunes shaped by the wind. The lower Pyrenees in front were interesting barren mountains that had occasional spouts of wild rock formation. We followed some large red rocks and wound up on a dirt road and remembered why we don’t normally just drive in the hope of making enough correct turns and reaching the destination. It rarely works.
Just to reiterate how remote and peaceful this area was; we saw our first ever tumble weed – which perfectly sums up that image of a lonely desert. It was just sitting in the road and we didn’t know what it was till it tumbled away and we started whooping and cheering it on. We also saw our first lynx (a wild cat) – it was huge, at least double the size of a normal cat, with long legs, ginger fur and pointy ears. Another fun find was a giant wild boar that ran away from us as we pulled up in a field to camp for the night.
The next day we drove to Riglos which is a tiny village that sits under some phenomenal rock formations. Huge red rocks rose 300 sheer meters above the village, it was quite the sight. We decided to do a hike around them which offered superb views down the steep walls to neat squares of pastures and a meandering river. The only problem was the wind, which was unbelievably strong and we were struggling to fight against it on the uphill section.
We fell in love with the area, it was right up our street as we love desert style scenery and these rocks were awesome. There was no one else on the trail, although I wonder if summer would be heaving. It’s always popular with climbers though and we could see people, well, tiny specks maybe a quarter of the way up. Seemed like a stupid day to do that with such strong winds.