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June 22nd 2012
Published: June 23rd 2012
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18thJune 2012 – 23rd June 2012

After a thunderstorm last night and a strange bird that sort of sang all night long we awoke to a fine sunny day. Nearly ran over a pair of lagartos that were lazing in the road, but apart from that, an uneventful journey on the twisty N322 until we reached Balazote, where we picked up some nice straight roman roads and drove across the huge plains of wheat, olive trees and grapevines.

Stopped at Tarazona de la Mancha to find a PO and get some shopping and found it to be a very pleasant place, with all roads leading to a central square and church and surrounded by wooden balconied buildings with arches underneath.

We stopped at a campsite in Venta de la Contreras, which was down a windy road underneath the lakes and dam – its in a National Park and we were hoping to get a walk in along the river, but there may be a thunderstorm brewing. We are the only campers on the campsite (16.40 euros) and the facilities leave a lot to be desired.........

We decided to try the walk as the storm seems to have passed and as we walked out of the campsite, the campsite dog decided to show us the way and proceeded to lead us down the steps and through the woods to the river bank! She seemed to know where she was going and stopped every few minutes to make sure we were following! Loads of butterflies on the river bank and we walked to the end of the road where there was a waymarked walk through the gorge. Unfortunately the thunder had started again and as we didn’t want to get caught in a downpour we decided to give it up, much to the dogs dislike! She led us back along the road and then got distracted by a group of children so we continued back up the path to the campsite without her! Fortunately there were only a few spots of rain!

Spain were playing Croatia tonight so went to the bar but it was shut! Just deciding what to do when the campsites owners wife appeared in the car with her three children and said she would open the bar for us especially! Spent the evening watching the footy whilst she fed the children in the bar......the 18month old kept screaming and crying and the 8yr old was playing with his own football, the 13 year old was flouncing....not quite the nice football atmosphere we had anticipated! (115 miles)

The next day we awoke to blue skies, sun and thundery decided to give the walk a complete miss and as Chris says ‘Press On!!’

After following the road down to the river and then back up the winding road, it seemed to be going the wrong way and a sign said carretera cortado so we gave up and went back to the N111 cutting across at Caudete de Fuentes to the N330. Had to stop in one of the villages and ask the way as nothing was signposted and the names of the villages were different to the map!! Took a detour at Landete and went to Moya – a huge medieval village and castle set on top of a hill. An enormous place with 360 views but also pretty bleak! After lunch as we continued towards Teruel the scenery changed dramatically and we were on one of the prettiest roads we have found – it was like the Grand Canyon but on a smaller scale! Red sandstone rock formations one side of the road and the River Turia the other with masses of green deciduous trees and smallholdings all growing corn and various vegetables. Definitely worth another drive when the sky is blue!

As the weather still hadn’t decided quite what is was doing we ‘pressed on’ on the N420, over the Puerto de San Just and then along the N211 to Alcaniz – this had some sort of palace and huge church but it was getting late so we drove onto the campsite about 15km past Caspe on the River Elbe. (Lake Caspe Camping Red 18.10 Euros) Had a nice meal in their restaurant before the heavens opened and it then rained for most of the night! (231 miles)

The next day started cloudy although by about 10.30am the sun was out and the sky was blue! We had a peer at lake Caspe before driving onto Fraga where we stocked up on supplies. Carried on the A2 around Lleida and then onto the C13 and along the valley where we stopped for some lunch.

Then the scenery started to change quite dramatically with the rugged mountains of Andorra looming closer. A pretty drive along side the lakes and through the tunnels, checking out campsites at Ogern (closed), Oliana (couldn’t find it but another one was signposted 5km away) eventually stopping at Camping Organya (13.50 euros) where we sat in the sunshine watching a hoopoe and the paragliders over the mountains before going to the outside terrace bar with free wifi!! (125 miles)

We decided not to drive very far the next day – just up to Andorra de la Vella, the capital of Andorra. I was expecting mountain roads but it was just a normal road along a valley, with lots of roadworks and then after the customs some chaotic local drivers! Made it to the town of Andorra, which is not very campervan friendly as all the carparks say – No Campervans!! Parked anyway and spoke to a local policeman who directed us to the campsite Valira (27.00 euros) which was on the main Spain to France road.

After parking up we walked 15mins into the main town, found Tourist Info, found the lift to the old town, had a very nice lunch and decided to go on the Tourist Bus
Daisy on the mountains in the Ordino valleyDaisy on the mountains in the Ordino valleyDaisy on the mountains in the Ordino valley

Note the snow still on the mountains!!
which explore the north valley of Ordino. Was on the correct bus stop, as we thought, at 3.15 but no bus turned up and then after Chris had studied the map, it was clear we were waiting in the wrong place! Back to Tourist Info who said if we caught an L6 bus to La Massana, we could pick the bus up from there, only missing the first hour of the trip ie a church and a film and museum!! (The confusion of bus stops had arisen because the girl in the Tourist Info had said “No the bus stop is not near the church” when in fact it was!! She argued later it was 3 metres away!!)

Anyway, at 16.50 we got the Tourist Bus and drove up the beautiful Ordino valley, snow still on the mountains, past the cows with bells around their necks, through the little Andorran villages, until we stopped for coffee. After a quick visit to a gushing mountain stream, we climbed, quite quickly around a series of horseshoe bends to 2300metres and the high ski station. The clouds were rolling across the top of the mountains obscuring the view a bit but quite fascinating to watch how quickly they tumbled down the mountainside. Had a peer at an old shepherds hut before descending back into Andorra de la Vella where we had a quick visit to the shops, a lovely meal out and a walk back to the campsite! (30 miles)

Friday 22nd June 2012

A short drive up to Canillo where there are 4 campsites and 10 walks so we should be ok! Weather is fine and sunny although a trifle windy! Arrived at Canillo (Camping Pla - excellent free wifi!) about 10.30am and after coffee did our first walk, which started in the village and then followed uphill on the old Pilgrimage route, passing a couple of old wayside crosses and the village of Prats before reaching the Cathedral at Meritxell which was built in 1976 and designed by Ricard Bofill. An extremely modern cathedral in design but it sort of grew on me!! There was also a reconstructed old Meritxell Church which was destroyed by fire in 1972. Walked back the same way and then had a lazy afternoon, catching up with boring things like washing etc....... (9 miles)

The next day we decided to walk 7kms to Soldeu, along the shady side of the East Valira valley, classed as another easy walk in the Tourist Informations ‘Paths in the Parish of Canillo’ suitable for families etc....

It starts behind the cable car park and goes up....and up.....and up.....Its quite a well defined track but a couple of places I had to look straight ahead and not at the views!! There was a bit of boulder clambering to start with but nothing too serious but it was better for me after the first two bridges and the small tunnel. They had very considerately put chains to hold onto where there were steep drops so not too bad – although I’m not sure I’d describe it as a ‘family walk’.

The path meandered up and down through the forest, a mixture of stony tracks, pine woodland tracks, grass meadows with beautiful spring alpine flowers ( lots of wild bush rhododendron in flower) wonderful views of the valley, a few small streams to cross, a Tibetan bridge, also a large gushing river. A very varied walk with nine defined rest areas on the way and the whole path clearly waymarked with red capercaillee (small turkey!!) symbols. All in all a very pleasant walk although we took it steady and it took about 3 hours instead of the 2.20hrs the book stated.

A nice tapas lunch before a quick look around Soldeu and then caught the bus back to Canillo. Spotted an old church on the outside of Canillo that was worth a look at (12th C) and then back to the campsite.

A couple of hours ‘downtime’ before watching the very exciting Spain v France football match that Spain won 2-0. Its also St Johns night tonight, celebrating the summer solstice, which involves lighting a bonfire in every town and then everybody lights fireworks! Seems a bit dangerous but hey ho everyone enjoys it and the bands play and the music goes on and the people dance......

Tomorrow we are going up over the mountains and crossing the Puerta d’Envalira (Its about 2408 metres I think) with plenty of horseshoe bends before stopping at Pas de la Casa for a final shop and then going into France ....

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