Sunday night Monday morning - what a night.
Our last night in Spain was an eventful one. In the early hours of the morning the mother of all storms erupted. The sort of storm you never quite get in Britain and the sort of storm that rocks a motorhome.
At first it sounded like someone was watering Suzy from above with a watering can. This then increased to the volume and strength of a hose pipe. Then the thunder and lightening started - the lightening lit up the sky like a firework display. We didnt need a light in Suzy you could have read by the light of the flashes. The boom of the thunder overhead followed by seconds later. It was impossible to count a gap between the clap and the lightening. Thunderbolts and lightening – very very frightening as Suzy felt like she was rocking. You only have aluminium, wood and plastic between you and the elements and this makes the noise more amplified and the storm feel more ferocious. The rain continued falling like stair rods, like old ladies and their sticks and like cats and dogs. It continued for some time
until eventually it did abate and moved on to bother someone else.
We woke again early, took down the beds which has now become an easy ritual. One of us puts the slats down and pulls out the bedding whilst the other finds the infills and pillows. The reverse happens in the morning as things are put away. Breakfast was eaten, Suzy was filled up with water and we had reached 7.50. In theory, 10 mins left before the barriers opened and we could escape. Sometimes they open early so it’s a bit of a hit and miss if you can get out so this morning it was a case of should we stay or should we go?
We decided to try our luck, the gates were open and we left to hit the road. We were continuing up the Mudejar highway but this time the landscape had changed to green. Very similar colours and shapes to an English landscape. The soil donkey brown and the trees Northern European mixed coniferous and deciduous. The colours ranging from lime greens through to sage green.
Sally Sat Nav was set to take us
over the Pyrannees to our overnight stop at Matres-Toulosan. Which route she would pick was anyones guess. The night before she had picked the Somport tunnel but this morning it seemed like a woman had changed her mind.
We left the campsite to early morning traffic in Zaragoza which petered out slowly as we headed closer to the divider between Spain and France the mountains. The roads got narrower as we climbed into the mountains. The temperature which has started at around 17 degrees had dropped to nearer 11 degrees as we climbed closer to the snowline. It felt cold up there and signs suggested that snow was still on the way. We even saw that rare thing - a snow plough. The overhangs of cliff stretched into the carriageway and Suzy felt rather large. As we continued climbing there were waterfalls throwing their water into the roadways and rivers full to the brim with snowmelt. We stopped for a check of the map and to have a welcome warming cup of coffee. We found a little pull in where the wild roses and the honeysuckle were flowering despite the chilly air. Sally had gone
mad. We were on roads that we wouldn’t have chosen if we had picked the route over the mountains. The scenic route route it was then for us today. And a challenge set for Suzy.
After coffee we set off again to even still narrower roads with blind corners. How much narrower could they become? The scenery was spectacular with the mountains rearing up to the right, left and in front of us. But not for the driver who had to concentrate all the time due to the drops on either side of the road. The signs flashed along the road that snow was on the way. It was a shock when May is almost over to think about snow. The water continued to fall from the hillsides vertically in small cascades. It was a photographers dream although the pictures never quite show it exactly how it was. The mountains had clouds around the tops which clung to the sides like a Bobby Charlton comb over .
The route she had chosen took us right just before Sabinanigo through a long tunnel the Yebra de Basa one of many on the route.
We did question this choice thinking Sally should have taken us straight on to the Somport. But once in her hands you have to trust her and hope she is right. Our height,weight and vital statistics had to be input to her so she should get it right.
Once out of the tunnel we hit fog which obscured any views and meant that we couldn’t see much in front of us slowing down progress. From the tunnel she took us to Baltana a small mountain village past many abandoned villages. We followed the local guardia on their beat . We hit our biggest town of Ainsa after many miles of slow driving. From there the scenic route continued via Salinas before we arrived at the tunnel which marked the crossing of the border between Spain and France. The tunnel was just a one way system controlled by traffic lights and we had to sit and wait for at least 15 minutes for the lights to change from red to green to allow us to travel through to Aragnouet on the French side.
On the French side we couldn’t see our hand in
front of us. The fog was thick but once it cleared we found ourselves on pretty pyrranean roads with villages dotted along the way. We were 300 metres higher this side than on the Spanish side and passed the Col de Tourmelet which the Tour of France use as part of the course in this part of the world . We found ourselves on hairpin bends descending to the valley floor – smelly brakes followed. It was a long way down corkscrewing our way down the mountain to the valley below.
We reached civilisation at the town of St.Lary-Soulan a winter skiing resort with chair lifts to the peaks and shops selling skiwear and everything you needed for a skiing holiday. We filled up with diesel at the cheapest price we had paid so far and filled the fridge with food at a friendly Carrefour – unlike the one barred to us motorhomers in Cordoba. It was lovely to walk the aisles and see food everywhere.
Once filled up with diesel and after we had eaten our shop bought sandwiches we continued along more narrow roads until we reached the motorway which
was just a short stretch before arriving at our night stop Camping La Moulin at Martres Tolosane a small village just beyond Tarbes or south of Tolouse whichever way you look at it.
The campsite is an ACSI site and spread over a large area of woodland. The plots are all grass which was a worry due to the heavy rain that had followed us all day. Having been stuck on grass in Italy we are always a bit worried about getting off. There is WiFi – free for an hour if you buy a drink at the bar. The bar though was closed as it was out of season. The toilets were clean and pleasant and red squirrels ran up the native trees. It is possible to get TV on three of the plots or so they said. We had one of those plots but Kathrein struggled to find a gap in the trees where she could see the satelites. Things are far worse this year due to the movement of the Astra platform. We have far worse coverage now and have not been able to pick up a signal at all in Southern France and the Barcelona area where last year this was possible. Our neighbours a Dutch motorhomer and his wife gave us some amusing moments as they came and picked a plot. They put the satellite dish up and it went round and round found nothing and came down again . They moved a few foot forward and tried it again. Still it would not work so they moved backwards. After three attempts they moved to another plot, blocked the entrance to two plots and tried the dish. If they moved once they must have moved twenty times until the wife was happy she could get her dose of TV for the night. Then they spent another ten minutes trying to get the ramps under the wheels to level the van off . Poor man his life wouldn’t have been worth living if he hadn’t got TV for her.
Our thoughts for the day was that Sally Sat nav had given Suzy a challenge . She was up for it even if we were not.
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