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Published: September 9th 2019
Cloyes de le Loir to NarscBefore setting out this morning, domestic services did some laundry whilst maintenance tightened the alternator belt. Just as we were ready to leave a British camper pulled in and came over to admire Dream Catcher, they were an interesting older couple who had lived in South Africa for around 30 years and of course owned a Land Rover out there, they had toured in Africa in it with a roof tent attached.After the guided tour of the interior, between the wet washing hanging up, we set off, Doris is feeling better today and is set for a dash south on the motorways. We're heading towards Tours and from previous journeys the best ways past the city is motorway, even if us poor pensioners have to pay the tolls. It's Sunday and in France wagons aren't allowed on the motorways, so hopefully it will be quiet past Tours. We're soon on the motorway and cruising along at around 60 mph. I settled down to write the blog and then spent an hour or more trying to share my phones hotspot to the iPad, it's a new phone which I haven't connected before, eventually I gave up! Exclaiming that we would have to go to McDonalds for free wifi to publish the blog and photos. Technology is so frustrating sometimes.The miles flew by, at a cost, the tolls are expensive. By mid afternoon we had chosen an Aires just a few miles off route.When we arrived we explored the village, it feels very run down, there are some bits that are very old, with newer bits added to them. There was a pleasant park and a finger post directing visitors to an ancient cemetery, I had a quick look at the cemetery which had what would have been some very impressive family mausoleums, they looked unkempt and run down, probably an extra burden on time and budgets for the families descendants.By the time we battened down the hatches to settle down to watch a DVD, the washing was dry and put away, Les who was wearing his technology hat had sorted out the hotspot dilemma and Logan had enjoyed some ball throwing. The church clock was striking 9, where had the day gone.
Narsec to LabenneIt would appear that Nasec doesn't open on a Monday. Les walked to the bakery for some bread, there are two in the village and neither were open, we also need fuel, but, the petrol station doesn't open either on a Monday, never mind we will find both enroute.Motorway most of the way today, the landscape is changing to vinyards, but still some areas of corn. We bypass Bordeaux and continue south. We are as usual attracting a lot of attention, people stare, peep horns and wave wherever we travel, an English chap stopped by when we were having lunch to comment that he loved our van and that we could go anywhere in it.We arrived at Labenne a seaside resort in the French Basque area. The Aires has WIFI, a real bonus, so we spend the first half hour publishing the blog. We walked to the beach about 1/2 a mile away, the road was a continuous row of campsites, chalet and caravan sites, interspersed with water parks and spas, not our scene at all. ithe beach was littered with over cooked bodies, some were swimming and splashing in the water, it's the Atlantic here, so the water won't be very warm. The beach area has dunes behind it, so we chose to walk through them eventually leaving on to a road, we found are way back to Dream Catcher, via the ice cream shop (first of the holiday). delicious!As usual we are late, the temperature was dropping after the sun went down, so we moved indoors. Day7Labenne to ZumiaToday we will make Spain, we're heading for San Sebastian, in the Basque region. San Sebastián is described as a charming and well mannered city which frequently tops the best places in the world to eat.As we drive further south we can see the Pyranees in the distance, we pass through small congested towns, which seem to have crept into one another over the years.We arrived at San Sebastián and after touring the carpark twice found a spot just long enough for us. At the ticket machine a German couple were struggling to operate it, they asked a young local lad who didn't speak either German or English, but sorted tickets out for both us and the other couple. We walked down to the seafront promenade, and followed it into the centre. There were the usual crowds cooking in the hot sun, a group of young men playing volley ball, caught my eye, I can't imagine why. If they had been girls I'm sure they would have caught Les's eye!The guide book is right, it is a very pleasant city with wide pedestrian areas dotted with trees for shade, lined with the usual tourist shops and boutiques. We entered the old town, narrow cobbled streets with 5 and 6 storey houses rising above, which in turn led into open squares or to large ornate churches, a pleasant place to explore and while away a couple of hours. At the other side of the old town is the much prized 2nd beach Playa de Concha, a massive beach stretching around the marina and bay beyond. We bought ice creams to eat as we made our way back to Dream Catcher. Once back we set Doris to take us across the pretty coast road to Zumia where we plan to stay at the Aires. The Aires book describes it as part of an industrial area with river frontage, it's description is correct, not the prettiest of places, but we only need a parking place to sleep.It's felt good today to be more of a tourist and not all day in transit.Day 8Zumia to Lekunberri.We walked into Zumia to explore the centre, the old church has probably the ugliest exterior I've ever seen, with it's a massive structure that dominates the town. We found a path up the hill to a view point, who can resist a view point? There are information boards along the route with interesting information of how the great slabs of colourful rocks were formed millions of years ago, at the time the dinosaurs became extinct a giant meteor 10km across hit Earth and plunged it into darkness killing 70% of all species, evidence of many have been found in the rocks in this cove.We found another path that returned us to town. We have noticed over the last two days that collies and English Setters are very popular dogs here.Back at base we had coffee, filled with water, then drove the 6 kilometres to Getaria, an attractive medieval fishing village. A local sailor Juan Sebastián Elcano was the first man to sail around the world after the captain of his ship died half way around his endeavour. It's nice to see proper fishing boats in the harbour, the town has a history of salting fish and we assume the factory on the quayside still does.We have lunch in a small bar along one of the narrow lanes, flanked by tall buildings. We chose from a large selection of pintxos, Basque style tapas, served on bread or tiny baguettes upon which towering constructions are constructed held in place by a long cocktail stick.We chose a local salted fish one, another with puréed crevettes made into a ball and fried in batter, another of dried ham, goats cheese breaded tomato and the last one cheese pate and balsamic sauce, washed down with a small beer. Yum yum.Getaria is a very pretty place, but it was time to head into the hills. Les has planned a route through the Navara Sierra, we're soon chugging up the snaking roads to a height of 2379 feet, Dream catcher is feeling the heat and we pulled over to cool down for a few minutes before continuing. It's lovely to be in the mountains.We arrived at Lekunberri around 3 and decided we would stay here for the night. We found a place to park close to the old railway which is now a cycle/walking trail. As usual we explore the village, it's a sleepy place with an old centre around a square with some very large houses built in a chalet style. A tourist board informed us that Ernest Hemingway would stay at the hotel here, to get away from it all. There is a local literary festival in his honour. We called at the tourist info office and picked up the few leaflets and guides that were in English, that should keep us busy this evening.Day 9Lekunberri to Tafalla'The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain' well that's not true, it's pitter pattered on our roof all night. After breakfast we walked into town to find food supplies, there is a butcher, green grocers and a small supermarket, we visited all three and bought supplies for the next 3 days.We're planning a walk, found in the leaflets from the tourist office, when we arrived at the start the rain returned, we had a coffee whilst we waited to see if it passed, but the black clouds kept rolling in on the strong breeze. We decided to drive on to our next destination and try a different walk in the afternoon. We were soon climbing high into the mountains, Dream Catcher's cooling system was coping well today. The road was steep in places with many switch back corners, we reached Santuaurio de San Miguel de Aralara, a large church like structure on top of the mountain, legend states that a crusader met the devil disguised as a hermit, he told him his wife was being unfaithful, raging with jealousy he stabbed the couple in his bed, not realising they were his parents, as penance the Pope ordered him to walk the mountains carrying a cross and shackled in chains until they break, one day he came across a dragon and slayed the beast, the good deed freed him from the chains, the shrine was built to honour him, the chains are inside the shrine and it's said if you pass them over your head 3 times it will bring you good luck.We were parked in a cloud, so no views, we wished we had put long trousers on! It's a bit chilly up here.Inside the shrine we found the chains, a lady was duly passing them over her head, she was part of a coach party who were exploring the little chapels, suddenly the whole place was filled with hymn singing, the coach party were stood by a little chapel singing, it brought the place to life, the acoustics worked really well.As we sat and set Doris to our next destination the clouds parted and the view revealed its self, a long wide valley, with a limestone escarpment opposite.We set off down, via the back road (that's why we have a Land Rover) the surface is made of concrete slabs, it must have been quite a task laying it, it's steep in places and snakes around the side of the mountain. Along the way we stopped to watch Lammergeier (bearded vulture) Europes largest and rarest, we counted into the teens, they are obviously doing well here, sometimes they swooped quite low giving us a great view through the binoculars. Soaring in separate groups were Black Vultures and flying lower we spotted Black Kites. Whilst we were parked off the road, further down, having lunch, we were surprised to be passed by an articulated wagon, we're glad we didn't meet that on the single track with long drops down the hillside. It stopped along side us, we think he's lost, we can hear him talking loudly on his phone, eventually he sets off up the hill, good luck on some of those bends!Once we were back down it was time to climb again, up onto a very impressive limestone ridge that dominated the landscape. It was a scenic drive as we climbed back up to 3650 ft. At the pass we stopped once again we watched the vultures for a while and sussed out the rules on a notice board for off roading tracks. It would appear to be OK as long as you don't leave the track, but not today, we still have a walk to do. We found Irantzu Monastary where the walk began, it's only a short walk there and back, about an hour, along the Irantzu valley, with towering limestone buttresses on each side. The river is just a trickle, the woodland transformed from oaks to beach, the walk should have ended at a large oak tree by a cross road of paths, we missed it and the green and white way marker making a X meaning not that way, after a while we realised that we must have missed the point to turn back and turned around to retrace our steps. We added about an extra mile to the route.Back at Dream Catcher we set Doris to get to the nearest Aires, 34 miles, the landscape changed from limestone to orange sandstone and rolling farm land and small villages atop of hills dominated by large churches. We are still at 2000ft when we arrive at out stop over, the town has a strange feel, low houses, pieces of brush wood blowing around the empty streets in the strong breeze. The parking place is next to the children's playground where some youngsters are having fun watched by a group of older women sat on chairs.It's already 19.30, so we crack on and make our meal and settle in for the night.Day 10Tafalla to ArguedasProblem no5, a broken joint on a cupboard door - maintenance to the rescue with gluey stuff and a strap to hold it together whilst the glue dries. He also did some vehicle checks and put a bit of air in the tyres.Today we're visiting the Spanish Desert, a national park called Bardenas Reales, it's a semi desert like, unpopulated area with plains, hidden ravines and hills and rocky outcrops worn into wonderful shapes as the wind has worn away the soft rock leaving the harder stone often perched on top. We started at the visitors centre where we picked up a map and the assistant gave us directions to the places of interest. The first stopping place was very busy with three coach loads of young people, who seemed to be meeting with an activity centre for mountain biking, they also offered horse riding, buggy rides and Land Rover tours. We started with a walk in a ravine around Cabezo de Castildertierra, a tall pinnacle of the soft rock with a couple of boulders balanced on the top. The ravine ran all the way around it, we picked our way over the crevices and explored the caves worn into its sides. Back at the car park we decided to walk the mile or so to a view point. Once there we climbed up onto the hill from where the view across the park was brilliant. The centre plains are a military base, all the way around it are the hilly formations, the lower formations standing only a few feet seem to perfectly mimic the ones standing a hundred feet or more.Back at Dream Catcher we drove around the permitted roads, at one place we watched the Griffon vultures on the rocks through our binoculars.By 5.30 we were on our way to our stopping place, once parked we had to clean everywhere to remove the desert dust!The van that parked next to us had a very pleasant young couple and dog from Germany, they are travelling until April next year, they had a good look at Dream Catcher and liked it a lot.As the evening progressed the Aires became fuller and fuller, it's such a popular area, we're glad it's not high season.Day 11 Aguedas to OliteAnother sunny morning, after a leisurely breakfast and being entertained by our other Slovakian neighbours who were chatting to some other Slovakians whilst drinking shots of clear liquid, it's only 08.30! we wandered over to explored the cave dwellings in the hills behind us, there are complete houses scraped out of the soft stone, some still have window frames, doors, sinks, and stoves. One in particular has at least 7 good sized rooms.A walk to the bakery for bread and cakes followed. The main square and its surrounding streets have high wooden barriers set into steel or wooden posts, it is to protect the shops and houses during the festival of 'Running the Bulls', the festival was in the middle of August.Les landed a route through more of the park on our way to Olite, a few miles before we arrived there we saw signs to Laguna de Pitillas, we had read that it was a good place for bird watching, we diverted to take a look. Unfortunately dogs are jot allowed, poor Logan stayed in Dream Catcher whilst ŵe walked to one of the hides. There were a few swans, ducks and coots on the water, but not a lot else, we then spotted a marsh harrier that spent a good few minutes swooping over the reads. After it had moved on so did we, back to the car park and on to Olite. We found the Aires and walked Ito the town dominated by a beautiful castle that could have come straight out of a fairy tale.This small walled town was once the home of the royal families of Navarra. The whole town is full of people, bouncy castles and children's fair rides, there is a festival this weekend. All the children aged around 10 are wearing all white with a red neckerchief and a red sash. After a quick walk around we went back and sat out with a glass of local cider. The wind is really strong again this afternoon and we wonder if this weather pattern is particular to the region. As were sat the church bells rang out often they make a very clunky sound, we hope they don't start too early in the morning! We can also hear music coming from the centre square, where there was temporary stage area. As we were getting ready for bed there was a short firework display, then the town went quiet.
Sorry no,photos until I get wifi As they wont load!
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