A last look at Canigo, the sacred mountain of the Catalans, nearly 3,000 metres high and about fifty kilometres away but visible from both Joanna’s house and mine. Virtually no snow and far too warm for it to snow so over to “Plan B”.
I have never driven west of Barcelona airport so a week at the Ebro Delta seemed a good choice. The Ebro is one of Spain’s three big rivers and the delta is the largest nature reserve in Catalonia. I also wanted to find out if Spain was full of campervan highjackers as we are led to believe by the popular UK press. Admittedly there have been highjackings on the motorway down south, so called “bandit alley” but we planned to avoid toll roads.
We called on one of Jo’s friends who was over here at her house on the Girona golf course. I could have driven the whole way in one go but there’s no hurry. We stopped at Vilafranca de Penedes, well known for its wine and cava. The campervan stop was at the southern end of town. Not a particularly beautiful outlook with the carpark in front of us and the Land Rover dealer behind. We wandered into town after lunch to visit the market but only managed to see the clear up operation. We got some fruit and veg from a mini supermarket.
Early start for us; before 9:30. We avoided the motorway and followed the A7 along the coast with the occasional glimpse of the sea. Quite a few big factories and a huge desalination plant on the way down. It is easy to understand why Catalunya is the power house of Spain.
Jo had been to the delta 40 years ago and again about five years ago. A lot of development has taken place in that time. Forty years ago the only buildings were small hunters’ houses, all painted white and surrounded by red geraniums. The houses remain but are not as well kept but there are now also small towns. The rice fields are still productive and the roads in between still as narrow. We zigzagged between the fields down to the narrow spit of land called the Salinas de la Trinidad near els Muntells opposite el Poblenou de l’Delta.
Despite the “no camping and no autocaravanes” signs we pulled up alongside about a dozen other vans, had lunch and set off on our bikes. We wanted to suss out another site about 5km away and just happened to find three geocaches along the way! We got back just before dark and a lovely sunset.
We checked out the salt pans at the far end of the peninsular and went just as far as we could go. We are glad we did not cycle. Five km of sandy road with absolutely nothing to see. We wanted to check out the services mentioned on the Club Motorhome site. We followed the signs and some while later we were led into the private campervan site at Casa de Fusta near Amposta. What a find! Everything except electricity. Camp shop, toilet facilities, emptying, fresh water, wi-fi, cafe and restaurant. We filled with water, three euros. Emptied tanks, free and bought a coffee. Out on our bikes towards Amposta for a loaf of bread. A couple of caches whilst we wandered round the town an back home; 25kms and two sore bums.
We thought we might have dinner in the restaurant but it is New Year’s Eve and it was fully booked and I can tell you it is in the middle of nowhere, well in the middle of the rice fields. We’ve booked for tomorrow night. Midnight, twelve grapes and a bottle of Crabbies, some chocolate goodies and bed. No cycling tomorrow. Must get a new saddle for my mountain bike. I bought this one on Texel island, Holland on our summer trip. It was the only one they had and very cheap. I need to get a decent one. Jo just needs to get out on her bike a bit more.
Jo wanted to go to the other side of the delta which she thought was less developed. We went via Amposta’s narrow streets ignoring the “no lorries” sign, we’re a campervan and nearly became well stuck in the narrow streets scraping the end cover of the awning on a low overhanging balcony. No damage, just need to screw it back on. Eventually found the shopping centre which seemed deserted, then the penny dropped, New Year’s Day. Duh!!!
We drove right down to Riumur and set off to look for the wildlife (and a sneaky geocache) but the fauna disappointed. We managed to spot flamingos but the rest were just too far away apart from…”Look, purple gallinules” I thought Jo was referring to the four legged creature wading across the paddy field.”No! galliNULE not MULE. Dopey!” These are rare in these parts. They look like moorhens but are twice the size. The hide was manufactured and erected by Gilleard Brothers of Scunthorpe! Two caches bagged though. Back to the van for lunch. We came back to the Amposta site in time to see the sunset. Quick wash and brush up, change and we should look good to eat out.
Country fayre; smoked eels on toast followed by half a (small) duck each. Mine was OK but when I set about finishing Jo’s it seemed quite tough. The baked apples for desert made up for it. The bill seemed quite high but when we saw that eels on the main course were fifty euros the penny dropped, our starters of two slices of toast with minced smoked eels were ten euros each!
After a somewhat lazy start, the facilities were still locked, well, that’s my excuse, we headed inland to Tortosa. The aire is under the main road bridge. We have parked as far away as possible but it is a bit noisy but then again it’s rush hour right now. We have pottered round the town, first trip to do some shopping and again to have a look at the castle and bag a couple of caches. We only seem to have a success rate of about 50%. Must get some new glasses. There are only two vans in the aire which will hold about 40.
We were surprised at how big Tortosa is. It has its old quarter and the streets were, as usual for such a town, very narrow even to cycle along with pedestrians and cars all vying for space.
It didn’t get any quieter at night with the traffic causing loud thumps as it crossed the joints on the bridge. A tramp was rifling through the bins emptying the contents on the ground. The binmen came at 3am and had to sweep up before they could empty the bins. The traffic started to get busy well before seven!
Through the city following some of our bike tracks from yesterday we headed inland towards Mirabet but on the eastern side of the Ebre which was a much quiter road than across the river. We followed the river meandering alongside but just after Tivenys the road rose up along a series of switch backs up to a coll at 770 metres. Despite the warm sun there was frost on the ground in some places. The scenery was spectacular. We continued to follow the river until Flix. Something has to spoil it all and that was Flix. First of all was the huge cooling tower right by the river. This was part of the Central Nuclear power station. Further on was the huge chemical works. I seem to recall a huge chemical works in similar sounding Flixborough on the east coast. Does it still exist after the explosion in the early seventies?
We found a spot quite a bit further on for lunch and then off the main road we went to have a look at the reservoir that serves Tarragona. Flat car park overlooking the dam so we got ourselves settled in.
There was already a Swiss van in the corner and another two turned up later. We now have a problem with the loo. It looks like a leaky valve somewhere and the loo is continually running. We’ve stopped it but now have no running water and no manual! Looks like we will head home a day early and I’ll have to fix it before the next trip.The valley we are in is surrounded by spectacular scenery. We both wished we had studied geology. The rocks are all colours from nearly white to dark red with all sorts of yellows, orange and ochre in between. Some of the softer rocks had eroded leaving the harder rocks overhanging. This was a little scary as we drove along under overhanging rock. I hope the photos do it justice.
Sad to be leaving the area, the weather has been so good but the water situation hasn’t improved so without a shower we made our way towards Reus along country roads. After Reus we got on the AP7. Once we have decided to head for home both Jo and I are quite determined and will drive all day. I did it in the summer when we were returning from our long holiday. We had planned a stop in southern France but once I had got the bit between my teeth we got home without a stop. The same today but it was a much shorter trip and we decided to pay the toll and bash on despite all the warnings about bandits.