Part of why I didn’t post much since the tour in Australia, is because I have been so busy preparing for this trip in my van with Jolien: our vague plan is to drive to Spain and slowly head to Santiago, from where she flies back due to work constraints, and I drive back to Belgium alone. Maybe we’ll even make it into Portugal.
First stop, right out of the tunnel from France into Spain in the Pyrenees, was Canfranc-Estacion, an elaborate, disused 1930’s art-deco station that was built with way more capacity than ever needed. No way to get into the station, but the railyards around are wide open and interesting enough to explore. Also nice was that sunny, warmer weather started as soon as we got to Spain!
We headed on to the abandoned pueblo of Esco, near Sigues. It was left in 1953 when the reservoir lake was created next to it. I have too many good picture for this post even, so those will follow later.
Right next to Esco we got our first taste of what it’s like to camp with a van, or “furgo” is like in Spain; lots of vans were parked on a random nice spot across the road, by the lake, we just joined in. It was quiet, clean (very surprising considering the amount of campers) and we even got a nice tip from a fellow van camper about an app that lists good spots.
Because the shores of the reservoir are not naturally formed, they were quite muddy, though hard to see as it’s still grassy. We only just avoided driving in. That night, a Spanish guy drove his van stuck in the night. As we were watching his efforts to get out, another furious Spanish vanner just drove right in next to him and got stuck as well! It was like something out of comedy, these vans speeding into the mud and getting stuck. They ended up sharing a tow truck that pulled them out deep in the night.
The next day we headed to the Nacederro de Urederra, a series of lakes and springs in the mountains that are supposedly very beautiful. Since it was Easter holiday for the Spaniards, it was very busy and we couldn’t even get in that day, we just took it easy, refilled the van ,went for another hike nearby and reserved our place for the next day.
Urederra turned out nice to visit, though it was good there were no where near as many people there as yesterday.
On the way from Zudaire and Baquedano to San Sebastian, through many curvy roads, we made another stop at an abandoned casa, something that looked like a very rich family lived there a few decades ago but now was mostly trashed and sealed off.
Then it was time for San Sebastian. It was my third time there in under 6 months, once with the mexicans, and then again with Lukas and the gang. I really like this city, it’s so beautiful, a mixture of French and Spanish architecture, with that great Basque culture and language thrown in to make it even more exotic. I fell like this time I truly got the chance to explore the city.
I climbed Monte Urgull, the central hill that has lots of remnants of old forts and defenses, while Jolien explored the city a bit. Turns out the nicest little bar is hidden in an old munitions depot with a terrace overlooking the bay.
That night we went for the famous Pintxos, Basque tapas, while we slept in the same van-friendly parking I stayed on with the firetruck, in walking distance of the restaurants and beach.
We made a stop the next day in the Basque Coast Geopark with it’s interesting layered “Flyscht” geological features.
We came across a very cool old wooden boathouse in Lekeitio that was almost about to collapse.
By sunset, after endless curvy coastal roads, we finally made it to one of my anticipated highlights, Gaztelugatxe, a small chapel on a rock by the coast that has a very long history.
It’s a hefty walk down and up, especially in return, but it truly is a magical place. Again, thanks to our apartment-on-wheels we could arrive at a time when most people were gone and had the best light to photograph it.
With Gaztelugatxe behind us, we’de be leaving Basque country, or Euskadi as it is called in the Basque language. It’s left a strong impression on me with its impressive and rugged nature, but mostly due to the unique culture and language. There’s other countries where a minority language and culture is kept alive but in Euskadi it’s on another level, even with political slogans (about release of political (ETA) prisoners) appearing among public life. Traveling slowly with a van has definitely given me a lot better taste of what this region is like than any other method could have.