After a month in Portugal, it was time for a change of scenery. We crossed back into Spain near Badajoz, traveled north to Granadilla and parked up next to a reservoir for five days. This is where we would spend Christmas.
Once supplies ran low it was time to move on to a different spot for New Years. We saw a place on park4night that looked good, about two hours drive south. Finding it though, well that took a bit more effort. At one point we were on a narrow, rocky track that was only getting rougher. It was clear that the GPS had sent us in the wrong direction. It was time to turn around before we got a puncture or worse. After checking the map, it looked like we were at the wrong end of the lake. Right then, off we go, this time in the right direction. Almost. One more wrong turn, a minor GoPro mishap, and another rocky track later, we were there. It’s always an adventure.
You can identify remains of human occupation in Mértola since the Iron Age, passing through the Roman Age, Late Antiquity, and the Islamic and Modern/Contemporary Age. Research and dissemination carried out in Mértola have in fact changed the European view regarding historic periods of time, such as Late Antiquity and the Islamic Period, and they have also enabled a perception of continuity regarding the society’s essential values: respect for what is different, inclusion, intercultural understanding, the importance of sharing and exchanging, and priority to be given to man’s relationship with the territory and other people.
Permanent Delegation of Portugal to UNESCO
From Italy we traveled west across the south of France into the north of Spain. (It’s really not as complicated as it sounds) After two nights in the hills of Basque Country we doubled back towards Pamplona, driving on further to the Yesa reservoir. We camped on the edge of the reservoir, which in the spring and summer would normally be under water. The muted grey tones of the dried up shoreline was a strange contrast to the multi-coloured hills that surrounded us. There was an endless supply of firewood lying about and not a single person to bother us.
The reservoir was built in the 1950’s, flooding fertile agricultural land along the Aragón River and leaving the locals without a source of income. The area was largely abandoned over the course of the next 30 years. It’s not a new story, but a sad one nonetheless. In fact, in British Columbia, they are doing something similar to this right now.
The 13th century village of Tiermas was interesting to explore. Information is hard to find online, but from what I understand, the last resident left around 1990. Before that, there are stories of hippies and squatters living in the village. Of course there is a much deeper history of this area. The Aragón river was once a trading route of the Roman Empire; there are ruins of ancient Roman baths below the village. When the water level is low enough, the springs reveal themselves. We visited the site but unfortunately they were submerged. Maybe next time!
A visit to the Selvasecca Forest Reserve in Ticino. They call this Italian speaking province the “Mediterranean heart of Switzerland”. There are four national languages; German, French, Italian and Romansh. It’s actually a bit more complicated than that but I digress.
From Biasca we drove north on the Lukemanier pass until we came across a small campsite, Centro Pro Natura Lucomagno. It was very peaceful with only one or two other campers so we decided to stay two nights. With hiking trails leading right from the campsite it was a great spot from which to explore the area. The fall colours were out in force making for a very picturesque landscape.
Looking back at the photos from this part of the journey I realized that I took my camera out on only one occasion. It was a memorable one though.
We were parked at Hushinish, a remote settlement of only four houses on the west coast of Harris. Gale force winds blasted our position high on the hillside for the better part of 24 hours. It was bad enough that, in the middle of the night, the couple parked next to us had to reposition their motorhome so they could get some sleep. The next morning, the coastline was heaving and frothing white. I wanted to capture this Hebridean drama, so I pulled on some rain gear and headed out with my camera. I got a few strange looks from the locals as I leaned into the wind and made my way down to the water. This is summer in Scotland.
We spent our first night on Barra at a campsite close to the ferry terminal. It was late and we had a pile of wet clothing that needed to be dried. That’s a long story but what it comes down to is that doing laundry can be a pain when you’re living in a van. It does however make you appreciate the simple things like clean clothes and hot showers! The next morning we drove up island towards Barra airport where planes land on the beach and flight times are dependent on the tides. Island life at its finest! Further up the road we found a spot to camp next to the ocean. We spent the night without any troubles but the next evening the land owner asked us to leave. It wasn’t at all obvious to us that it was private land but we learned our lesson to always ask around for permission. It was great while it lasted though, definitely in our top five favourite spots.
Clachan Sands camping area is a small piece of paradise on North Uist. It sits between two long beaches that seem to stretch on forever. We camped on the machair just above the rocky shoreline. The dunes behind the beach provided some shelter from the wind and gave the place a cozy feeling. No signs of civilization could be seen and it was very quiet with only one other party camped there on the second night. I was really hoping to watch the lunar eclipse but the weather just didn’t cooperate. It was an incredibly relaxing experience nonetheless.