A Andalucia con VW camper van 2014

Kathrin and I just moved into our new home in Appenzell, Switzerland. There is still more than a month time before Kathrin starts her new job. Travel companion Urs comes up with the idea to cruise down to Andalusia, Spain with his VW camper van.


We would go an pick up spring down there. Lots of great scenic climbing spots on the way plus the outlook of camping - what else can one wish?

 

It is only a short ride from Llanca to Badalona next to Barcelona. We park the bus in the marina, and stroll along the rather new beach promenade. Charmingly there are no hotels, just a few bars and restaurants for the locals. Jordi, our friend from an earlier journey awaits us near the train station on the shore with his skateboard. Jordi leads us to a bar, where cider is served in bottles that come upside down in a battery powered fountain device. Then comes his skateboard stunt part :-)

Jordi and us in Badalona Monastir Montserrat

Jordi shows us his two-story flat with the entrance hidden behind a large garage door. Items from India tell story from his journey back then. Its been about 4 years that we have met in Gokarna and there a lot of stories to share. The Catalan love to sit outside at night and have a few beers before diner. Meanwhile the children run around in circles and I wonder if only the Germans put their kids to bed at 8 PM. Marvellous diner in a Pakistani restaurant, time for bed...

A steep road winds up to the monastery of Montserrat some 50 kilometres North of Barcelona. The monastery sits in a fantastic sandstone formation, whose peaks reach up to 1200 metres above the sea. The amazing scenery is just spoiled by a big traffic jam. Apparently many fancy to go there there on a sunny Sunday. Urs and I enjoy a fantastic bike ride down while Kathrin drives the van. On small roads we move on towards LLeida through splendid orchards in full bloom in the "Muntanyes de Prades".

After a day of climbing exercises in Villanueva de Prades it is time to hit Siurana, the world famous climbing area nearby. The ruins of the Siurana castle tower on the end of a high ridge high above red, yellow and grey rock layers. A nice camp ground with pine trees is maintained by one of the climbing pioneers of the area. Climbers from all over Europe spend weeks here to test the boundaries of gravity on more than a 1000 routes. One guy with 30 year old East German "Schwalbe" motorbike made it all the way up here too. He admits he had to push the motorbike at times.

From the camp to the sectors it is not far, but adventurous at times. Kathrin and I try our best on some easier routes top rope, that Urs set up for us in no time. By the end of the day, I secure Urs in a long zigzag route and suddenly get a free flight from the platform as Urs takes out a quickdraw on his way down. Now we both hang high above the ground. Certainly a good time to practice roping down.

Escalera de la Katharina 

Urs on the rocks

On the next morning, we hike up to a pretty section we called the balcony. The grey limestone wall sits above a red thick (and vertical) sandstone layer, with a band in between that is just wide enough to secure the climbers. A French couple in their 50ies tackles route after route. They have come here every year since more than 20 years and their little radio plays a lot of cool music from past decades - Doors, Dylan, Stones. I never climbed in better atmosphere. We leave after lunch, and within two more days of driving arrive in Almunecar on the shore of Andalusia.

Urs joins his Paraglider group from Switzerland and moves to a 4 star hotel Almunecar for a week. Kathrin and I relax on a nearby camp ground in La Herradura. The water isn't quite inviting us to swim, yet view of the rugged coastline with the Andalusian villas is marvellous. On a bicycle trip up the mountains above Otivar I see some paragliders high in the sky. It is Urs and his folks, circling gracefully in fantastic thermal lifts.

In the Sierra Almijara near Nerja  In the Sierra Almijara near Nerja

Monday morning. After a coffee Kathrin, Urs and I load the van and venture South from Rhine valley. The San Bernadino pass is our concern due to the heavy snowfalls last week. Thankfully, the road is free of snow and ice. Beside the road, snow piles up metres high. It feels like driving through a gorge of snow. Down in Ticino spring is ready it seems. The climbing areas of Finale Ligure are our first destination. On the way, we get lost in Milano. Italian drivers can be very impulsive on the highways as we can see multipe times. No wonder some of the worlds most famous sport cars come from here. Next we cross the flat wide Po delta, and arrive by dusk in Finale. Due to the heavy rain, we quickly decide to stay in a guesthouse.

Snow on San Bernadino Finale Borgo

When the landlady Cristina starts to pile up ham and cheese and eggs and several self-made cakes for breakfast, it becomes obvious why friends of Urs strongly recommended this place. The three of us spend at least an hour feasting. Not much to do since it is still raining... Cristina hands us Grizzu, and funny dragon hand puppet that our friends left here last time. We decide to stay another night.

By lunchtime we venture to Borgo town and get us new climbing shoes. The rain has stopped, time to hit the rocks! After crossing a swollen mountain creek bare feet and ascending through a pine forest we arrive at the wall. Up here we have splendid view to the surrounding rocks, distant white peaks and the Mediterranean Sea below us. Time to climb. Limestone, holes with good grip - ideal conditions for both newbies like Kathrin and me and experienced climbers like Urs.

Scrambling to the climbing sector SAM 9089 SAM 9092

New day, new luck. Sun is shining, and a young climbing couple from Germany joins us for breakfast at Cristinas. After some shopping in a supermarket we drive up a steep and narrow road to another climbing area. There is a free parking lot next to a picnic place, where other climbers already stay. About half an hour we walk through woods and flooded meadows to the rocks, and spend the entire day climbing. Urs has to do the lead climbing for Kathrin and me, then we try our best to get up the crags top rope. "Why do you gasp? I can still tickle your feet" and other encouraging insults make us laugh a lot, and get up higher too. Walking back through the gnarling woods at sundown with tickling fingertips. Reality. Cooking and campfire.

The coastal highway to France was cut through a pretty hilly area. Dozens of tunnels and bridges we cross. Part of me daydreams about the challenge to cycle the ups and downs on the old coastal road. We bypass Monaco and Nice, take a minor road near St. Tropez. The landscape is flat and pretty with flowers, shrubs and trees in full bloom. Late lunch  break on a sunny beach. The water is ice cold. The narrow coastal road winds through forested hills with great some outlooks now. By nightfall, we are back in the rocky hills of the Provence to camp on a lonely mountain road. White frost on the van and the meadows welcomes us in the morning. There is another big driving day along the touristy coast line in France. Flat land, hotel towns, roundabouts. We arrive in Spain by nightfall, and camp in Llanca on a basic campground with hot shower. Paella and wine taste great in town in town after a cool hike through 5 metres high reed fields.

On the rocks SAM 9257
SAM 9274 Cote'd Azure SAM 9293
Grizzu! Diner in the van SAM 9340