European Escapades

Conquering the Pyrenees in a Campervan – Part One




Beautiful views just over the edge
Beautiful views just over the edge

We pack up our table and chairs and ready ourselves for the trek across the mountain range, which had been our view for the last four days. Frances was not looking forward to this part of the journey to say the least. But what could go wrong? It was only a mountain range and we had chosen to go via the Bielsa tunnel anyway. So it was not as if we were going that high up. After all, the tunnel cut off most of the summit, so we should be OK. With this happy thought in my head we left Lourdes and headed for ‘St Lary Soulan’ smack in the middle of the Pyrenees for our first night stop, before heading over to Spain itself.

I have noticed that as one gets closer to a mountain range, the higher it looks, and the more distressed Frances becomes. She had nothing to fear yet as we wound our way higher and higher into the foothills of the Pyrenees. We had a nice wide road to navigate and gentle pastures beyond the boundary of the road on either side. But as we moved higher and the human settlements became sparser, the road and surroundings slowly changed. It was no longer a nice wide carriageway on which we travelled, but a narrow sliver of worn and rutted tarmac, winding its lonely way around a mountainside. To our left an imposing wall of rock towering above us, and to our right, a perilous drop on which precariously clung various scrubs and pine. We had on one side, the imminent chance of a rock slide and on the other, a small metal crash barrier protecting us from the precipice below.

Enjoying lunch on the edge of the world, Almost
Enjoying lunch on the top of the world, Almost.

Is it a wonder Frances was in such a panic. She tried not to show it of course, as we navigated the tight hairpin bends, having to move closer to the crumbling cliff edge, as another lone car attempts to pass by from the other direction. But the signs were obvious to me. From the tight lipped silence, to the indents left in the arm rest from her nails as we swung around yet another tight bend. We travel higher and the snow starts appearing on the mountainside ahead of us, no longer a distant observation or beautiful view. But a reality of where we are heading to and how high up in the mountain range we already are. Although concerned for Frances, I’m actually enjoying myself, with the Sat-Nav behaving and the absolutely fantastic views to enjoy, both ahead and below us. It spring in the mountains and the snow is receding as spring asserts itself. We seem to cross an imaginary line and from this point it seems we are no longer moving upwards but going downhill. The free rolling and the constant breaking attest to this, and I try to keep the van in as low a gear as possible, avoiding the use of the breaks as much as I can. But you can smell the heat from the pads as we stop for a ten minute respite on one of the downhill stretches. , I think to myself, as we roll into ‘St Lary Soulan’ nestled in the heart of the Pyrenees that the journey was not that bad at all. In my opinion, Frances was worrying over nothing. Besides on our journey we saw a few other campervans, only a few other mind, heading in the other direction. So if they got through what was there to worry about for us?

This entry was posted on Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 7:03 pm and is filed under Travel Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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