European Escapades

The Rain in Spain Is Mainly On Us




View of Pena Montana Reception and the Mountains beyond
View of Pena Montana Reception and the Mountains beyond

Ok, so we took a few days out in Peña Montana and it was funny how this bustling campsite changed over the weekend and into a weekday, as all the Spanish that had invaded the site, slowly left for home and work the next day. Seems the complete mayhem we had arrived in, was an aberration over the Easter holiday weekend and all went back to normal once it was over. It turned into a nice quiet campsite, but with all the facilities still open for our use and enjoyment. The only issue we had with our campsite was the small onsite restaurant, where we had two pizza’s one evening for a quick dinner and sitting in the bar, to finally get our new website online for you guys.

At €9 each they were very expensive for what they were, and I couldn’t recommend the restaurant, even though the pizza’s seemed to be homemade. One of the things we also noticed was the way a number of the local population camp. It’s not what I would call camping in the English sense, as they seem not only to come with a caravan and large awning. They also had separate kitchen tent and a separate toilet tent along with all the homely possessions like two meter tall fried freezers and plasma TV’s for the kids. One family took over six hours to pack up for the day and we are convinced that they filled the car up on one occasion and left, only to arrive back empty two hours later for more stuff. The site currently is one of our favourite campsites we have stayed at in Spain and we would recommend it to anyone with no qualms.

The Old Town of Ainsa
The Old Town of Ainsa

We had got to the stage at Peña Montana however, where the day was a little overcast and our essential supplies of red wine were almost out, we needed some food shopping as well. So a move to the next site was a short 80kms jaunt on a cloudy day to get some shopping sorted and to see some more of this beautiful country. We started the journey through the nearest town on our route called Ainsa, which it turned out was a reasonable distance, to get some shopping and return to Peña Montana if we wanted to. However having packed up and checked out we kept with our decision to move on south. Whilst the upper town on Ainsa looked interesting, the lower town was an uninviting sprawl and we also couldn’t work out where the supermarkets or reasonable sized food shops were. The locals must buy food somewhere and we were puzzled by a lack of obvious shops. In hindsight it was more of a cultural thing than anything else and once we had spotted what to look out for, it has made it easier on subsequent food shops. The large size supermarkets in this area did not have very large frontages and the signage was a little muted. The fact we did not know the names of the stores was also an issue. We ended up on the outskirts of Graus, and at the next campsite without managing to find a supermarket. The Sat-Nav had taken us via a very nice winding and narrow country road that she had found, rather than the nice main road we should have taken. Bellavista was situated the side of the river Esera, which by this time has now become more of a lake than a river. We pulled up a steep slope into a reception car park in the rain. So we had to run with our brolly’s to the entrance of the bar and restaurant. The restaurant had a set menu of the day up similar to ‘Chez Maryvonne’ where we ate in France and was also for the princely sum of €9. With the ever increasing rain outside and no shopping, the thought of a reasonable priced meal was too much for us. We took the decision to have lunch in the Restaurant because we had not managed to find a supermarket on our travels to the site. Whilst the food was not of the quality of the French restaurant we did not really have any major complaints, but I will point out that the chef could not do, on this day at least, a decent sautéed potato to save his or her life. They were cold, greasy and inconsistently cooked, but the red wine was drinkable and included, and the restaurant had managed to attract a reasonable number of locals so it couldn’t be all bad could it.

View from the Hillside down to Graus & the Lake
View from the Hillside down to Graus & the Lake.

Having a very nice and filling meal we headed for the reception to get a pitch. Once assigned, we drove out of the reception car park and up the steep slope past what looked to be the abandoned site hotel. We also past an empty swimming pool with a lonely and forgotten children’s play area nearby. Not a promising start but the rain seemed to make everything more grey and drab that it probably was. We just wanted to get to our pitch and setup i guess. Driving along the access road we had a sheer terrace to our left, atop which were other caravans and the motorhome pitches directly to our right. We noted that the pitches were not very deep and were also part of the terracing, stepping down to the road below. There was another British van already there and they had parked sideways to accommodate themselves on the narrow pitch. The water connection was nowhere to be seen, but we had filled up with fresh mountain spring water at Peña Montana that morning and we already had enough water onboard for our needs. There was also enough water dropping from the heavens by now, for us to conclude that we would rather have a little less water thank you very much. The electric point was inbuilt into the terraced wall on the other side of the road, meaning you had to trail your electric cables across the toroughfare, by now a muddy dirt track to get your electric connection. With the cables I had, it would have meant that my adapter, allowing a conversion from a 16Amp commando socket to a 10Amp Euro connector would have been sitting right in the middle of the road. This was completely out of the question. We reversed up onto the pitch only to start slipping and sliding all over the place and the horrors of getting stuck in the mud, came flooding back. This was the last thing we wanted and we decided that from the pleasures of our previous campsite, arriving to this unloved, ill-kempt and decaying place was just too much. The other thing that smacked was the fact that we were paying the same €15 for the privilege. We headed back to the reception, deciding to stay here no longer and head down the road to the other site which cannot have gotten any worse.

Stuck in the middle
Stuck in the middle.

One of the things I have learnt on our travels is that you get a feel for campsites and how they will suit you the moment you seem to arrive at your pitch. Some have not had all the facilities I would like, some have not been perfect. But for some reason you get a fondness for them even with their obvious issues. Some you dislike to moment you pull into them. This was the latter, but rather than go with my instinct, we are persuaded to stay. We get offered a long euro electric lead to resolve the cable issue and we are suggested a few larger alternate pitches on the upper levels. Mollified we decide to stay as it still raining and try one of the larger pitches above. By the time we reach the van, the rain is a torrent and the steep sloped road to the upper levels is now a cascading river of rainwater pouring downwards towards us. The Campervan manages to hold onto the road surface and navigate what now seems like a sloping river ford to the top level and we drive forward through the wet red clay, muddied with pools of water concealing the ruts and holes that dot the dirt track. Suddenly the front wheels drop into a trench dug into the road surface and we are jolted into a state of alertness. The front of the van manages to pulls out of the concealed ditch onto level ground again. Now knowing the trench is there, we slow, taking the rear wheels though gently this time so as not to jolt the van too much. Unfortunately we seemed to have taken it too slow and the front tyres may have collapsed some of the wall of the trench, because the rear of the van seems to sink a little lower this time and the step up and out is too large for the front wheel drive to handle. In the pouring rain, with a mud filled road we have driven up to the higher terrace and into the worst of horrors, a stuck campervan. I try to manoeuvre us out but with all the water the tyres give up trying to gain traction to the road surface and spin wildly, throwing off mud, stones and smoke in their attempts to free us. We give up and I trudge through the rain soaked afternoon with dirt encrusted trousers and shoes back to the reception to seek some help. With her brother called for assistance, I return a defeated man who only wish, is to close the doors and windows of our campervan and huddle inside. There holed up in the relative safety, with a nice glass of red wine to console myself and lick our wounds. After some twenty minutes he arrives with 4×4. With halting English and fluent Spanish, he asks why we are in the closed upper levels anyway. Seems they are running some power cables and have dug the trenches to lay the pipes and there is another trench fifty metres on. I fume as I try to explain that it was his sister that suggested coming up here in the first place. No mater we need help to get out.

Connected by a tow rope we are pulled out of the trench and with the aid of some wooden boards assisted over the next trench further up the road and then are escorted back down to the lower levels from which we had come. By this time I was in no mood to go anywhere as missy had also started bitching to be allowed out of her harness. I pulled back up onto our original pitch, not caring whether we got stuck again or not. The owners would just have to pull us out again and it was their electric cable that was going to get dirty anyway. This seemed to be a recreation of the experience we had at our first campsite in Abberville France, only we had rain to contend with this time. To make matters worse, because we had come from the relative harmony and luxury of Peña Montana, it made our second camping experience in Spain ten times worse. Sited and connected to the electric I start to peel my shoes and socks off and get out of the mud spattered trousers and into my nice comfy PJ’s whilst Frances opens a bottle of red wine. We sit in the van with a glass of wine each and only now are able to laugh at our ordeals of this day, tentatively though, as the laughter is one of relief and we vow to leave the site early the next morning, never to return to what had become known as our campsite of misfortune….

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 18th, 2010 at 3:23 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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