On towards Barcelona
Enough of travelling south for a while - we now headed north-east towards Barcelona through the Castilla La Mancha region.
We passed through farming country, vast fields yellow with the stubble of harvested hay or brown with the sunflowers nearly dead but not yet picked. Large reservoirs dot the countryside and provide water for irrigation for fruit trees and grapes. Mountain ranges, heavily forested with pine trees mean we climb on windy, twisty roads for hours and then descend on windy, twisty roads with no villages or any signs of human habitation at all. The tops of these limestone mountains are weathered into strange shapes and many have sheer cliff sides. Large flocks of some kind of bird of prey thermal on the updrafts or hover over the trees. We saw some shy deer peering out of the trees and a red fox scamper off into the undergrowth but no other animals. Apparently the once extinct Brown Bear has been reintroduced to the Nature Reserves in the mountains, but we didn't spot any. In the valleys, stands of poplars were turning bright yellow - autumn has arrived.
One night we camped by the side of a small stream off the road. A sign said it was a fishing reserve but there was no-one around and the road nearby was quiet with barely any traffic. Some cattle came and grazed on the grass around us during the night ... at least we think it was cattle!
Signs directed us to the Naciemento de Rio Cuervo and who can resist having a look at the Birth of the river Cuervo? We walked the track to some pretty waterfalls, but at the end of a dry summer they weren't exactly gushing.
Into the region of Aragon and the roads deteriorated! The landscape changed from pink soils to white, looking drier and less arable than previous farmland. Aragon also showed off its mountains and we drove through deep gorges on roads with hairpin bends only one lane wide. Meeting tractors on the road is an interesting exercise to say the least.
Drive over a hill or mountain and you can be surprised by the sudden sight of a small village with a huge castle overlooking it. Hilltop after hilltop has little villages clinging precariously, mostly with a castle or church at the very peak. We stopped at a town called Belchite. It's actually twin towns: a new one, and the old one which was a major battleground in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. This bombed out place has been kept as a memorial next to the new town. The bare remains of some houses and the cathedral are pock-marked with holes from artillery shells. Only some walls remain with rubble where the interiors were. Scattered everywhere are broken roof and floor tiles, shattered crockery and glass, smashed bricks and stone. The street spaces are only just discernible from the houses. A devastated landscape - to think that people once lived normal lives here and that they had to endure the fighting which was to destroy their town.
And at last to Barcelona where we again tackled the overlapping motorways surrounding the city, this time through lots of very fast traffic, to get to our campsite, Tres Estrellas.