Smazing is our new word for anything that is well – amazing! The Pyrenees are beautiful and we are glad that we made the effort to come this far south to experience it. We weren’t sure how different they would be to the French Alps and if we would feel a little disappointed or underwhelmed by it but we are happy to say we enjoyed them just as much & they are beautiful.
Sure the Pyrenees Mountains are not as high as the Alps and the valleys not as deep, but the Gorges & high mountain passes are breathtaking. The great thing about Europe at this time of the year is that it is ‘low season’ so you virtually have the road and place to yourself.
For this part of our journey we defiantly had a LOVE-HATE relationship with TOM-TOM. HATE him for the least logical route he takes us on (ie virtually straight line from departure to destination) and LOVE him for exactly the same reason. I’m sure we have taken our very large outfit (motorhome talk) many places that people wouldn’t even take their camper van, but we kinda feel that what’s the point in doing a road trip if you’re not prepared to take the ‘road less travelled’. We do admit however there has been a few heart-stopping moments and on a number of occasions and in the early days had our fair share of ‘un-hitching’ the motorbike trailer to be able to either back up or do a 10-point turn, but for this section of our trip we are happy to advise this was not required.
TOM making an appearance in the Pyrenees
We followed the Aude River Valley in a virtual straight line south from Carcassonne to Spain. This valley is famous for its beautiful Thermal springs, waterfalls, canyoning, whitewater rafting, river slalom racing & other adventure sports. We followed the Gorge down into Spain and it was just beautiful. The road itself was just wide enough for 1.5 cars, has rock cut outs just high enough to pass under and twists and turns so much that you almost think you’re going around in circles. It’s a little hairy when a Semi is coming towards you, but if a Semi can get past, so can we!!!!
We took this route to avoid paying a toll to enter Andorra and we are so glad we did. It’s beautiful and worth the effort and stress trying to dodge the overhangs and other road users. Andorra was a whistle-stop, not much to report about here, unless you’re into hiking (we’re not) but the drive in and out of Andorra is beautiful. We did however get cheap booze and fuel which was an added bonus. (Bombay Sapphire Gin 3Lt for $20 – total bargain). Stocked up on cheap booze and ½ price fuel we were ready for the next part of the journey, headed South again and drove through/over/in and around the Spanish Pyrenees. We thought we were taking a fairly straight path to our next destination and where a little concerned when TOM-TOM told us to turn right. We are glad we followed his instructions, because yet again we experienced the best mountain passes, virtually to ourselves. The only traffic we passed where farmers on tractors & 2 guys on bikes who looked like they were on a “Forest Gump’ experience through the mountains and hadn’t shaved or showered for a few years.
We then, by sheer luck, pulled into the most SMAZING campsite near Graus in Northern Spain, which had a pitch available overlooking the lake and stayed a few days. I’m sure there is a lot of history in this area (doesn’t everywhere in Europe?) and it looked absolutely lovely but we were happy just to kick back a few days and soak up the view. The lake changed color every time the sun come out from behind the clouds and was like a mirror in the mornings…so beautiful.
We decided that we’d had enough of high mountain passes that felt like you are on a roller-coaster ride and thought a day of ‘easy driving’ on a motorway would be would nice. So instead of going North back over the high mountain pass, we took the main road west towards Pamplona before heading North for the 9km Somport tunnel into France.
As mentioned on previous postings, we often don’t do any research, just hit the road and work it out along the way. This time we can’t blame it on TOM-TOM, we decided to do this route, not knowing that another SMAZING day of driving was in front of us. Had we had known we might have taken the easy road so I’m glad we didn’t as we would have missed this SMAZING part of the world.
This part of Spain and France is one of the least visited areas by tourists. It boast’s beautiful remote ski villages, megalithic standing stones, caves and fortresses that have protected the French frontier for centuries. Oh and the Pyrenees Bear. YIPES!!! – be careful where you camp!!!
I would love to have been a fly on the wall (or windscreen – perhaps not) during these days of driving over the Pyrenees as we must have looked like those funny clowns at the show, that have their mouths wide open and heads turning left to right waiting to catch a Ping-Pong ball.
The beauty of this area and what is has to offer is indescribable, these are probably some of our most memorable driving days but you really do have to see it for yourself it just – SMAZING!!
More Travel Blogs: