Friday, 24 November 2017

High Plains Drifter | San Vicente de la Sonsierra | Bárdenas Reales

12:04pm Friday,
high 20°, low 10°
Hazy sunshine
Distance covered: 1338 miles

I'm having lunch, some nice fresh Ham & lettuce sandwiches, reflecting over the last few days, sometimes a day or two can seem like a week when on the roll.

I tend to use strong adjectives when describing some of the road trips, views and scenery I see but I can assure you I am not being over dramatic in the least. When it comes to some of the mountain passes and vistas I've seen already on this trip there's no other description possible.

The climb up through the mountains along the [623] south, was an increasingly steep one, and near the top, very steep before topping out with amazing views at the huge Embalse del Ebro reservoir. Then the [232] winds its way slowly south east along river valleys as you descend into the La Rioja region.

The camp for the night was just below the town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra by the medieval bridge; there's a discrete camper service area tucked away here. The church and castle towered above us.

Next morning it was frosty and zero degrees out, but that didn't stop Rio going straight in for a swim in the Rio Ebro! After coffee, the steep climb to the old town was a welcome one in the cool, fresh air, gradually being warmed by the morning sun, and by the time we were at the castle I was down to my t-shirt.

At many such places I've encountered there is little to say - just find a sunny spot and take in the changing vista as the light changes, listening to the birdsong.. Of course there's much evidence in the area that this is a wine region
- there are many vineyards and wineries but I wasn't in the mood to embibe with scenery like this to drink in.

View over the town itself

..After a couple of hours on the [232] again, along with the big trucks (this seems to be a main, non-toll artery for freight) we arrived in Arguedas, where we've set up home to explore the area..

Right behind me in the photo you can see cave houses carved into the soft rock, the beginning of the Bárdenas Reales desert. These caverns stretch for a good 500 metres plus along the cliff face, at all heights and at differing degrees of decay.

As you can see, it looks as though some of them were occupied until up to fairly recently..

After securing everything down, am dropping the tyre pressure from 50 to 35psi, we headed off to the desert, the Bárdenas Reales. I've read differing accounts of how this area originated, from different sources. One says that it's the result of an inland sea draining into the Mediterranean, and another speaks of a man made desert as a result of deforestation - pick one to suit your world view..

I'd decided to drive the full 50km route around the area - it's not every day I get to drive the Hiace through such awesome scenery and terrain.

Although the area is home to buzzards, eagles and wild boar there is very little in a desert, the perception of time changes and a different state of mind before thoughts comes to the forefront. The distant horizons and endless variations in sand and rock formations played with the silence as we gazed out..

The area has, it turns out been used as a film set, and of course that's not a surprise, recently in The Counsellor staring Brad Pitt - I haven't seen it but I'll have to take a look now.

I made a few video clips myself which you'll see on the Facebook page. The central zone of Bárdenas Reales is a military zone, an had the atmosphere about it of a Spanish 'Area 51'. As we sped on around Groom Lake, a dust cloud behind us, a single explosion shook the earth and echoed on the distant cliffs..

Thanks for following along!

Get in touch if you're in the area..

Have a good one!


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