We were taken with just how quiet and beautiful this part of Portugal was. The national parks in the north of Portugal are an oasis of calm, with tiny roads crossing through unspoiled villages and other cars are a rare sight. The roads themselves are rustic, often having a broken surface or washboard finish that tests every nut and bolt of the bus. Some of the little towns have a lot of houses that appear to be holidays homes for people living in the cities and it gives the appearance that some towns seem abandoned. We slowly travelled west towards another of Portugal’s parks near Geres, which is a trans border biosphere – Reserva de la Biosfera Transfronteriza Gerês-Xurés. This allowed us to cross briefly into Spain, where the roads suddenly became tarmac, but only up to the border, where they once again became dirt.
We camped in several places along the way, no being overly remarkable and considering we set out to kayak a bit, we sort of failed as most sites did not permit it as the water was unsafe or owned by power companies etc. We did kayak on one lake, which was a man made nature reserve and not overly remarkable. It did allow us to use our new portable shower for the first time, to wash ourselves and the kayak. Shower But we loved the climate and the scenery around this area. We drove through a woodland, twisting between trees and a heavily rutted track. We noticed all the trees were numbered and had much of the bark removed – of course, it’s cork!
Finally though, we set off towards the Pyrenees, electing to make best speed along the highway to get across to the foothills of the mountain range in the fastest time. Leaving Portugal in the rear view mirror (we will come back one day), we set off towards Haro, which is located midway between Burgos and Pamplona. Had we known it was a motor home transit area for people coming off the boats at Santander and Bilbao, we would have avoided it! But we would have missed out. The campsite is located right in the town, a short walk from the centre and is well appointed. But it is so busy. Every square metre is full of vans and we were not there at high season. Haro is the capital of Rioja and home of the famous wines. It is also where they hold the Batalla de Vino, the battle of the wines, where people fight pitched battles in the streets with buckets of red wine! Sadly, we were there the week before but thankfully the festivities were underway, with carnival bands going bar to bar and of course the famous “Spanish Beatles” – turn up the volume!