Ubeda and the desert of Bardenas RealesMay 15 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C
Before I continue on about our next destinations I realised I forgot to mention one anecdote about our night after visiting Cordoba. As mentioned in the previous post the day had been very hot and our campervan had nicely retained all that heat inside. The swimmingpool and shower didn’t cool us down sufficiently and therefore we decided to sleep with the van’s side sliding door open. It was the first time we tried this and we felt a bit exposed - I normally prefer to sleep with the doors closed AND locked! Necessity winning over comfort, the door stays open. Temperatures drop slowly and while a pack of street dogs is taking over the surrounding streets barking we start to fall asleep at last. Until… There’s a sound. I have woken up Tim twice before during our trip thinking to hear or feel something that wasn’t really there, so I wonder if it is just my nightly paranoia having me startled. Then there’s DEFINITELY a sound again and it is INSIDE of our van. What the..? As fast as I can I grab my glasses and switch on the light. At first I see one pair of eyes staring back at me, probably just as startled as I am, to then quickly jump away through the open door. A cat. A second later (I am still processing what’s happening at this point) I hear more rattling from behind the car’s front seats. A second cat makes its escape. Of all things or beings that could have been inside of the van waking me up, two cats is probably the best thing that could happen to me. But it did freak us out! Whenever we slept with the doors open after this night we made sure to use extra cloths as curtains so that it looks less “open”. Luckily we didn’t have any unwanted visitors after this night.
Moving on! The next day we drive a little westward to the city Ubeda, a historical town surrounded by countless olive fields. Tipped through word of mouth our plan is to enjoy this UNESCO world heritage site and combine it with hiking in Parque Natural de las Sierras de Cazorla, a park with many beautiful routes and waterfalls. However we soon realise that this area doesn’t have much options to camp (legally) and the campsite we do find (owned by Dutch people, no surprise..) is small and fully booked. And so our plans change: we do still enjoy Ubeda, but we camp a little more north and use the entire next day to drive a longer distance to the north. Our next destination: Bardenas Reales of Navarre.
Bardenas Reales is a semi-desert like area which is pretty unique for both Spain and Europe. More than 40,000 hectares big, the area is unpopulated and characterised by very hot summer, very cold winters, almost no rainfall, and lots and lots of wind. Unusable for agriculture it is now a popular spot for tourists, hikers, cyclists, and movie/TV makers (Game of Thrones, The Counselor, The World is Not Enough, and many others have scenes that were shot here). The landscape is bare with abrupt reliefs, plains, hidden ravines, canyons, limestone plateaus, and tumbleweeds. Of course we visit in late spring and so the desert is as green as it gets throughout the year: grass fields give the place some more colour. As it is a protected area we register and get a map with a route to drive. The ride is slow as we drive on sand paths, which is actually perfect to enjoy the surroundings well. Every now and then we stop and get out of the van to admire the view - although one can’t leave the paths as clearly warned on many sings along the road. At one point we park next to a mom with a kid and two dogs running around. It’s hard to put a finger on what’s actually off, but we both notice some some strange behaviour by the mom and kid. The look like attempting to leave a few times, getting in and out of the car, calling their dogs (that don’t necessarily listen very well), honking the car horn… it’s weird but eventually they get their two dogs, get in the car and leave. Meanwhile another couple arrives at the viewpoint. While we continue to admire the surroundings, we suddenly see a dog running towards us from the plains. Confused about what to make of it we check if the dog belongs to the couple, but it’s not… Seeing the dog frantically running around the parking spot we start to realise what might be going on and our hearts sink - is this explaining the odd behaviours we witnessed just now, and was this dog left behind by the mom and kid..?! With them being far gone, what should or can we even do?! The dog keeps searching for something, and we ponder about the situation, when… the car with mom and kid returns to the scene. They instantly see the dog, get out of the car and hug it hello. Turns out they went to search for the dog by car in the wider area as it did not return upon their calls and was out of sight for some time, thinking it must have wandered off. When that didn’t help they decided to go back to the place they last saw it. What a relief, and imagine theirs!
After this strange experience we continue to enjoy the semi-desert in peace. The only other strange things we see is in the shape of rock formations we come across. Apparently in about 60 years time these rocks will be gone completely, by wind and erosion. It’s a unique landscape, definitely. A great place to end our stay in Spain.Read more