El Segre reserve, Mequinenza, AragónJanuary 30, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 3 °C
We woke to thick fog, despite a forecast of full sun. Once driving, we rose out of the river valley and as we crested the hill, the fog quickly dissipated. Continuing on, we dipped in and out of flat bottomed valleys and their bowls of fog. Despite having seen several wide stretches of river, the land around us was still parched. Crops susceptible to drought obviously weren't suited to this area, but instead we passed miles upon miles of intensively planted orchards. The trees were lined up in rows and pruned so they grew in almost identical forms, the land beneath them bare and dusty.
Nearing our planned stopover, we left behind the yellow ribbons and independence banners of Catalonia and entered the region of Aragòn, the first place in Spain where locals would speak the Spanish language Will had been learning!
The photos on the Park4Night app and in our Aire books are useful but we never quite know what to expect of a stopover. Will often enters two or more into the sat nav in case the first one doesn't work out. Well, there was certainly no need to go to Plan B today! The area of hard ground on the flood plain was planted with trees and overlooked the El Segre river (not that we could see much of it due to thick fog). What we did see were dozens of Cormorants and Little Egrets close to our shore. Looking closer we saw Pied Wagtails and Warblers in the reeds, as well as a few Great White Egrets. Hardly anyone came by and we spent the afternoon birdwatching from the van. The highlight was when a Kingfisher perched on a reed stem less than 15m from our window! It didn't stay for long but it was amazing to be able to see it close up and still!
As the afternoon progressed, the fog slowly lifted, revealing the hills rising from the opposite bank. The sun broke through around 4pm, so we took the canoe for its first outing in 2018. Funnily enough, its first outing of 2017 had also been on 30th January, only we were in Italy at the time.
We paddled to the bridge in Mequinenza, about a mile and a half upriver. The sun was low and silvery as it sillouetted a hilltop castle ahead of us. Setting over the crest, its rays cast shadows in the thin fog that still hung in the air.
The downstream leg of the journey was chilly. The sun had set and we were paddling into wind and waves, but were rewarded on the approach to the van, by the sight of a huge, almost full supermoon rising over the hills.
By this time we had decided to stay two nights. The second day was even foggier than the first. The sun didn't manage to break through, meaning the temperature only ranged from a cold 1°C to 6°C. Wrapping up, we cycled the short distance to Mequinenza intending to pick up lunch at a café, or bread if we couldn't find anywhere. Even with a small clothes market off the mainstreet, the town was quiet. There were several bars open, but we didn't feel drawn to any of them, so picked up some things from the small supermarket and cycled back for our meal. On the way we spotted a large bird of prey that dwarfed a Kestral flying nearby. We weren't sure what it was at the time, but saw it and another again while sitting in the van so were able to identify it as a Marsh Harrier. Will was even lucky enough to see it dive into the water and catch a fish! This place really was great for birdwatching!Read more