Trip Start Mar 05, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Spain  , Aragon,
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Crossing border into north Spain was pretty uneventful - we drove under a bridge-like construction, and spelling on road signs has changed. It was pretty confusing for a while, having to adjust to a random mix of Catalan and Spanish for place names. Once again is was blisteringly hot, making the scenic mountain road route a mixed blessing. Land north of Perynees does look strikingly different - exposed conglomerate rock faces look like vertical pebbly beaches, much of land has rich orange and red tint, and the valleys are cultivated and are lush green in colour. Everything is offset by the endless blue sky with an occasional cumuls cloud. I though Spain is beautiful.After a few hours driving up the more and more remote and narrow roads, we arrived to Rodellar - a tiny village at the side of an amazing gorge with a history of not being able to cope with the influx of the tourists that the settings brings. A single road into the village goes past a campsite, a carpark, and terminates at a couple of bars. Behind those there are a few  local residences, a couple of farms and a Refugio - the end. Gorge is accessed out of the back of the village, couple of minutes walk, and has a feel of Alton Towers, or a playground - its tiny by any other gorge standards, all climbing areas are within 20min walk; you descend down a friendly stony path which forks to various climbing areas, the bottom of the gorge is vegetated and the path runs along the streem and criss-crosses it via stepping stone. Its always a good challange not to slip off those - made more difficult after the rain. As you go along the path you get  to pick your routes - slabby warmups at Bikini sector, trickier-than-they-look steep warmups at Camino, awesome varied climbing of Ventanas - great arches through the narrow hillsides and many many more. This place makes you grow some biscepts.Also, this area is very popular with walkers and canyoners - having a lunch by the river one often seens groups of wild-eyed wet-suited people plodding the calmer waters, whoop-whopping to each other.When we first arrived, as per our usual setup we headed into a campsite for a night of washing and scouting out the doss spots. Surprisingly, this was the most expensive campsite yet- 17 euros a night, and it was pretty much crammed, mostly with canyoners. Being the Spanish speaker in our outfit it was my responsibility to book us in, which I proceeded to do with some success (obviously my accent was good enough so that the girl assumed I spoke well, and in return spoke with a ridiculous speed). I was very proud to ask, and then understand directions to the shower block. Good job, Pimsleur Spanish tapes! Next day we relocated to The Carpark - an establishment built within the last few years to prevent the buildup of campervans (and ensuing cooking, washing and toileting) along the town road. It even has two essential things: water and WCs, however following the well-extablished spanish tradition the toilets were shut and everyone of its 100ish residents had little choice but to poop in the surrounding woods. By the end of two weeks, you get pretty used to the omnipresent smell of wee and get into the routine of daily fly-bashing.Inspite of that, Rodellar carpark was an awesome place to stay! Most of its residents were long-ish term climbers on long trips, spending weeks or months enjoying the excellent steep climbing that Rodellar has to offer. We made friends and re-acquainted with a few Brits, and people from Australia and the States. Eventually all english-speakers ended up taking over a part of the carpark, and spend time hanging out at the steaked-out areas and tables at each others' vans/campers, doing yoga on the bouldering mats, poi, etc. We even had movie-nights, pulling up the bouldering mats and camping chairs around someone's laptop in the night. It was all very friendly and social.Another place worth mentioning is the Refugio Kalandraka  - a place for budget (aren't we all?) climbers and travellers to live in the shared bunk accomodation, with a bar/cafe and token-based showers,  free internet and a slack-line. The food was excellent, beers are cheap, and everyone was welcome to use a shower and facilities for a 1 Euro token. Its also a great place to hang out and meet people from all the countries, and share stories of travelling and day's climbing. Dan and Ed came on holiday to Rodellar and stayed there, and also Ina and Rob from Glasgow so we spent quite a lot of time in Kalandraka. The non-climbing days sometimes felt like hard work - there is no shade in the carpark, and from 10am the blazing sun heats up the interior of the van to a stiffling level. It was possible to escape to the river, swim in the cold water and enjoy being warmed up by the sun, but it was just too easy to get overheated, and by the time you get back to the van you're covered in sweat already, ugh. I started to call them Rest(less) Days. By the end of our stay there, the temperatured were regularly reaching 33C, it was very humid. Both of us were very much looking forward to going back home for the un-holiday, sleeping in a real bed, catching up with family&friends - especially since 1st of July a stay in The Carpark will become 15Euros a night! Thats peak tourist season for you. Now were are both looking forward to going back to Rodellar again in the autumn, in cooler temperatures and with bigger biscepts.
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