I can still feel the tension in my stomach, the sound of the engine, and the pull of the 3.5tonne home on wheels as it drags itself slowly up a steep mountain road. It was the road to Suriana, apparently one of the most magical places in the whole of Catalunya so we were really keen to see it! We drove up and up on the seemingly impossible road with 90degree twists and turns along the way and were almost at the top when Terry thought he’d just double check this was a round trip and that we didn’t have to go back down the same way. That is when I realised, we had to go back the way we came to reach civilisation again. I’d messed up with the navigation. Oh, sh*t! Dragging the motorhome up these roads really wasn’t suitable and although just about possible with clear, fine weather, taking it back down again on its clutch and brakes was something altogether different…and dodgy! We decided not to go any further, and to quit while we were ahead so we turned around. I took Ethan in the backpack and walked some of the ways to lighten the load. It was pretty scary, to say the least. The mountain was high and the roads were windy and very steep, but we made it down and decided NEVER to venture up mountains in a motorhome again. Another learning point on the list.
Tails between our legs, we chose to go to the ‘main’ town in the area to plan a good long hike the next day.
Just a few hours from Barcelona is the Serra del Monsant mountain range.
It has to be one of the most impressive landscapes in the Tarragona province of Spain, if not the whole of Spain. Seriously, its mind-bogglingly gorgeous, and luckily for us, it was a clear blue sky day when we were visiting. We planned to go to go to this national park on a whim after our week of volunteering, and whilst waiting for my mum to arrive from Barcelona. It was a good if slightly mad decision.
As we headed East from our Workaway, we awoke to the best-looking weather of our Spanish trip so far; clear blue, warm skies. And better still, we were heading to the mountains! Onwards and upwards. An hour further down the line and it was mid-morning, we had a full tank of fresh water and the road slowly inclined past a few sun-soaked villages and towns. Now in a Motorhome, it seems fine to incline slowly, and after a quick lunch pit stop, seemingly half way up a large mountain, we soon learnt the hard way that they have limitations.
The afternoon plan was set, ala a quick lunchtime google, that we should head for the epic looking village of Siurana, a place literally steeped in history dating back to the 12th Century. It was steeped as it was perched on the edge of a cliff, although only at 750m altitude, we very quickly learnt the twists and turns up the mountain road would test the motorhome to the limit.
As I said, cranking the 3,500kg front wheel drive vehicle into first gear to steeply and slowly climb the ascent was crazy. This was not a road suited to large cumbersome plodder! It was nerve racking, jaw dropping and total freakout driving. It did not seem sensible and we’d not recommend any motorhomes go this route! This was for one main reason, it was a one way, dead end! We suddenly became acutely aware we’d have to go back down this mountain and pulled over to hatch a plan!
Freak-outs under control, we agreed we’d have to go back down immediately in case the weather turned and we slid off the side. But we had to shed weight, it seemed like the best idea to reduce the impact on the vehicle, creeping back down the road in first gear again. We opened the fresh water tank release valve and let out about 25 litres (we think), Jen strapped Ethan into the backpack and started heading down with Terry edging the motorhome behind her at less than 10miles an hour. We were surrounded by jaw-dropping vistas, of red stained, swollen, sheer drop mountains, it was a massive shame not to be able to stop and stare at them. This area was clearly a mecca for climbers and the conditions were perfect.
Eventually, we made it back onto the fairly main road and we regrouped, heading back to the relative safety of the town of Cornudella du Montsant. Tomorrow would be more planned we thought. We would not be repeating that.
Over a pesto pasta dinner, and a glass of a local, lush wine we picked up at the Celler Cooperatiu, we set a new plan to go to the main town of La Morera de Montsant, where we could do a short mountain walk with Ethan in the backpack. He just loves being in the outdoors. Now, all we needed was good weather again and so we could partially forget today!
After spending the night in the tourist information carpark (seems they don’t mind!), the sun shone as we headed to the main town in the national park. When I say main, I mean a town of just 20 people. Yes, just 20 people. Luckily the tourist information there was open so we could enquire as to the best trek available for us and Ethan. Now, this national park is epic for climbers.
The vistas are incredible and the climbs look great. We were given a lovely 3-hour trek that was supposed to be ‘easy’ so yes, let’s go. It was sunny, but slightly cloudy so perfect weather. We started trekking with Ethan in the backpack of course up the mountain for a good 2 hours. Twisting and turning on usually good, gravel paths. The trek wasn’t hard and we would definitely recommend the first 2 hours of the trek, even with a baby in tow. There were some slightly dodgy bits from recent landslides we thought.
We took it slowly and once at the top of the mountain stopped for a lovely little packed lunch. We were literally the only people on this mountain range for miles it seemed and the silence at the top was quite eery. Not something you experience every day of your lives. We suddenly realised this is the place you go to get lost!
After lunch, we took to the path once more, expecting to be over half way and so on the way down. Surely. Not so as the path kept climbing even further and then suddenly, just as we were doing a facebook live video and saying hi to our followers, we peered over to see something you could actually not call a path. It was a ‘one foot in front of the other job’ along a cliff edge. Not ‘easy’ with a baby in tow and at least a 200metre sheer drop to the right!
Thinking there was no way we would risk our lives continuing we thought there was no other choice, we had to turn back. In true Terry style, he wanted to take a short cut, and desperate to get off the mountain, I decided to trust him.
We climbed down a very steep and slippery edge, cutting back branches and sometimes trees to make it to the bottom of what we thought was the bottom of the mountain in a ravine. It was not a well trodden path and wild with loose footings. We were tired, stressed and I was a little scared to say the least as it was now 4 hours in to our 3 hour hike! Where the heck are we going!? This wasn’t working out the way Terry envisaged as he hit the cliff edge, a total dead end and if he’d been walking fast (with Ethan strapped to his back), it actually would’ve been a dead end as it dropped off the edge and we definintely not at sea level or anywhere close! I’m thinking I should rename this post, ‘taking your baby to the edge…’. Due to this edge ( see below) and nowhere further to carry on, we clambered back up and took the path back to camp.
It took another 2 hours of hiking back up the mountain, all the way along the path we’d taken, also walking at a fast pace so we got back before it was dark. The black clouds around us seemed to be closing in on us! Pretty scary stuff even without a baby! The view on the way back though was just as spectacular as on the way up. So note to ourselves, never trust the local tourist information, check google satellite first! However, all in all, we made it. We were all fast asleep by 9 pm that night! Shattered.
We decided we didn’t want a third mishap so left the mountains the next morning for the coast. Sunshine and beach time now! Back to sea level feels so much better and where this motorhome needs to be.