We headed for Los Picos de Europa national park towards the north of Spain. This mountain range looked great on the photos and sure enough, the hair-raising trip up the windy mountain roads delivered some fantastic views.. although my gaze was fixed on the road ahead, knuckles white gripping the steering wheel.
We made it to the end of the road – the lakes of Covadonga in the middle of the park – around lunchtime. It was pretty much deserted so we had a sandwich and went for a walk. Pretty soon conditions turned nasty – strong winds, stinging snow and visability dropping fast. Thankfully the path we were on was defined well enough so that we were able to make our way back.
However, I didn’t fancy driving back in these conditions so we decided to wait a while. And, lo and behold, the dark clouds cleared somewhat and things looked a lot brighter. So much so, we decided that this would be a great place to stay for the night.
- Middle of nowhere – check.
- Surrounded by nature – check.
- Postcard views with a dusting of snow – check.
- Nice level spot for campervans – well actually there was a sign saying overnighting in auto-caravannes was strictly forbidden but there was no one else around so we checked that too!!
So we spent the afternoon mooching around, cards, books, dinner and turning in early. We’d a destination in mind for tomorrow lunchtime a few hours away so planned on an early start.
However, we woke to 6 inches of fresh snow! It had dumped down in the night and there was absolutely no way we were going anywhere. We were completely alone, no-one knew where we were, in the middle of a national park (illegally), at least 10kms from the nearest human being, and snowed in!
However it wasn’t all bad – electricity was running low (and the solar panels covered with snow weren’t going to address that problem), fresh water was over half empty (although we could easily boil snow) but we had gas (=heating & cooking) and enough food for several days.
We had hoped that a snowplough would come and clear the road as it was a weekend and there would no doubt be visitors looking to visit the lakes but, after a few hours, there was no sign and we resigned ourselves to spending another night in the snow.
So we donned our snow gear and busied ourselves with making an igloo, trekking the km or so to the main road to check for signs of life (there were none) and enjoying the absolute solitude of knowing were were the only ones for miles and miles in this beautiful landscape.
I had no mobile reception but Chelle managed to get through to Karen who checked the internet and confirmed that there was no more significant snow forecast (although it was snowing at the time!) so we knew we’d be OK eventually.
However, tremendous relief when, around noon, we heard the rumble of an approaching vehicle and a snowplough rumbled in towards us. Planning only to clear the main road, they saw us waving and detoured in to the end of the carpark to clear a route for us. So after 24 hours without human contact, we were free again!
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing – the trip back down was dodgy as anything. The road was bad enough on the way up but on the way down it was terrifying. The snowplough had cleared a good size path for one vehicle to pass but, now that the park was open, there was a string of cars coming up, each of which we had to come to a standstill to pass, several times getting out to manually kick the snow from the edges so we could see exactly where the road ended and the ditch/creek/crevasse/precipice began before we could creep past each other with inches to spare. Cars were sliding, wheels were spinning but little by little we made it down and straight into the first restaurant we could find for a hearty meal and well-earned beer!