In the mountains of Aragón (days 1-4)
Day 1 (295km)
We set off for our 2 month hitch-hiking trip around the Iberian Peninsula in the early afternoon on 2nd July. Following HitchWiki’s advice, in order to hitch-hike out of Barcelona northwards you should take a short distance train ride to Castellbisbal. It’s right at the edge of the Barcelona metropolitan area and apart from a water treatment plant and a factory the town hasn’t got much to offer.
We managed to get to a petrol station located on the A2 motorway and full of both hopes and fears (as we’ve heard many bad opinions about hitch-hiking in Spain), we stretched out our thumbs waiting for a lift. The very first person to pick us up was a Polish truck driver who seeing me immediately thought I was Polish and didn’t even bother trying to address me in any other language. We were on the road again. Later on it went relatively smoothly as well and after meeting an Argentinian, a Catalan and a bunch of Spanish drivers, we hitch-hiked our way to Aínsa. It took us 7h and seven rides and although we weren’t planning to stay in this town, we just couldn’t go on. We found ourselves a pretty little campsite and decided to visit the old town of Aínsa first thing in the morning.
Day 2 (45km)
It turned out to be a stunning little medieval town perched on a steep hill, surrounded by the Pyrenean foothills. Cobbled narrow streets, beautiful medieval architecture and breathtaking views are probably everything you want from a Spanish mountainous town.
But we couldn’t stay there forever and had to hit the road again wanting to get to our original destination Torla in order to stretch our legs a bit and go for our first hike in many months in the Pyrenees.
The distance between Aínsa and Torla wasn’t great but it took us much longer than expected due to the general lack of cars in this mountainous area and the fact that it’s generally much slower to drive on windy narrow roads present in this part of the country. After around 5h and four rides we reached our destination hungry as wolves. After we’d eaten we went for a walk around the town, which again far exceeded our expectations. We had imagined it to be a sleepy little town that would serve as a base for the nearby Parque National de Ordesa y Monte Perdido, but instead we found ourselves in a town even more picturesque than the previous one, with its charming alleyways and steep peaks in the close vicinity.
We got up early in the morning full of the hiking spirit and mentally and physically prepared for our first hike. We had to take a short bus ride to the actual park as due to ecological restrictions no cars are allowed further than the town, so no hitch-hiking techniques would work this time.
We started our hike on the Ordesa Valley with sharp walls of rock on either side and pretty waterfalls along the way. After 4h when we got to the furthest and most stunning of them – la Cola del Caballo (Horse’s Tail), behind which there was only a high cliff of bare rock, we continued on to what was marked as a very dangerous, stony and steep four hour hike. But as we were full of beans we didn’t get scared off and marched on. We were walking back the same way we came, but instead of being down in the valley, this time we were upon the gorge and we could see all the surrounding mountains and cliffs from a completely different perspective.
As we got to the end of the gorge, the hike down was in truth a bit steep, but apart from painful knees there was no great danger. The only inconvenience on the way was a heavy downpour which at some point turned into hail the size of peas. It’s been raining cats and dogs for about 5h now. We are back safe in our tent praying it doesn’t leak at night :)
Day 4 (132km)
The night was horrible! I kept being woken up by the water banging heavily on the walls of our tent. The fear of finding myself completely drenched in the middle of the night and lightning bolts striking the ground so close I could feel it vibrate, left me sleepless for almost the whole night. The tent survived though, almost untouched.
In the morning we were back on the road, soaking wet as we were lucky enough to stay in Torla for the two most rainy days of the entire year. Wet and miserable we hitch-hiked on and managed to leave our tent behind in one of the cars in the getting in-getting out commotion. So now we are tentless and one of our phones got soaked in the mountainous rain.
After 5,5h and 6 lifts we got to Sos del Rey Católico, a stunning medieval little town, located atop a lonely hill and surrounded by the perfect rural landscape with yellow fields and blue mountains in the horizon.
This charming town is one of the best preserved medieval settlements in Aragón and the birthplace of King Ferdinand II (1452). Its alleys are so narrow that if a car wants to go through it has to wait for people to clear out of the way. And because it’s perched on a hill, many of these narrow streets go up and down, and sometimes you even have to climb some stairs to get to your destination. So it’s almost impossible to imagine the layout of the town and build the map of it in your head (at least I found it impossible with my poor sense of direction).
It’s lovely and peaceful as there are hardly any people on the streets and there are no tourists. It’s amazing how a gem like this hasn’t been chosen as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and flooded by tourists!
Because we lost our tent, we had to spend the night in the only youth hostel in town which was occupied by a group of kids from Zaragoza spending their summer holidays here. We got to dine with them (burgers, chips and a watery pudding) which reminded me of my own childhood and summer camps at the Polish seaside :)
To sum up, we liked Aragón. The people were friendly and the landscapes breathtaking. And contrary to what we’d heard before setting off, we can now confirm that hitch-hiking in Spain is definitely possible. People stop (even single women do) and are generally helpful. We met many nice people which whom we had some interesting conversations.
Today we are heading to Pamplona to take part in the exciting San Fermin festival during which bulls are released to run down the city streets early in the morning. That should be a lot of fun and a new chapter on our trip.
written by: Ania