After studying the map for our next destination, we liked the idea of Lake Caspie, alongside a dammed section of the a River Ebro that created huge lakes referred to as an ‘inland sea’. The drive was lovely through a northern section of Spanish countryside, huge rock formations, barren empty fields, trees dotted about the landscape and vast empty roads. Covering the miles at a very sedate, leisurely and relaxing pace, the skies were darkening and the light was wonderful on the hills in front of us. We stopped after an hour and a half of driving for a relaxing coffee in Bessie, it got dark quite quickly and then the wind got up too, suddenly huge spots of rain started to bash on the roof. It became a thunderous roar as the heavens opened full bore, rain and hail bouncing off the roof and windscreen. We were parked up on a hard-core lay bay which quickly became awash with small streams of rainfall rushing off into the bushes. Blacker by the minute, lorries starting pulling over to wait it out, others carried on by very slowly with headlights on and wipers splashing. By now we could hardly see across the first few meters of countryside in front of us, then the first cracking of thunder rolled, swiftly followed by lightening and more thunder This carried on for 30 minutes, during which a small tree right in front of Bessie was suddenly smashed and now was without one of its trunks, which now lay on the floor in a deepening large puddle. Thankfully I would never park under trees preferring to see the view, so glad I wasn’t any closer to that tree. Gradually the coffee and the rain disappeared, leaving dark clouds, still raining but now safe to start driving again. As we passed theseveral signs, we always shoutility ‘moose’ – our little joke for anything with horns/antlers.
Arriving at Lake Caspe Campsite the pitches were under small trees to provide shade and I manoeuvred into position to make the most of the sun, when it finally came out. We walked down the site to explore and realised that the lakes were seriously depleted in water volume, they were at least 20-30 feet below the average marks on the lakeside margins. Few birds were in evidence, one grey heron, a couple of cormorants and half a dozen goldfinches and wagtails, even the flora was long past its best, so we made our way back to Bessie and a beer.
After a nights sleep we decided to cut our losses and move on again. The plan now was to go directed to the coast at the Ebro Delta where there was another free Aire. Stopping off en-route at a huge Mercadona supermarket to stock on fresh provisions, we enjoyed all the differences between British supermarkets and the Spanish ones. We love the different foods, the fresh fish counter in particular and came away with a large bag of huge cooked prawns, plus cheap fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, dates, wine and beer. We arrived at the Aire having driven alongside miles of paddy fields, what a change the new area brought us.
The Ebro Delta is vast, a massive area almost exclusively growing rice, consequently water everywhere and a feast of birds too! The Aire was very well kept, gravelled parking and plenty of space for all, it was well frequented while we were there, as sure sign it was free. A small restaurant and bar, hire of bikes, bici-cars for 2 people, boats, even horses, and round the corner a small information place and shop.
We were soon out with our binoculars, walking around in the midday heat like ‘mad dogs and English men’. It was worth it though, soon adding to our bird list and admiring in particular lots of marsh harriers cruising over the reeds, a few purple gallinules, a large version of our moorhen with iridescent purple feathers, large red feet and beak. There were hundreds of little egrets, cattle egrets and a good number of grey herons and great white egrets, with their snowy white plumage, all varying sizes with dagger like beaks. Another beautiful bird is the glossy ibis with is long, down curved bill, iridescent black/green plumage with long legs stalking along the paddy fields in search of food.
Having once worked on a farm for several years, along time ago, I was intrigued by a very strange looking tractor. There were no tyres on the wheels; on the front were two solid metal discs and the rear had a very wide series of metal slatted cage wheels on each side. It became apparent how this was used when a driver came and manoeuvred it into the paddy field. Tyres would have been useless sinking into the bog-like conditions. The metal wheels were used to churn up the previously cut rice crop that had now started to regenerate, the smell reminded me of clearing out our old pond! The old rice plants were pushed under the surface of the mud and water, possibly making growth start again at the same time. All the time the tractor went up and down the field, masses of gulls, egrets and herons patrolled along behind catching up the frogs, fish and grubs turned over by the ‘wheels’.
After our allotted 2 free nights on the Aire we moved on, driving all over the Delta and using Bessie as a hide. The small roads were deserted and we were contentedly bimbling along at 20 mph stopping every so often to see lapwing, ringed plover, little stint, flamingoes, the usual egrets, herons and ibis, kestrel and more marsh harriers. After driving around all morning we took Bessie to the beach, drove right onto the sand and parked up, while we had a quiet walk around the small pools, there was hardly a sole around.
Soon we headed for the north of the Delta, and booked in at a campsite at L’Ampollo, right by the sea with a paddy field behind our pitch, complete with more egrets! We got a great pitch looking out onto a grass area and literally 5 minutes walk to the beach. However, we walked 20 minutes into the small town passing a statue of a figure lying down and reading a book, it was enormous.
We admired the harbour, read all the information boards concerning the area’s history, saw another statue of Pope Adrian us VI, Bishop of Tortosa, and spend a happy half hour with a beer in the sunshine, I was so hot as I had worn trousers and a light jumper as it was so windy. Later on it was still very windy and not too good to sit on the beach, so we walked around a lagoon, got blown to bits, saw some old wooden boats, a cormorant and a couple of herons before returning to the shelter of the campsite for the evening and a bottle of ‘bubbly’.
Before arriving in Spain we had decided that we were not going to race around like headless chickens seeing everything. For a few days we went for a walk in the mornings and then we relaxed improving our tans, I painted my nails but Chris left his natural, I spent time reading, he didn’t, and we did some people watching, which was difficult as it was a scarcely populated beach which was just what we needed.