Vanya chose our next stop and a great one it was too. We intended stopping for a single night but quickly added a second.
The camp site she chose was Camping Rio Vero and as the name suggests it sits on the Rio Vero, one of many rivers in the Sierra de Guara – a small mountain range that runs parallel with the Pyrenees. The site is at the end point of the Rio Vero Canyon and the owner has strategically dammed the river to create two small natural swimming pools at each end of the camp. With it being sunny and the temperature hitting the high 20’s it wasn’t long before our two dogs were in the cool crystal clear pools and we were of a mind to do the same once we had gathered sufficient courage to enter the cold mountain water (perhaps in the morning?).
This area being loaded with rivers and streams it came as no surprise to learn the camp site could organise canyoning and rappelling in any number of local gorges and Vanya and I were both up for it until we were told it would be a full day affair and we would have to leave the dogs behind. Some other time perhaps.
The next morning, after an early breakfast and instead of canyoning, we elected to walk the dogs some 4-5 kilometres along the old road to Alquezar; have lunch at the village and; return by way of the river bed. I had been told by the campsite owner it was possible to walk along the riverbed all the way from the village back to the campsite and that the experience and scenery would be well worth the effort. Both these points were confirmed by the tourist board office in Alquezar.
The walk along the old road to Alquezar was easy and within an hour we entered the village and what a place! Beautiful!
The Moors built a fortress there in the 9th century and it wasn’t long thereafter before houses were being built around the base of the fortress (the Arabic word for which is Al Qasr) and that is how Alquezar came to be. Christians took the town from the Moors in 1064 and over a period of time the fortress or at least part of it was converted to a collegiate church, the Colgiatte Church of Santa Maria la Mayor. Just down from the collegiate a newer church, the Iglesia Parroquial de San Miguel Arcangel, was built between 1681 and 1708 and both buildings very much command the village.
Alquezar is a small village of little more than 300 people and despite being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, I am delighted to report that it has not yet been overrun by tourists. In fact it was not at all busy as we arrived.
Almost all of the village is pedestrianised and it is a warren of narrow winding lanes with all the houses made of the same rose coloured limestone, brick or mud. Many of the lanes are covered with passageways as inhabitants extended their homes for more space.
We have seen a great many wonderful medieval villages during this tour (both in Spain and France) but what sets this one apart are the uniform pink buildings and panoramic views over the Rio Vero Gorge. There are fine viewing points all over the town and especially from the collegiate church / castle but my favourite is from outside one of the restaurants that we passed on our way into the village and we returned there for lunch.
After a mixed platter of starter size dishes and a couple of beers it was time to head down into the Rio Vero Gorge and make tracks downstream to our camp site. It started off quite well with Vanya managing her fear of heights (although she did complain a bit) as we very slowly descended the dirt track road to the bottom of the gorge. A footbridge at the bottom marked the start of our river walk…
The dogs very quickly took to the water. Vanya followed a little later holding her handbag clear of the water and muttering incessantly about how cold the water was but, otherwise, it seemed to be going quite well. Then the water got a little bit deeper and somewhat rockier and, if you believe her, colder…Well, I’ll let the photos do the talking…
Forget the pictures. It is not in my best interests to show more or relate further on this matter. It will suffice to say that the wade went on for a while longer and Vanya’s humour darkened as the day progressed but we all made it back safe and sound…
…and we’re heading for the coast tomorrow – a place called L’Escala. She’s always in a better frame of mind when at the seaside.
A final photo (not mine) of Alquezar…