After a big drive from Girona we arrived at Torla with Richard feeling a bit shell shocked after the last part of the drive – a narrow windy road without the “security” of a centre line. Mind you, at the end of the trip when we did have a centre line and it wasn’t wide enough to accommodate Biggy on one side. The approach road to the campground, which we had been recommended, really threw us – super steep, narrow with sharp bends. We even debated continuing up the road to another campground which was poorly rated. Once committed there was no turning back- if we met anyone coming the other way they would just have to reverse some distance.
We were glad we had made the effort – the campground Rio Ara was beautiful with great views of the cliffs of the Ordesa Canyon and beautifully kept. The lovely owner didn’t speak any English but luckily she spoke French with a strong Spanish accent! We had some good conversations.
Ordesa National Park is stunning – it has a magnificent gorge with walls up to 1300 metres high. Torla is the pretty village at the entrance to the park, with a medieval feel to it. Apparently it pretty much closes down in winter as there are not any ski fields here.
Our first day we drove up a VERY bumpy road to hike part of the GR11 – one of the long distance trails.
Most of our time was spent in the national park. One day we hiked right up the canyon to the cirque.
Stunning scenery all the way – but nearly 5 hours return and 16 km with a 500m vertical climb – the most Richard had attempted since he ruptured his Archilles.
Approaching the cirque.
Another day we opted to take a 4×4 drive trip to the top of the rim- fantastic experience, amazing views.
We could see part of where we had walked the day before.
We also visited the medieval town of Ainsa before heading up to visit another gorge in the national park.
On the way we kept seeing deserted villages that were partly destroyed and wondered why there were so many.
Then we saw one with access from the road and decided to explore.
It turned out these villages had been destroyed and abandoned because of a dam proposal that was never built in the 1960’s.
People were bullied and intimidated to leave their homes and houses were then blown up with people still nearby.
This was to “encouage” those who refused to leave to do so.
Apparently one day they even dragged a teacher out of her class by her hair and she was scared to return.
The school closed down and the remaining residents were forced to leave. No compensation was ever paid .
The village we visited, Jánovas, is gradually being restored by the families of those who had to leave – so sad.