Snowy mountain peaks aren't the first thing that come to mind when you think of Spain, but the Pyrenees mountain range that runs along the border between Spain and France has a true alpine climate. There are lots of popular ski resorts, and snowy mountain roads perfect for Jeep excursions.
At the entrance to the Valley of Camprodon (180K JPEG) in northeastern Spain, the road sign with a picture of a camera (right) is hardly needed to tell visitors this is a great spot to grab a photo of a spectacular mountain vista.
Camprodon is also a great spot to photograph Jeeps, as it has undoubtedly the highest concentration of flatfenders in the country. Josep Bordas, a part-time resident of the village of Camprodon, has been taking pictures of all of them over the past year, for an article on CJ3B.info about The Jeeps of Camprodon. Today though, he and his wife Gemma are driving through the valley and up into France in his 1990 Mahindra, to take pictures for us of some of the winter scenery.
The Valley of Camprodon is one of the Spanish gateways to the eastern Pyrenees, including the peaks of Costabona and Canigó on the French side (white area on the map, left). The area is popular with vacationers in summer, but is equally beautiful and a little bit quieter during the winter.
See also a wider map of the surrounding region of Catalunya (200K JPEG), stretching from France and the tiny nation of Andorra on the north, to Barcelona on the south.
One of the tourist attractions in the village of Camprodon is "El Pont Nou" (The New Bridge) which has weathered the snowfalls of over 800 winters since its construction in the 12th century. A more recent addition is lights outlining the bridge (150K JPEG) for the Christmas season.
As snow started falling again, Josep took this picture in the same place we had photographed him in the summer of 2008 (see CJ3B.info Visits Spain, Part 3: Camprodon.)
Click any of Josep's photos on this page to see beautiful large copies.
Another spot we had photographed on our summer visit to the valley was the cluster of houses clinging to the aptly-named "La Roca" (The Rock), which looks even more inaccessible in the winter.
Not surprisingly, La Roca is home to a Jeep; the M38 of Joan Andreu Pons (190K JPEG) is a Korean War veteran which subsequently saw service with the Spanish Army. Joan Andreu is one of many Jeep owners we'll meet in Josep's directory of the Jeeps of Camprodon.
Gemma waits for Josep as they prepare to drive up through the old pass of Coll d'Ares between Spain and France, north of Camprodon. Coll d'Ares was one of several ways used to escape into France 70 years ago, by half a million Republicans fleeing at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The exodus on foot through the mountains in the winter of 1939, known as "La Retirada," is commemorated in a museum we visited in Camprodon in the summer.
This part of southern France was part of Catalunya several centuries ago, and is still known as "La Catalunya Nord" (North Catalunya). Mt. Canigó in the background is a symbol of Catalunya, and in the annual Flama del Canigó festival up to 30,000 bonfires across the region are lit with torches carried from a blaze at the peak. The mountain is also the site of a grueling annual marathon race to the top and back, and some spectacular 4x4 trails.
Back in Spain, Josep took this shot near the little village of Espinavell, with Mt. Costabona across the border in the background. Although there is plenty of snow in the mountains, the winters in the Pyrenees aren't what they used to be. According to a 2004 report, 85% of the glaciers in the Spanish Pyrenees have melted due to climate change during the 20th century, including 50% between 1980 and 2000.
On the road home, Gemma waits in the Jeep as Josep takes a picture overlooking the village of Llanars, another small but historic village in the Valley of Camprodon, which has been a trading route since the time of the Celts and the Romans. The first recorded appearance of the name "Llanars" was apparently in the year 1027.
Our December 2009 cover photo is a Christmas card from Camprodon for all readers of CJ3B.info. As dusk falls, Josep's Mahindra is seen in the part of Camprodon known as La Forcarà because it's near "La Font de la Forcarà," one of many fountains or springs in Camprodon that run all year long with clear mountain water. Let's hope they keep running.
Thanks to Josep and Gemma for the tour. Josep has been continuing to document all the flatfenders in the area, and we have now published his detailed story of the Jeeps of Camprodon on CJ3B.info. -- Derek Redmond
The map is taken from an excellent interactive map at the Institut Cartogràphic de Catalunya.
See also CJ3B.info Visits Spain, Part 3: Camprodon, and the history of Jeeps in Spain.
See Christmas Over the Years for more snowy features on CJ3B.info.
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