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The CJ3B Page Visits Spain

Part 2: The Pyrenees


We headed out of Condado (see Part 1) with the aim of travelling the length of the Pyrenees Mountains from west to east, and reaching the town of Camprodon near the Mediterranean coast, which we had heard was the place in Spain to see flatfender Jeeps. But first I wanted to swing down through the winemaking area of Rioja, with its vineyards and bodegas (wineries) stretching across the valleys. Wine is the only thing that is cheaper in Spain than in North America, and Rioja is possibly the place to get the best deals on the best wine.

We spent a couple of nights in Arnedillo, famous for one of the most expensive spa resorts in Spain. But the hot springs that feed the resort have also been enjoyed free since Roman times in the stream (230K JPEG) that flows through the village. The girls loved it, and even I got my feet wet (100K JPEG).

Some of the road signs seen frequently in the mountains. From the left: falling rocks, S-curve, watch for cattle, now leaving Arnedillo, no passing, and tunnel entrance. Another highway photo (180K JPEG) shows the narrow lanes, absence of shoulders, and the "end of no passing zone" sign.

Leandro Oroz
We arrived in Pamplona in time for a late lunch, and were met by Jeep artist and long-time CJ3B Page contributor Roberto Flores, riding with Leandro Oroz and Mercedes Fernandez in Leandro's M38. The Jeep is actually a CJ-3B frame with an M38 body apparently mounted by the Spanish army.

Roberto Flores
Roberto's early Viasa CJ-3B was stuck in the parking garage with a dead battery, but he gave me this photo taken a couple of weeks earlier. This unusual collection of 4x4's out for a drive would turn heads in Spain or anywhere else. Roberto's metal hardtop has a Land Rover-style double roof designed to reduce solar heating. On the hood is an unusual "Diesel 63" badge (40K JPEG).

J A Galvez photo
It was time to get into the serious part of the Pyrenees range, which divides Spain and France (see the map, 200K JPEG). Our last stop on the Spanish side was the village of Canfranc, home of a massive railway station which was the largest in Europe when it was built in 1928 as part of an ambitious plan to link Spain and France by rail. The now-deserted station was covered in scaffolding (180K JPEG) when we arrived, and will become a resort hotel. This photo was taken earlier by José A. Gálvez.

The anticipated traffic through the railway tunnel under the mountain was never more than a trickle, except during World War II when spies, refugees and Nazi gold were among the cargo passing through one of the few routes out of occupied Europe. Behind the station now is a ghostly collection of old rolling stock, including this wrecker crane which probably last saw service at the accident on 26 March 1970 which destroyed a bridge and brought cross-border rail traffic to an end (see The Pau to Canfranc Line).

A newer, 8-kilometer (5-mile) tunnel carrying the highway into France, parallels the railway tunnel which is now an underground physics lab. I was a bit nervous and you can see I was maintaining a modest speed and a white-knuckle grip on the wheel of the Citroen. By the way, there are no customs stops at the borders between countries in the European Community.

First stop inside France was the beautiful (and fun) old city of Pau. Here Amelia is chuckling at Roseanna's usual stack of travel literature, which informed us that the château in the background was used by Napoleon. Pau is also home to the oldest 18-hole golf course in Europe (1856), is a major stop on the Tour de France, and has a road racing course in the city center that hosted the world's first Grand Prix auto race in 1901 and is currently on the Formula 3000 series.

Special Jeep
After seeing no flatfenders all day, just outside Pau we stumbled onto a treasure trove of restored and modified Willys and Hotchkiss Jeeps in a garage called Special Jeep. This tastefully built-up orange MB advertises Special Jeep (on the hood and the rear, 160K JPEG) at lots of offroad events.

Hotchkiss built some 5,000 CJ-3Bs, most with gasoline engines (see Jeeps in France on CJ3B.info.) This JH-101 from the late 1950s is mostly stock, except for safety features like the intricate roll cage and triple wipers (110K JPEG).

Special Jeep's owner Vincent (100K JPEG) has a busy shop in the back, and his showroom features the pièce de résistance, his recreation of a British Special Air Service jeep with all the accessories including captured German souvenirs.

For Sale
Our last view of Special Jeep in the rear-view mirror was this JH-101 a vendre (for sale) which made me wish I could bring home a French souvenir. See also a rear view (150K JPEG). The yellow headlight bulbs are the classic European touch!

Ax les Thermes
Here's the view Lance Armstrong had from his balcony, during Tour de France stopovers in Ax les Thermes in the eastern Pyrenees. We stayed in the same little hotel where Lance apparently found he got a good night's sleep after a day of pedalling up the mountains. I also took a nighttime photo of the nearby castle at Foix (100K JPEG).

Amelia got this beautiful landscape shot out the window of the car as we ventured into Andorra, the little mountain principality nestled in between France and Spain. But we didn't have time to stick around, as we were heading back into Spain on a long and winding road. Next stop: Camprodon, Jeep capital of Spain.

Thanks to Iñaki Bilbao, Roberto Flores, and everyone we met who made our first week in Spain so enjoyable. Also José A. Gálvez for his photo of Canfranc, under a Creative Commons license. -- Derek Redmond

Continue to Part 3: Camprodon or Part 4: Bilbao, or return to Part 1: Condado.

See the history of Jeeps in Spain.

Return to Jeeps Around the World on CJ3B.info.

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Last updated 14 October 2008 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond