We picked the lakes of Malniu as our camping spot, as it’s the only place we have come across so far, where you can actually pitch a tent in nature without too many neighbours. Right up near the borders of Andorra and France, the Refugi of Malniu is perched, surrounded by cliffs and pines, a view of the valley spreading out below.
I know there are other camping areas, and I haven’t done much research, as up until now, we didn’t have a tent! Here “camping” generally refers to a permanent camping/ caravan area, some with cabins. You can find plenty of these scattered throughout Catalunya, and many families flock to them for their summer vacations.
But I wanted the leaky tent, and bumpy ground that I remember from childhood. No Glamping for me! Although a few less rocks under my sleeping bag wouldn’t hurt! I wanted solitude and crisp mountain air. When you live in an apartment building in a packed city, some open green space could not be sweeter!
I have had a growing camping itch for the last few years. The last time I slept in a tent was a couple of years ago in Thailand. So it was with some excitement that we purchased some camping paraphernalia with the help of my mom-in-laws credit card ( Thanks! ) and began planning a mini trip.
We had hiked to the estanys (ponds in Catalan) of Malniu before, when our friend Marc took us while we were weekending with him at his sisters cabin in a “camping” nearby, we loved the wildness, and sky filled lakes. The fact that you could also just arrive and pitch a tent, which is exactly what we planned to do for our weekend, was a huge plus! Throw in some wild flowers, and epic views – we were amped!
Then just before we packed up and clambered into the car, we decided to check the weather: Thunder & Lighting Storms! This did not sound like the kind of tent sleeping I had in mind – leaky tent or no. So two nights became one, and boy were we glad for that weather app, as when we finally found ourselves on the winding road that snaked up the mountain to the Refugi of Malnui, we saw piles of frozen hail, like snow, next to the road. The night before must have been extremely unpleasant for the few campers that had their tents already pitched.
Luckily the sun was shining through the scattered clouds, we picked a spot on the grassy turf and set up our camp for the night. After a packed picnic lunch, we set off to explore up the mountain, where we clambered and climbed amongst the pines, lakes, and moss. We met horses and cows, with tinkling bells, and followed the mini cairns which marked the hiking trails. The lakes were as beautiful as I remember them, and we were even able to have an afternoon nap on a big rock next to the water. Eagles soaring above and the clinketyclank of bells in the distance.
The camp was relatively full, but quietened down once the weekend day trippers from down in the valley had left, we turned in early as the sun went down, listening as the cows, clanking, made their way down to sleep. It was quite nippy on the mountain top, and so we slept late, not being woken in a hot sweaty tent! A relaxed breakfast and then a slow trip back to Barcelona, stopping only to buy some roadside mushrooms for dinner. I’m looking forward to more camping!