Besalú, Catalonia, Spain 11/13

January 18, 2014

It was in Figueres that we met up with our old friend Chema Huete, past editor of Solo Auto 4×4. The readers of this magazine followed our travels through South America in the late 80’s and our Siberian trip in 1996. Chema now owns 4×4, an online magazine.

Besalu 004AWe spent a couple of fun evenings with him, his lovely wife Mercè, and friends. Mercè is not only charming but also a fabulous hostess. Chema took us on a sightseeing tour through the valley while testing a 2014 BMW X5-V8. Following a dirt two-track he had often used for test runs with vehicles for the magazine, we cringed as brush and tree limbs raked the side of this $70,000 SUV. The road had not been used for a quite a while. Coming around a corner, Chema looked ahead and uttered half under his breath, “merda”, literally translated as “shit”!!

An eight-inch tree had fallen across the road. No place to turn around and way to nasty to go back. The tree limbs and roots clearly needed a winch or a tow cable to move. Gary saw the only answer. Whipping out his trusty Swiss Army Knife, he began the seemingly impossible task of sawing the top of the tree off. Never underestimate the power of a little Swiss Army Knife! With the top severed, the four of us were able to swing the trunk around and proceed back to civilization.

Besalu 015ANear Chema’s home, we stopped at the much-visited town of Besalú with its pretty 12th century Romanesque bridge and twisted alleys, which was easily one of the more interesting medieval towns we had seen.

Now it was time to say our good-byes to Spain and head to Southern France. We chose the tortuously scenic and historic one-and-a-half-lane route over the Col d’Ares pass through the Pyrenees Mountains to reach our next destination, Vinça, France. While the route was beautiful and exciting, we had failed to notice that Chema was an avid motorcycle-touring enthusiast. Clearly, this was a great road for his fully loaded BMW K1200 GT. We made it unscathed, but the transmission and steering got a workout with the lock-to lock hairpin corners.

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