It is one thing to stay a night at a camp site where all the services people usually need are available, and completely other thing to camp on a mountain with thousands of people without any facilities. If it is camping on a mountain in order to watch a bicycle race, it can be a lot of fun. We camped a night on the famous Alto del Angliru near Oviedo, northwest Spain to follow a stage of the Tour of Spain (La Vuelta a España) road cycling race.
The roads leading to the mountain Alto del Angliru close early in the morning of the race day. Spectators who want to drive up to the mountain, rather than walk or cycle, arrive the day before, or even two days earlier. The earlier you arrive, the better place you can secure for your stay.
We drove up the mountain road from the village of La Ara to Angliru the day before the race. Officials were directing traffic, and showed us the area where we should park. It was a large public recreational area at 700 meters / 2300 feet where cows and horses ate grass and left plenty of fertilizer behind.
As we walked around the recreational area and the tiny roads along the slopes, we slowly began to realize how massive the crowds were. There were thousands of motor homes, campers vans and compact cars all over the area.
In the evening, when the news spread that the weather forecast for the next day was rain and wind, some campers left the mountain, and descended to the sheltered lower slopes. In the night, the occasional heavy rain and gusts of wind arrived. There was no shelter for people in tents who had a rough night.
In the morning, the sun and the rain with strong winds took turns at the altitude. It didn’t stop people coming. They had to leave their cars somewhere down in the valley, which meant a long hike or pedaling up the road on a bicycle. Some made it to the top of Angliru (1570 meters / 5150 feet, +6 Celsius on the race day), but most spectators found a place to watch the race somewhere between 8 km to the finish and the top.
Despite the weather and occasionally really crowded road where people moved up and down the mountain, the atmosphere was relaxed, while expecting something exciting, and enjoying the day in the great outdoors.
The nice thing was that the race day ended well. The man who 99% of spectators were hoping would win the race, won it: Alberto Contador.
It was amazing how smoothly traffic flowed down the mountain after the race. Police directed cars to even smaller roads than the main road that leads from La Ara to Angliru (which is so narrow that two vehicles can’t meet in some places). We were directed to a narrow one lane road where a car and a person walking on the side of the road down didn’t always fit on the asphalt at the same time.
If you intend to drive a van, motorhome, RV, or anything larger than a compact car up a mountain road in Spain, you have to be confident you can handle the conditions, occasionally cow path-like roads and surprises that you may encounter.
Another tip for visitors coming from countries where everyone’s personal space is wide: in Spain, people may camp really close to one another and share their thoughts to everyone who happens to be near enough.