Sébastien at the GlaGla Race 2022

A journey to the great wall of aragon!

Three days and 60 km of kayaking the turquoise waters of the Spanish wilderness.

The GlaGla Race is the second largest SUP gathering in France with more than 700 participants.
This one-of-a-kind event is held on Lake Annecy in the middle of winter. A brrr-illiant race!

"It's one of those races that you have to do at least once in your life", that's what I had heard about the competition from my friends who had already taken part.
That was all the motivation I needed! I packed my SUP, paddle and clothes and off I went to experience the 2022 GlaGla Race.
After a night spent on a bus, when you get to Talloires, you can't help but say "wow"! You look around with a huge smile on your face and take it all in: beautiful surroundings with a sapphire blue lake and snow-capped mountains in the background... it's simply magical. In the village, the atmosphere is electric, you can try out equipment, there are exhibitors, and you bump into friends from the small world of SUP as you go along.

We can't imagine a holiday without a kayaking adventure these days! It has even become a big part of how we choose a destination. This year we go for northern Spain and more specifically Aragon. The map promises vast expanses of blue and after seeing some photos of turquoise water, we decide to explore a succession of gorges and reservoirs that form a natural border between Aragon and Catalonia, starting at Congost de Monte Rebei. In the same area we also spotted Muralla China de Huesca, a natural Great Wall of China of imposing rocky columns hulking out of the water. It looks nothing short of spectacular... the perfect excuse to spend a few days on the water and thoroughly whetting our appetite for adventure.

And so the planning begins. Scored into the map with a knife, we will be covering 60 km from top to bottom and we intend to spend three days wild camping along the way. The geography of the place is rather chaotic and the banks are steep. So we decide that we will choose our wild camping spots once we get there, as the opportunities arise.

The star of this expedition, our tireless explorer the Itiwit x100, has been broken in over the last year or so on rivers all over France. It is our trusty companion because of its stability and its "open" shape, which means we can take lots of kit with us: pump, two 26L barrels and two 20L dry bags. Fully loaded and with us on board, we weigh in at more than 150 kg, the kayak's maximum capacity, but it can happily take it if we slightly over-inflate the chambers.

Packed in our bags and barrels we have our tent, sleeping bags, inflatable sleeping mats, stove, freeze-dried meals, some fishing gear, plenty of water and sunscreen. Not forgetting paddles and buoyancy aids, a repair kit just in case, and the fins, we load up the car.

Day 1: exploring the congost de monte rebei - ±15 km

After three hours of driving from where we slept for the night, the river finally comes into view. Turbulent and fast flowing, we start to wonder how we will paddle back upstream. We have planned a round trip because we only have one vehicle. We are soon reassured once we see the beginning of the gorge. A picture-perfect setting, a beautiful stretch of calm water sits downstream of the torrent, which brings with it white chalk sediment. This is the place.

Before we can start paddling, we come across our first obstacle: the road to the launch point is closed. So we would have to carry all our gear down for a good kilometre. It's doable, but we are dreading the steep and scorching descent with our fully loaded kayak. Presumably charmed by our rudimentary Spanish, the owner of a nearby kayak hire company offers to open the barrier and take us down in a 4x4!

We load our kayak, another advantage of the compact size of the x100 is that it easily fits inside the vehicle along with all the rest of our gear. Now on a muddy beach, under the blazing sun, we start inflating our craft. We're getting pretty used to it: 3 psi in each chamber, 5 psi for the high-pressure rigid floor, plus a few extra strokes of the pump to make up for the extra weight. It makes for a decent warm-up and we are already sweating, but we made it, we're happy.

A few "muchas gracias" later and we are on the water. Everything is stowed away nicely. The two barrels are at the back and the dry bags fit in the net on the rear deck, along with a few loose items. It's a tight fit but without being a squeeze; the weight is evenly distributed over the whole kayak.

The road quickly disappears out of sight behind us. As there are no other access points further downstream, we are officially heading out into the wilderness.

With the tops of dead trees poking out of the water, we imagine we are floating above and weaving our way through an underwater forest. At this point it is still quite wide, but already very wild.

A little further down, the cliffs start to form and the banks narrow. We are now entering the Congost de Monte Rebei. The cliffs are very close together, vertical above our heads. We are paddling in turquoise water, it's idyllic. We are not alone and we are accompanied by a number of rental kayaks, but we power past these streamlined and rigid craft with disconcerting ease. The x100 surprises us once again, fast despite being fully loaded.

With the day tourists overtaken and pristine blue-green water as far as the eye can see, we begin to scan the banks for a suitable camping spot. The topography we had seen online before we left proves to be correct and as such, given the vertical banks, there is absolutely nowhere to pitch a tent.

We keep going, admiring the vultures nesting in the cliffs, the hikers perched on suspension bridges that zigzag across the cliff faces and the footbridges that suggest another way to discover this natural park. From above, looking straight down, the view is surely just as spectacular.

A little disoriented in the maze of winding gorges, momentarily narrow, then wider, then narrow again, we quickly lose track of time and kilometres. Only GPS is able to give us our approximate location on the map. Our arms are starting to ache, which suggests that a good part of the first day's paddling is done. We decide to push on a little further each time, telling ourselves that around the next bend there will be a less steep slope that will be hospitable enough to spend the night.
After paddling for what feels like about 15 kilometres, we finally reach a small lake. We think we can make out a flat area on the opposite shore so we head straight there!

We discover a peninsula, with large flat beaches covered with fine sand: we couldn't have wished for anything better.

We set up camp, the view is breathtaking, with the southern entrance of the Congost de Monte Rebei in front of us on the opposite side and the outline of the mountain range behind it. There is no sign of civilisation as far as the eye can see, that's it, we are off grid now.

Time for some risotto and then bedtime.

Congost de monte rebei

A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon

Day 2: the great wall of huesca - ±30 km

The next day, after a good night's sleep and a coffee, off we go again! Destination: the Great Wall of Huesca.

Before we get there, we still have a few kilometres of gorge to paddle through and the Canelles Reservoir to cross. We take the small inlet that emerges from our camp spot and off we go. A headwind blows away any remaining cobwebs and helps us get back in the swing of it. We tell ourselves that hopefully this means the wind will be in our favour on the way back!

A little further on, the calm returns and Canelles Reservoir opens up in front of us, we can even see the dam in the distance. We hugely underestimated the size of the lake and it's going to be a long day to reach the Great Wall, which is at the opposite end!

It's midday. We jump in the water to cool off, enjoy the turquoise water and take some pictures. We don't lose sight of our goal and despite the heat, we keep plodding on, paddle stroke after paddle stroke.

The Great Wall finally appears! What a relief! The views make it all worthwhile. It looks like Godzilla's backbone, half buried, both underground and underwater. It's intimidating.

We get to the foot of it and discover that we can go around and pass between some of the jagged teeth.  There are a few little shady coves tucked away, ideal for sheltering from the sun.

It is time for a summit meeting to decide on the next step of our expedition. Even with all the optimism that we put into searching for a new camp spot on the way out, we are forced to admit that yesterday's beach was by far the best option. The only problem is that if we want to go back, we have to paddle back up the 15 kilometres we just came down. We weigh up the pros and cons, and by unanimous decision we vote for our sandy mattress for the night, even if it means paddling a little further.

Exactly where we left it, the wind is still there, and to our dismay it changes direction and is against us for the final five kilometres, enough to finish us off. "Our" beach finally comes into view, and about time too!

This scorching August day brought with it a new problem: we are getting through our water supply much quicker than expected and we are worried that we will only just about have enough to cook that evening and drink the next day. We decide to use the water from the lake, boiled, for cooking and coffee, and to keep the two bottles we have left for the last day.

We arrive at 4 p.m. and we take the opportunity to explore the surroundings of our camp spot, read a book and fish for the evening meal. One catch later and we come over all Masterchef: seared Monte Rebei Black Bass with rice and red peppers à la lake water. Accompanied by a Rioja that was nestled at the bottom of a barrel, we savour the moment.

A stormy sky above us, we get the impression that we are in for a rough night…

We stack our things under the kayak, which we flip over to stop it filling up with rain. We go to sleep with one ear and one eye open. A few minutes later, thunder and lightning wake us up.  The wind is whipping up and the gusts get us worried: we end up unzipping the tent to check our equipment. Our kayak was nowhere to be seen.

Panic stations. At this point, we are 15 km by water from the car and from any houses, or approximately 25 km by land, but the banks are steep, impassable and there is no footpath. Without our kayak, it is starting to look like Robinson Crusoe, Spanish edition.

We run all over the place picking up the barrels, the dishes, everything that has been blown away. It's pitch black apart from the flashes of lightning. The wind is blowing towards the lake, taking our kit away from us, so it's a time trial to save everything we can. We see a barrel floating at the water's edge, we go over to pick it up and we find our ITIWIT x100 there, on the water, wisely tucked away behind a rock. Reminder to self: light a votive candle when we get back.

We take stock, calmly. Almost nothing is missing.

The stormy sky is magnificent, jet black and illuminated with flashes of lightning, one after the other. It is a dry storm, without rain. We would stay to admire it, but a gust of wind quickly calls us to order. Everything is piled up behind the tent, somewhat sheltered. We tie up the upturned kayak, which we even weigh down with a few large stones: we're not taking any chances!

The joy of being alone in the wilderness that you feel during the day takes on a whole new meaning once you are caught out in a storm. We regret for a moment not having chosen to sleep at the kayak hire centre's big tourist beach with its easy access to the road…

The great wall of huesca

A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon

Day 3: the return to civilisacion - ±15 km

We drag ourselves out of bed. We didn't sleep a wink all night, worried that the kayak might make a run for it again.

After our adventures last night, we're playing it cooler. Coffee and biscuits, we brush our teeth (with lake water), a semblance of personal hygiene to be presentable for our return among humankind. We also take the time to check the pressure of the kayak, adjust the seats and properly secure the barrels.

A final farewell to our paradise peninsula and off we go again, paddling the first 15-kilometre stretch in the opposite direction this time.

The gorges pass by much faster than on the way out. We set off early and the rental kayaks have not yet invaded the place, making it all the more magical.

Suspended walkways, vultures, submerged trees. We make it back. A painful portage over the kilometre connecting the bank to the car, under a blazing sun, on a steep and stony path. Long enough for us to say to ourselves that we will be back, perhaps this time to explore the trails which must offer breathtaking views of what we explored from below.

When we finally get back to the barrier closing access to the launch point, we are surprised to see forest rangers. They are blocking access to the gorges. We wonder for a moment if it's because the water is contaminated, we think back to our rice and peppers, to our morning coffee.
Eventually the conversation begins after we attempt a few "hola, buenas dias" and we learn that it is in fact the whole area that has been closed off due to a risk of fire following high temperatures (45°C recorded).

Had we arrived just two days later than we did, our adventure would have fallen through. Reminder to self: light a second candle when we get the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, to mark the end of our Aragonese journey.

The return to civilisacion

A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon
A journey to the Great Wall of Aragon

Jordan gamet

Jordan regularly shares his adventures with us in his 2-seater yellow kayak 100+! Want to read another one? Another crazy challenge? Click here ⬇️



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I am a Digital Leader at Itiwit and a water sports enthusiast!
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