Basa de la Mora (Ibon de Plan) or Lake of the Moorish woman
High up on the slopes of a deep valley, in between the highest mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees; lies a lake that just could be a paradise on earth. Named according to legend, after a Moorish woman; whom lost her way in this unspoilt wilderness. The Basa de la Mora is an enchanting sight; that left me completely relaxed and at peace.
If you never knew of this ethereal place you would struggle to stumble upon it by chance. An important crossing from France to Spain goes through the Bielsa tunnel; and becomes the A-138. It passes the end of the valley where the Cinquenta River meets the grander Rio Cinca. When entering the aptly name village of Lafortunada; look for signs to the Valle de Chistau and follow a wide but quiet road that runs alongside the picturesque Cinquenta River. After a few kilometres a side road climbs to the quiet village of Saravillo. Taking care on the narrow streets and blind corners; pass through the village and look for a car park on the right; called Las Esplandas on Google maps.
I decided to start my ride from Saravillo, because I had left the main road far behind. From the village, the access road up to the lake for tourists begins; with a toll of three euros if you do not fancy the ride. After a hundred metres the fresh tarmac is replaced with well packed gravel surface. A helpful sign is broken but resting peacefully on a hedge; it tells you that there are 14 kilometres of climbing ahead.
Starting at midday in September; I was blessed with a warm day but a gentle sun. Soon leaving the village below me; I easily climbed the gentle gradients and countless hairpin bends. After just a few kilometres I have reached the tree line; where the land becomes so steep, pastures and crop fields are almost impossible.
Passing under the first group of pine trees; the shade cooled the air instantly, which was very welcome as I warmed from the exercise. I always carry two one litre bottles; because hydration is so important to enjoy a longer ride. Yet today, I passed numerous streams and water troughs; if I needed to refill the best energy drink of all!
The gradient is never steep but constant. About halfway up; the track drops in to a side valley; yet soon starts climbing again. The smell of fresh pine, the late summer sun and the glimpses across the Chistau Valley made for a fantastic ride in itself.
The necessary walk
If you have not been counting off the distance on your phone or GPS; you round a corner and come upon a grassy car park and a simple open stone refuge hut. Head behind this refuge and you will see a sign pointing down a steep and rocky path. From here you have a steady 1.5 kilometres of rocky paths and open meadow. For this I would advise against road shoes with cleats and opt for mountain bike or touring shoes, or just a stiff boot or trainer. After crossing an open meadow you are finally rewarded with a view of the lake.
The legend of the lady in the lake
About a thousand years ago; when Christians were driving the Moors from the settlements in these high mountains. A young Moorish woman fled high into the mountains to escape the deadly fighting. Yet sadly, she lost her life to nature; to the cold and thunderstorms that can strike without warning. It is said that ever since her soul lives in the lake; hence the name: Basa de la Mora. On the morning of June the 24th, the festival for Saint John or Sant Juan; she rises from the lake. Yet only good and sinless people can see her!
Come and see the spirit of mother nature
Whether you believe in legends or not; the beauty and tranquillity of nature is there for all to experience. Come prepared, with the right equipment and clothes, food and drink and enjoy. Respect the neighbours of Saravillo as well as mother nature, take care and give way to the wannabe rally drivers on the access road and start early to make the most of your day in paradise.
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