Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cambrils - Sant Llorenç de Morunys

GR1 Sendero Historico day 40.
Distance: 26.8km (1173.0km), time spent: 8:42.
Waymarking: For the most part good, disappeared before Castell d’Oden.
Weather: Nice at first, then more overcast.

I wake up to the fortieth day on the hike. Think about that! The chilly, but beautiful morning at Puerto de Tarna only a distant memory, days between filled with an endless line of experiences. Both good and bad. Day forty also means that I am getting nearer to the end, which feels a little bit weird.

The small hamlet of Racó, the baroque chapel to the right.

Out from Cambrils, I choose to follow John Hayes’ advice. The original route is supposed to go on a nasty path next to the car road leaving the hamlet. The road should be better, but given how less interesting it is to walk on a road, I wonder about how bad it is on the trail itself. Fortunately, it is a little trafficked road, but I have to follow it for the next 6 kilometres. The view was more exciting in the direction here, than from here.

View from the road, Castell d’Oden is situated on the top of the hill in the middle.

Through the trees on the sides of the road can I see the waymarks of the GR1, but that path does not look that bad. The road passes by above a small hamlet, Racó, with a small baroque chapel. It is first when I go through a tunnel that I get an indication why it would be better to go on the road, to avoid the tunnel and the road, the GR1 descends steeply down a hillside that looks sort of treacherous. The ascent is supposed to be just as bad, but confirm it I cannot, then I had to follow the original route instead.

Ermita de Santa Cecilia with Castell d'Oden above.

Finally I can leave the road and set my feet on the GR1 again, but it is a shortly lived joy. From Oden, the route climbs up in the direction of Castell d’Oden (but not all the way up), by a small farm on the way, the route disappears completely in the scrub. A hint that it probably was ok to take to the road, but now I become frustrated by having to fumble directionless around in the thicket to locate the path. I decide to walk the straightest way up to the ruins, for then trying to relocate the trail afterwards. The route then reappears, out of nowhere.

Castell d'Oden, the guardians at the old castle are now only trees and vegetation.

Castle d’Oden is lying with empty contents inside the remains of its walls on the top of a hill, some very few details of the adornments has survived. In a straight line from the castle, I see the viewpoint I stood on top of yesterday, Mirador de Serra Seca, behind there again, Montsec de Rùbies. That ridge has now followed me in the horizon a long time. It is an improvement of the view today. Below the ruins, lies Ermita de Santa Cecilia.

View from Castell d'Oden, Montsec de Rùbies still in the background.

I am not able to keep the same pace and energy level today as I did yesterday, a simple picture of the difference between waymarking and quality of the surface you walk on, not to forget the 40km from yesterday (or the 1150km in total that I have walked). After the ruins of the castle, the GR1 falls down into a gorge, steep down and up again. The trail later emerges up above several large and mysterious cages, which looks like the huge birdcages from one of the Jurassic Park movies. The cages belongs to Zoo del Pirineu. I hope that the aviaries does not contain any pterodactylus. Instead of flying reptiles, I encounter two large dogs that meets me with fierce gazes. They seem at first threatening, but suddenly changes to behave like we are best of friends. Taking place ahead of me on the route, as if to show me where the way goes, all the time stopping and looking back to check that I go the correct path.

The huge aviaries of Zoo del Pirineu.

Fierce has also the sky started to be, scowling in over the landscape, grey and dark clouds are floating in. Gustier, more wind. Clouds lands and takes off again, temporarily covering up the landscape and the cliffs above me. In the walls of the cliffs there are small holes and openings visible, caves used by the Moors (Coves del Moros). Out of the small hamlet Canalda, I meet again the cyclist from Cambrils, on his way down to look at the chapel in the hamlet.

Dark clouds over the cliffs that houses the Coves del Moros, old caves in the cliffs that the Moors hid in.

If it is only the fatigue that comes into play again, I do not know, but I have not been that thrilled about today’s walk. It has been nice, but it has somewhat just got to that level and stayed there today. When the route leaves Canalda, after first having find the correct way, the most pleasant part of the day begins. First through a small and charming woods, then in a u-turn beneath some cliffs with water running down its sides. In the rainy season, this would have been an even cooler walk, then I would probably have walked inside a small wall of water. Inner most there is a small water source, Font de les Esplugues. Further inside lies Salt del Torrent de la Perdiu, here has the water from a cascade cut itself into the cliffs, but now almost no water runs down the waterfall. In the spring, this would be a great sight. The route continues below the cliff walls, past several caves.

Here the trail goes in a turn underneath the cliffs, when there is more water it will be several cool cascades running down the cliffs.

From Coll de Jou (1470m), the name sounds Pyrenean like, the route goes steeply down on a cumbersome and broad path caused by many rolling stones. I could see Sant Llorenç de Morunys a long way down from the top of the hill, there are about 650 height meters down. In Sant Llorenç de Morunys, I have got a room at Casa Joan, but before I find that, I go for a small beer in a bar in the old town. The hosts at Casa Joan speaks a Spanish dialect that I cannot figure anything out of, nor does any of the Spanish words I know help, but we do manage to find things out in the end.

Salt del Torrent de la Perdiu.

Some places just appear in such a way that they provide a relaxed atmosphere, Sant Llorenç de Morunys is exactly that kind of place. In the middle of the small town lies the old town inside its intact walls that originates from the middle ages. In the afternoon and evening, I sit and relax on the terrace of a local bar. I sit in my t-shirt and thinks it is a nice temperature, but the Spaniards seems to feel it is kind of cold, they sit tightly wrapped inside thick jackets. I eat a good pizza for dinner at a small local pizza place, with an interesting wall painting as backdrop.

It has been a nice day, but not of the most exciting kind, where I believe the highlight of the day actually was the stay here in Sant Llorenç de Morunys.

Sant Llorenç de Morunys.

<- CambrilsSant Lleïr de la Vall d'Ora ->

Monday, October 17, 2016

Massanés - Cambrils

GR1 Sendero Historico day 39.
Distance: 40.6km (1146.2km), time spent: 10:50.
Waymarking: Good, but difficult out of Oliana.
Weather: Overcast, gloomy, atmospheric. Then quite magical.

Today I felt invigorated and rejuvenated, contrary to how I have felt in the last days. I have then felt cumbered down and tired. I surpassed myself today. The plan for today was ready, go to Oliana and eat there, for then to continue walking some more and find a place to camp. I had the tiny chapel of Ermita de Sant Just in my mind. The reason was simple, in the guidebook the walk to Sant Llorenç de Morunys is estimated to take about three days, but by eating into the next stage from Oliana to Cambrils, I could make it in two. If not, one of the days between would probably feel too short.

Looking up above the woods towards Pallerols, which you can see the top of appear above the trees.

The hosts at Masia Massanés have returned in the morning when I wake up, I have slept well. The breakfast is like the dinner, large and good, but this time I do not have to prepare it myself. From Massanés the trail continues downwards and moves from an empty landscape to a drowsy scenery, some more places and farms appear, but the largest are just for small hamlets to count. The drowsy landscape makes the walk a relaxed affair. The route enters beneath a cover of trees and leaves, a forested undulating blanket, gradually upwards. The top of a small hamlet appearing up from the foliage, Pallerols, behind me in the pale and grey horizon, the undulating disk of Montsec de Rùbies vaguely visible.

Looking back above Pallerols, in the background is Montsec de Rùbies still visible.

Up at Pallerols, the clouds are threatening with rain, there has been some drops hanging in the air already. The scenery below lies heavily behind. Pallerols does not consists of many houses, but the buildings are large and massive, almost merged together with the church dedicated to San Esteban. The route has now definitely begun climbing higher up, from the hamlet it continues upwards on a gravel track. In the guidebook, the trail from here is described as tedious, but in my rejuvenated form it feels far from it. I can make long and good strides, to an increasing view for each step.

The walk beneath and around Tossal de Sant Marc is an atmospheric experience, inflicted upon me by the weather. Empty windows guards above the route, forgotten roofs hides between the trees. In the horizon to the south, there are some roads to see, some dammed lakes, but few settlements. The scenery has changed a good deal since I began walking for almost forty days ago, but there is one thing that has not changed, I am still walking alone. Like the scenery around me. An open heath that I enjoy so much walking through, with a route that meanders alongside the mountainsides. When I have walked around the mountain, more and larger places are getting visible, I come down to the village of Peramola, through a lowered and pleasant park.

Path below Tossal de Sant Marc, before the descent to Peramola.

Suddenly there were life, children’s laughter and people around me, in what looks like a nice village. I like the many appearances of water in the village, from the public laundry to something that resembles a canal. Finding the route out of Peramola is however a little bit troublesome, but I appear on the correct way out in the end, to a less interesting walk to Oliana. The sight of the cliffs to the north of me does provide some consolidation on the walk through flat acres however. I have really felt in a better shape today, the kilometres has passed quickly away, the clock is about half past two when I arrive in Oliana. A small town that is stretched out along a busy road, from the quiet times on the trail in the last days, there is a lot of sound to consume.

In Peramola, houses and the bell tower reflected in a canal running through the village.

I feel so revitalized that I change my goal of the day, I decide to try going all the way to Cambrils. So I spend little time sightseeing in Oliana, and honestly enough, the small town does not look that exciting as well. Maybe it would have appeared more charming if the road had been placed outside of it and not noisily through it. I do, however, spend some time eating. A large meal in the first restaurant I walk past, to keep up the energy level for the next 14km. It is not that far a distance to Cambrils from Oliana, but it is mostly climbing all the way. Locating the way from Oliana was not entirely trivial.

Ermita de Sant Just, situated on the top of a ridge.

The weather has begun to diminish when I move up from Oliana; it is as layers upon layers are peeled away from the clouds, without entirely getting through to the blue core behind. A worn sign wishing you welcome to Municipal d’Oden looks more like it is trying to tell you that you are entering a more lonesome area. To Cambrils, the GR1 enters a ridge that rises upwards towards the cliffs to the north. Another aspect when you feel that you have regained your energy is that you get more time to appreciate your surroundings, not lose sight of why you are doing this because you go around having pains. With the exception of the few mentioned places with poor waymarking, this has also been a day where I could let go of the thoughts in my mind about finding the way, focus my attention towards other things and the joy of walking is present to a greater extent. To feel unsure if I am on the correct way and being tired has been the two biggest problems so far on this walk through the more remote areas of Spain.

View from the ridge above Ermita de Sant Just.

Ermita de Sant Just is situated out on the edge of the ridge; I could already see the tiny chapel when I was on the way down to Peramola, which should indicate that the views are good. The door to the chapel is as expected locked, but you can look inside through a small fence in the door, you quickly understand why the door is locked. Inside, it is worn and dilapidated. From Sant Just, the route follows the ridge upwards, on one side you can still look down towards several places, like Oliana and Peramola further away, but on the other side it is empty and lonely. One or two farms. I wander further alone in between, but pass by an elderly couple with their campervan on a bumpy forest track I have to cross; the ascent up alongside the ridge is completely to my taste.

A monument over Tour de France that passed by here in 2010, in the background, you can see the mountains that GR1 goes below later on.

The day turns to late afternoon and evening when I arrive up at a road, where a large cyclist in metal passes by. Tour de France went by in 2010. The sky has begun to assume a reddish hue and the clouds does not have that tight grip around each other anymore. Up through the woods before the road, it was already indications of a magical sky, but up at the viewpoint above the cyclist, Mirador de Serra Seca, it is a heavenly view. Below, a dramatic valley unfolds between two lines of cliffs, Serra dels Obacs and Serra de les Canals. If you follow the line of cliffs, you look straight towards Montsec de Rùbies in the horizon. In the northern cliffs, there are some peculiar rock formations known as Les Encantades.

A magical view from Pla de les Guardies in the afternoon, Montsec de Rùbies still visible in the background when the sun is trying to burn through the clouds.

Further upwards, the trail follows the top of some dome shaped cliffs called Pla de les Guardies. It is slow going, I run out breath, not because I feel out of energy and gets breathless, but because the views takes my breath away. In the sky, the sun is about to burn itself through the layers of clouds. I am whistling satisfied by my decision to walk all the way to Cambrils, I was lucky in that way. I am so happy that I walk straight past where the path takes off steeply down towards Cambrils, and continue for a short walk in the wrong direction on a path that goes up to the top of el Pedró. It has begun to darken when I stand and look down upon Cambrils from the ruins of the castle above, Castell de Cambrils.

View from Pla de les Guardies back towards where the route came from.

When darkness has descended and I am down at the bottom of the valley, I feel tired. Now I feel the forty kilometres in my legs. And to get across the valley to where Bar Fonda Casanova is, at first I does not locate the path, it looks like I have to walk around the valley on a road, but after some guesswork in the dark I manage to find the small path across. I enter into the light of the bar almost overjoyed. Outside, it is now pitch black. I share the guest list with another person, a cyclist.

Castell de Cambrils.

It has been an altogether wonderful day, but truth be told, I would have experienced the magical sky and views if I had camped somewhere on the ridge on the way to Cambrils also. To take longer bite of the route does however feel good. And Bar Fonda Casanova are delivering the goods. They have just one type of beer here, but that goes a long way now. I does not do much in the evening but relaxing and having a larger dinner. Tomorrow day 40 of my walk awaits me, I wonder if the long walk of today has made any mark.

<- MassanèsSant Llorenç de Morunys ->

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hostal Roig - Massanès

GR1 Sendero Historico day 38.
Distance: 25.6km (1105.6km), time spent: 7:50.
Waymarking: Mostly good, but some bad deficiencies.
Weather: Clear blue sky and sunny.

History repeats itself it is said and it took only one day for it to do so. Today’s stage did not appear to have any other purpose than to get you from one place to another, but contained some few horizons that elevated the day somewhat. One of them was Roc de Benavent, where again the trail went underneath the cliffs instead on top of them, with the views that entails.

Hostal Roig, once upon a time a place to sleep for travellers.

Since I had spent the night in an apartment, it felt proper to prepare and eat my breakfast there; the apartment did contain all that I needed of kitchen equipment. It was also quite comfortably to be able to relax inside it yesterday evening with some beers as well. On the way back up again to Hostal Roig and the GR1, it was once again through steep cliffs and turns, the climbers were early up they too. A relatively fun fact, the taxi driver came from the small village Matasolana on the other side down from Hostal Roig, and had lived at the closed antique hostel when he was young. Inside Hostal Roig, there are only a couple of sheep that stares sheepishly at me, no guests.

Montsec de Rùbies.

It is the nice weather that brings the most joy to the start of the day. The trail loses itself in the woods and hills to the west of Montsec de Rùbies for the most part. Montsec de Rùbies can be seen rising up from the ground, almost like someone had cut out a large circle in the ground and pushed down one side of it, like a dish, so that the other side become lifted up. Before that, I had met a nice couple that offered me a cup of coffee when I came strolling past them, on the lookout for where the route hid itself after leaving the road going down from Hostal Roig. Sometimes the waymarks finds it amusing to just turn up after you have passed a junction.

View from Coll de Comiols. To the right, Roc de Benavent with Benavent de la Conca below. In the background, the Pyrenees with some white snowy peaks.

To locate where the trail goes on top of the hill is another guessing game, with a fifty percent chance to pick the correct way, I picked the wrong way. The view is now turned forward and towards the row of cliffs above Benavent de la Conca. After a walk in the woods, past a small chapel and a farm that provides accommodation for educational groups (Centre Casal de Colònies ‘Bon Repòs’), I arrive at a road. Shortly after having followed the road a while, I meet again the Spanish couple (they are driving). I get some more coffee and with me in my backpack, I now carry a bottle of beer as well.

The village of Benavent de la Conca is situated underneath the characteristic cliff called Roc de Benavent.

After the three wonderful, but hard, previous days, this day feels kind of like getting down to earth again. Can walk with lowered shoulders then, this is a day without any expectations. I just walk, content. There is a view at Coll de Comiols, nice, but somewhat less prominent. Snow is still lying on the highest peaks in the Pyrenees. At the pass, I drink the beer I got and eat lunch. From the pass, the GR1 descends down to Benavent de la Conca on a path that does everything it can to hide itself in the vegetation, there is an also path going on top of the cliffs that you can follow.

An eye to the sky in the cliffs of Roc de Benavent.

Here I decides to follow the GR1 and goes down to the village underneath the cliffs, I quickly regret it when I am down, but down under the cliffs there are no path or road back up to the top of them again. Without turning around and going back up to Coll de Comiols. Benavent de la Conca cannot be called anything but sleepy. There is a small hole in the cliffs above, a small peephole to the sky. When the trail decides to climb back up, towards Grau de Moles, it becomes more exciting again. The horizons from Grau de Moles are the best so far, with Montsec de Rùbies the easiest to spot, as it stands out from the rest of the surroundings. In the background, there is also another interesting sight, the gorge that the Congost de Mont-Rebei goes through.

View from Grau de Moles. In the horizon, you can see both Montsec de Rùbies and Montsec d'Ares. All back in the horizon to the right, you can see the rift where Congost de Mont-Rebei is located.

That the GR1 goes below Roc de Benavent and its rocks does not feel like the same great disappointment as the incredible discovery yesterday, but it does not prevent me from thinking that it is another odd choice of trail planning. If it is not so important for you to follow the trail slavishly, in a very purist spirit, I would also here recommend taking the route that goes on top of the cliffs instead of the GR1 below. Also of the simple reason that you do not get any specific reward from the descent and the pursuing climb afterwards, it feels unnecessary. Standing at Grau de Moles, the top of the cliffs looks far more exciting.

A large abandoned farm building in the empty scenery between Grau de Moles and Massanés.

From Grau de Moles, the trail goes down through an empty landscape. It is empty of waymarks also, but here it is relatively easy to pick the correct way through the junctions that appear. The usual ruins of deserted farms adorns the sides of the valley. On the other side of the valley from me, there are also remains of a small chapel, abandoned places that becomes forgotten and vanish. I can see the area that awaits me tomorrow to the east of me. It is a little bit of a walk through the empty scenery here, but it is perhaps the part of the day that I enjoy the most. At the end of the emptiness lies Masia Massanès.

On top of a hill on the other side of the valley, the remnants of a small chapel emerges from the woods.

Isolated on top of a hill, you find this little place. I am the sole guest, in return it is a teeming animal-life outside. Tame, mind you, but still. However, my stay here is anything but what I had expected. It turns out that the hosts has to leave. That I am the only guest may have made it possible for them to do so. In the end, it poses no problems for me. They let me order dinner and everything I want available of drinks, then they lock and drive away, leaving me behind alone. I got everything I need. The entrance to my cosy room is from outside, from the front yard of the place.

The front yard of Masia Massanès.

The dinner is exquisite, but since they have left, I have to heat it up myself when I want to eat. For that, they have opened up a large room that contains a kitchen, which I also can sit and eat inside of. I decided upon a pancake with mushrooms and a great sauce as a starter, deer stew as main course and caramel pudding for dessert. Since I have to heat up the food myself, I do not have to pay full price for the meal. It feels almost, but just almost, like I have made the food myself.

Animals outside Masia Massanès, I was quite charmed by the tiny rabbits.

When it gets too chilly and cold outside, I withdraw into my room. To sit alone up there is a strangely experience. It is very quiet and when I look out into the darkness, there is not much that I can see, there are almost no lights visible. From time to time, there are some low howling from the dogs outside, I take it as a sign that there are some kind of wild animal getting close. What ways and endings this walk brings me to

<- Hostal RoigCambrils ->

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Àger - Hostal Roig

GR1 Sendero Historico day 37.
Distance: 33.0km (1080.0km), time spent: 10:12.
Waymarking: Good, but not always as easy to follow.
Weather: Brilliant.

From an accommodation perspective, the next two days on the trail is difficult, there are no places to stay on the trail until after 55km, in Massanés. And if the small place that offer accommodation there is either closed or fully booked, it becomes even longer. That was however not what occupied my mind on this day, I carried a tent and intended to use it.

Àger, with its large church that has a tiny church on top of itself.

For on this stage, you could get an amazing ridgewalk at the top of Montsec de Rùbies, with brilliant view to all sides. Instead, they have chosen to let the trail disappear into an indistinct forest below the top of the ridge, it is a totally incomprehensible choice. As John Hayes himself writes in his guidebook, when you first has climbed as high up, you want to stay at the height you are at and enjoy the views the ascent has given you.

Àger is situated in the middle of the valley with the same name, Vall d´Àger, and it is not a huge difference between the eastern part of the valley and the western. Which means that the first part of this day’s stage goes in the same pleasant atmosphere as the end of yesterday, but is not the most interesting. I mostly walks and wait for me to arrive at where the ascent begins, which I can see in the horizon, there are not a single cloud in the sky and the mountains forms sharp contours against the blue background. The most interesting with the first part of the day is the large group of people that I meet after L’Amettla de Montsec. It is a walking group, formed by a Dane, which is also hiking the GR1. They meet up once each month and walks a small part of the trail; they probably have enough weekends to look forward to. I get some chocolate of them and has to try drinking red wine from some kind of saddle-bottle, to much amusement from the group.

The ruins of La Pedrera de Meiá.

South of where the climb begins, lies La Baronia de Sant Oïsme, dominated by a large stately house with multiple spires above Panta de Camarasa. The ascent is steep, but rewarding. Small pauses to catch my breath provides me with views back over Vall d´Àger and Montsec d’Ares, which from this side makes the cliffs look far more dominating than from below them. From here, they pushes themselves up from the ground, with uppermost part of the cliff like the edge of a knife. I walk past remains of yet another farm; I have lost count of them.

Climbing up alongside the cliffs, partly on something resembling an old mule track, with exquisite views over Congost de Terradets.

The trails meanders narrowly upwards along the edge of the cliffs. Steep, but also significantly cooler, on one side the slope inclines more and more downwards. Above are the cliffs like small spires. You walk across a large area of scree that feels strangely out of touch, probably caused by La Pedrera de Meiá, an old quarry that is now in ruins. The difference between the first part of the day and this is like night and day, although the last part of the climb to Rùbies seems a little bit like two steps forward and one back.

The abandoned and dilapidated houses of Rùbies with the cliffs of Montsec de Rùbies towering in the background, the trail is going up into the gap to the left above.

Beneath the almost vertical cliffs that the route climbs up into afterwards, lies the ruins of Rùbies, an abandoned hamlet that also gives its name to the ridge I am on my way up into, Montsec de Rùbies. Again, the houses are left behind like fallen monuments over people having lived in a remote place. Oh, the locations they have left. Where no one should believe that anyone would live, and indeed they would not want to do it longer either. The ruins of the small Romanesque church is open, I have carried with me a small Lego-figurine, which I leave behind in the church. It looks like at least one has spent a night here, a rather dusty, mouldy and decaying shelter, a fitting place for a tiny jewel-thief.

Finding the path from Rùbies is a little bit difficult, here too has the waymarks faded like the houses in the hamlet; but after some pathfinding, I manage to find my way. Also on the lookout for the path, I meet a French couple, who are planning to climb in the cliffs above; I do not know which path they really need. It gets steeper. And then suddenly there are two small adorable black goats standing looking at me, weird. When I walk through what is called Portella Blanca, a distinct gash in the rock, I have finally reached the top of the ridge. The climb up as been hard, but great.

Inside the ruined church in Rùbies, for those with very good eyesight, you can see my tiny Lego-thief that stayed behind in the church.

At the top, the view is great, nothing else to expect in this weather, so I should be satisfied. To the north lies a jagged line of mountains, the Pyrenees, there are even snow at some of them, white peaks against the blue backdrop, which blends in with the few existing clouds. From where I stand, the ridge goes undulating upwards, with one side slowly rising, for then to be abruptly cut off. At the edge of the ridge there is a near vertical drop. I have arrived in the middle of the undulating tops of the ridge. Behind me, Montsec d’Ares appears to break even more up from the ground. I walk up to the small top above Portella Blanca, Roca de Migjorn (1465m), and eat my lunch that is served with the great view. I can look down upon the remains of Rùbies.

Two small and cute dwarf-goats (?) met me at the climb up to Portella Blanca.

Even so, there is something entirely wrong about where the GR1 goes from Portella Blanca with its views. For instead of walking up to the top of the ridge, which will give an amazing ridge walk, the trail disappears into the woods below on a forest track. After having struggled up to the top, I want to continue walking with well-earned views, not hidden away inside a forest. It is a disappointing end of a hard climb. Shortly after I have begun walking on the forest track, I do what I should have done at once, finding the first and best way up to the top of the ridge.

So, I will now describe how you turn a disappointing stage of the trail into a wonderful walk, if the weather allow it. If it is bad weather and no visibility, it has little purpose. Instead of following the GR1 into the woods, climb up into the small top that is situated just to the right of where you come up to at Portella Blanca (I did walk up to it for the sake of the views, should have continued walking). From there, you can follow the top of the ridge further, finding the way is simple; there are also visible tracks along the edge. On top of the ridge, you will pass by the top of Tossal de la Torreta and Tossal de Mirapallars. However, it is a little bit cumbersome (but not much) in the gap you have to climb down into and up from before the last mentioned top. From that top, Tossal de Mirapallars, there is a path / track that you can follow back down to the GR1 again (from GR1 there is a signpost pointing the way up to Tossal de Mirapallars). Walking across the ridge, you will get amazing views to all sides. Recommended.

View back towards Vall d´Àger and Montsec d’Ares.

Walking along the edge of the ridge, it is as I am literally screaming ‘this is how it is supposed to be done’. At the top, the landscape is open and to each side there are views far away into the horizons. You are undulating up and down from top to top. That they have not made the GR1 go over here is perhaps the greatest mystery of them all when it comes to route planning. To the south of me, the walls of the cliffs are dropping almost vertically downwards. At the top of Tossal de la Torreta (1676m), there is a small white pillar (trigonometry point?) and a plaque fixed into the ground. There are several places where you can pitch your tent, although it is a little bit too early to stop for the day and where I can find water I do not know, but something is telling me that I should stop here. After a marvellous ridge walk, the time is ebbing out and I walk down to find my way back on the GR1 again.

It must be said, though, that the view does open up later on the forest track and the views towards the north and north-west at least gets better. After a while, I can see the cliffs of the Roc de Benavent, which the trail passes below later. The last long kilometres down to Hostal Roig varies between paths and the forest track. On the way down, I have begun to notice a slight discomfort in my feet again, small jolts from the sides of them. Not good. I have at this time abandoned my plan of camping and down by what once was a hostel for a very long time ago there is now a taxi standing waiting for me.

Montsec de Rúbies seen from Roca de Migjorn, you can see where the forest track that GR1 follows goes, instead of at the top of the ridge.

When I read about Hostal Roig, the first thing I thought about it, was that it was a place of accommodation that had probably closed for a few years back, but it is actually a very long time ago. The place is supposed to be built on top of what once was a village called Montllor (or Montllobar), which is documented to have existed in 1359. The hostel shall also have been in use at the end of the 18th century. At the start of Franco’s period, in 1938, a series of violent and cruel confrontations is said to have happened here. There are clear traces of the soldiers from that time here, and also up at the Castell de Montllor that I passed by on the way down. Now the remains of the houses and yard is used as a sheep enclosure. On the metal gates, someone has sprayed Hostal Roig.

At the top of Montsec de Rubies, an amazing ridge walk, Montsec d’Ares in the background.

Of some reason, I really want to have a proper name of the place that I am walking to, and not going to a place without a name or to an accommodation that can disappear. I am probably a little bit weird in that way. It feels better to say that I have walked to Montllor than Hostal Roig, but after being at and read about the place, I kind of actually like it. Now the name has given a mark to the place.

The taxi ride down to Vilanova de Meià is almost alone worth the additional cost my stupid decision not to camp inflicts on me. The road goes down in hairpin bends between steep cliffs, past the towering cliff Roca dels Arcs, an eldorado for climbers. We drive past several camps, gathering places for climbers. The accommodation in Vilanova de Meià is not a hostel or a hotel, but an apartment for rent. I care not now, a lot of place to rest my weary legs and feet in.

View further along the ridge from Tossal de la Torreta, further away is Tossal de Mirapallars.

I stumble away to a place to eat, led by the taxi driver (who are married to who owns the apartment and runs the local store in the building next to). Clearly also a place inspired by the climbing possibilities in the area, on the wall there is a huge map of all the climbing routes on Roca dels Arcs, it is an impressive number of route to choose from. No climbing for me now, my feet hurts, I am just happy to sit down and relax with some few cold beers, for then to eat a large portion of platos combinados (eggs, patatas, salad and croquetas). A football match is screened on a large TV, I watch it half-heartedly. In my mind, I am still back on the wonderful ridge walk, and wonder why the GR1 does not go there. Not much that has to be done to make what could be a disappointing day, something a lot better.

<- ÀgerMassanés ->

Friday, October 14, 2016

Puente de Montañana - Àger

GR1 Sendero Historico day 36.
Distance: 30.9km (1047.0km), time spent: 9:34.
Waymarking: Very good, except from just after Puente de Montañana.
Weather: Heavy clouds at the start, then it became better and better.

Through a mountain ridge there is a gorge, at its narrowest there are only twenty metres between the walls of the cliffs, at the bottom a turquoise and blue river is running. Carved into one of the cliffs, there is a trail going through the gorge.

There has been (and is) many places on the trail that I truly have looked forward getting to, but there is one stage of the GR1 that I have had the greatest expectations of. This section was also the direct reason why I chose to split the previous stage into two, due to the bad weather forecast. From Puente de Montañana the trail goes through the Congost de Mont-Rebei, a spectacular walk through a gorge known as Noguera-Ribagorçana. At the crack of dawn however, my hope is sinking, rain is pounding hard on the window, the weather outside is awful, I pull the blanket even tighter around my body.

Puente de Montañana, on the other side of the bridge crossing the Río Noguera-Ribagorçana.

Early dawn became a little later in the morning and when I awoke, the rain the relocated itself to another place, probably close by, but fortunately not right above Puente de Montañana anymore. Hostal Isidro gets a good score by me when it comes to the breakfast, a large baguette with cheese and bacon, included in the price for the stay. The weather however, cannot be said to be cheerful when I set forth. Grey and sad, and over the gorge in the south, the clouds are lying as heavily packed together as possible. Yesterday, I did not want to defy the weather to get to see the village, but now before I leave it, I take quick look around, a quietness rests here that has some kind of relaxed feel about it.

Approaching Congost de Mont-Rebei, clouds about to rise, but still lies somewhat dominant down in the gorge. Castell de Girbeta at right.

The cluster of clouds that pushes itself down into the gorge makes me somewhat depressed and downcast, so I walk a while lost in my own heavy thoughts and does not pay any notice that that the trail takes an unexpected change of course. I might just as well have continued on the road I was walking on when I noticed I had taken a wrong turn, the trail entered the road later anyway, after a less rewarding passage through a muddy and dense path. The continuing trail is following the road, announced as a little dull, but it is really not that bad and in the horizon there are things afoot. When I am getting closer to the entrance of the gorge, the clouds are about to lift, and my mood with them.

Entrance of the Congost de Mont-Rebei gorge, Castell de Girbeta up at the right, Ermita de la Mare de Déu del Congost out on the brink below.

The entrance to the Congost de Mont-Rebei are guarded by the ruins of a tower, Castell de Girbeta, and an old and tiny chapel, Ermita de la Mare de Déu del Congost. There is a small wetland area just before the rift, dominated by the sand sediments the river carries with it. When I cross the suspension bridge that leads into the gorge, the clouds has lifted so high that I can see the top of the cliffs, what follows is pure witchcraft of a trail.

As with L’Entremon, the trail through the Congost de Mont-Rebei carved out of the walls of the cliffs on one side of the Noguera-Ribagorçana gorge, only that this route is even more spectacular. If I stand at the edge of the route and look down, I will see a vertical cliff going almost straight down into the turquoise river that runs at the bottom of the gorge. One step out and I will have an unpleasant encounter with the river, but this is still not an exposed route, as long as you do not feel like taking too great chances. In addition, there are safety wires attached innermost in the walls of the cliffs you are walking by, but they really does not have any function. On the other side of the gorge, there is another cliff wall towering, if I look up, I cannot see the top of the cliffs. It is a magical walk. And I have the whole route too myself.

Congost de Mont-Rebei, at its narrowest it is only twenty metres between the walls of the cliffs, the trail is carved out of the cliff.

On the river below, I can see boats going, mainly tourists boats by the look of them, you can hear them a long time before you see them. It is probably a cool thing to do as well, looking up at the cliffs from the bottom and see the people walking on the carved out trail. Underway, you get to a small house also carved out of the cliff, which the trail is passing through, of an uncertain function. At some places, I have to turn and walk back again, just to expand my experience further, but what I really want to do is to turn back when I am finished with the whole section and do the whole walk again. Towards the end of the passage, when the cliffs begins to expand, it turns out the sky has still something to offer. It starts to rain, but fortunately it does not last long. When I am through, I begin to meet other people coming from the opposite direction and I can now hear that there are more people coming from behind.

The Noguera-Ribagorçana gorge with Castell de Girbeta guarding in the background.

Behind me the walls of the cliffs are converging, looking as they are closing in on each other. In the gap between the cliffs, the Castell de Girbeta is guarding over the Congost de Mont-Rebei, the trail is meandering alongside and inside the cliffs. I arrive at a junction, stand still for a while, thinking, and then continue. For then to make sudden stop and turn back again, this is an opportunity that I cannot pass by, although I know that my feet will complain about the added kilometres and the climb that this decision causes. On the other side of the valley can I see an amazing construction, going up a vertical cliff there is a wooden path that practically hangs in ‘loose air’ out from the cliff.

Going vertically up the wall of the cliff there is a suspended wooden path, with Embalse de Canelles below.

To get there, I have to cross Congost de del Siegué on a suspension bridge, then do a relatively steep climb, you actually arrive at the stairs from the top. The suspended stairs are spectacular, it goes in zig-zag down the cliff wall. Maybe not for the faint of heart or fear of heights, but it feels completely safe when I walk down on it. At the bottom, I can look up at the construction, which according to the guidebook is built to provide access for climbers, something I find rather ironic. There is another suspended path like this a little further, but I feel content having climbed this one. Then I climb back up again, repeating the great experience. Back up, I meet two Spaniards, but they just shake hard on their heads when I recommend that they climb down the stairs, instead they just take some nervous steps out on the upper part of the suspended path.

On the way down the suspended wooden path.

Out of the gorge, the GR1 is moving upwards, first through woods, then over an open landscape higher up. The view is great, where Montsec de L’Estall and Montsec d’Ares are separated by Congost de Mont-Rebei, the suspended wooden paths are also well visible on the other side the turquoise water of the Embalse de Canelles. The lake is running almost like a river in zig-zag between mountain ridges that rises up of the water on each side. Out on one of the ridges can I see the contours of the small chapel Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa. Also on this path there is a small section that is carved out of the cliffs. The trail goes steep down and up the valley sides between the ridges, past remote abandoned farms.

View over Embalse de Canelles from the trail after Congost de Mont-Rebei, Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa visible out on the tip of one of the ridges rising up from the lake.

To get out to Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa, you have to scramble over the narrow promontory, which the tiny chapel are perfectly located out on the tip of. The remnants of a small defence tower functions now more like a hug pot for a tree. Just that they have built the chapel out on the tip of the promontory is fascinating in itself. The door is of course closed and here there is also no possibility to get a sneak peek of how the chapel looks like inside.

Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa, located out on the tip of a small promontory.

Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa marks the end of the most exciting part of this stage. From here, you continue walking on a gravel road before coming to Corça, where everything is quiet. The following walk is pleasant, but less interesting given the wonderful experience earlier. Almost the first thing that I notice when I come to Àger, is ‘Bombers’ written on the gates of the fire station, which gives an altogether different association than what it really means. Over me, the weather has changed to clear blue and sunny sky.

In Àger, narrow streets formed by archways beneath the.

In Àger, I get a room in Alberg Vall d’Àger, it is a dormitory, but I get it to myself. It is a quite interesting village, where the old town is characterized by small and narrow streets that leads up to the large church at the top of the hill. The church, both inside and the area around it, is unfortunately closed. Some parts of the streets are formed by small archways underneath the houses in the village. After the wonderful stage of today, one of the absolute best so far, the evening in Àger is a great conclusion to the day.

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