Thursday, October 13, 2016

Castigaleu - Puente de Montañana

GR1 Sendero Historico day 35.
Distance: 24.7km (1016.1km), time spent: 8:38.
Waymarking: Ok in the beginning, then more and more absent.
Weather: Dark and gloomy, rain, fog and thunder.


Dark, bleak, wet and gusty, that was what the weather had in store for me on the walk to Puente de Montañana. I have had bad weather earlier on my hike, but it has not been as dark as it was today. At the time the worst part of the weather hit me, I was forgotten by the waymarks and things did not look bright. When I finally could walk through the doors to Hostal Isidro in Puente de Montañana and feel the warmth throw out the cold and engulf my body, I could look back at an exciting and cool walk. I reached another milestone during the day as well; I have now walked over 1000km so far.

A dark and bleak view from the trail between Castigaleu and Ermita de Sant Antoni.

Today’s morning marks the final farewell to Elena and Carlos, to stall it any further is out of the question. At least in my mind, but the taxi driver seems set upon something else. He is determined to drive me to Monesma instead and even with my little ace hidden up my sleeve, Carlos had a map of the trail that I have taken a picture of, he is adamant. The trail does not exist anymore from Castigaleu. I, on the other hand, are determined to make another attempt on finding the GR1, and if not, take the road around. Help is coming from an unexpected hold, a friend of the taxi driver drives past us and stops for a talk; he explains that the trail should still be there.

The abandoned hamlet Las Badias / Monesma de Benabarre with its dominating church.

With the map as help, it is easier and I quickly find out where I took the wrong way yesterday. And as soon as I am on the correct path, past old stone fences, it turns out that the trail is not as ruined as it has been said. Still, the walk over to Ermita de Sant Antoni takes a long time; the path is quite messy, partly overgrown and at times hard to follow. Given that, it says a great deal that there are more waymarks here than in two previous days combined. A melancholic abandoness rests over the area. The clouds are mercilessly forcing themselves down upon the landscape. After crossing the road beneath the chapel it gets worse, the path becomes even more overgrown and hard to follow. I arrive at the abandoned village Monesma de Benabarre, though it is marked on the signposts and on the map as Las Badias.

Whatever the name of the place is, it is a quite eerie place in this weather. It is creaking from the gate into the small cemetery. Grimly towering above the village underneath the clouds is Tozal de Puyol. Empty windows devoid of life stares down upon me. The priest here must have had a great influence on the few villagers; the church is dominating above the hamlet as a dark watchtower. When did the last villages walk out of their door, out of the hamlet, a last look back, for then never to return?

Ermita de Santa Baldesca at the top of Tozal de Puyol, Castell de Monesma is barely visible through the clouds in the background.

The sandy flanks below Tozal de Puyol makes it hard to walk, the sand is sticking to the shoes, they become heavy and the trail itself seems to sink down into the sand in the same way. The numerous forsaken farms, all in a varying degree of decay, never stops to catch my eyes. Dry, dust clad bushes clinging on to the sand, gives the sand dunes an unusual colour hue. I cannot keep myself from doing it, throughout this day I have argued against myself if I shall climb up to Castell de Monesma above or not, I win the discussion and hides the backpack underneath a large stone and start the climb up.

View from Castell de Monesma, Puyol / Sarroca de Monesma below.

The low-lying clouds are floating just high enough above the top of Tozal de Puyol so that I get a view of the surrounding area, although it is slightly gloomy. Torre de Luzás is barely discernible. I have just enough time to look at the tiny church at the top, Ermita de Santa Baldesca, and the fallen remains of the castle, before the clouds descends. The church is locked, but when I sneak my camera in underneath the (dørglippen), the picture reveals that the interior is still intact, the walls are painted white above and blue below. Of the tower, it is almost only the foundation that is left, but you could climb up in it to expand the horizon around a little bit.

Through the clouds, windows to the outside world appears and disappears, but the Pyrenees to the north is always hidden from me. It is a sour weather and indications of rain in the air. Again I have to ask why the trail does not go over the top and instead goes around it on a path that is hard to find, the visit to the top is well worth the effort. And it should not be too difficult to make a path up from Monesma de Benabarre / Las Badias, if it does not already exist. I took the hard way up, an easier way would be to walk up from the ruins of Sarroca de Monesma (or Puyol), which are visible from the remains of the castle. This was a great detour.

The ruins of the village Puyol / Sarroca de Monesma.

Most of Sarroca de Monesma / Puyol is in ruins, dilapidated houses still standing, but even so, there is a car parked outside one of the houses. Returning to the waymarking, after Sarroca de Monesma is it just as dilapidated as the ruins, but here is the guidebook by John Hayes a great asset. The route is leaving the gravel road coming from the village next to a shrine standing next to the gravel road, a red and white blaze does not show up until later. Quickly done walking the wrong way here and continuing in a direction towards an unknown place. On the proper way, I come to another chapel that is situated far away (allferdsvei), Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Palleroa. In the horizon, I can now see below the clouds the contours of what is awaiting me as a highlight tomorrow, there is a distinct rift in the ridge. I eat lunch in shelter for the rain underneath the entrance to the church.

Armita de la Palleroa, I had lunch sheltered underneath the entrance.

The weather then goes from wet to worse when the trail leaves me with just a thanks and farewell. I stand in the middle of a field and stupid as I was, I did not ask the farmer that just stopped by and said hello, about where the trail was going. I stand in the middle of a field under increasing rain and has nothing to go after to find the way from here. In the horizon, it is becoming considerably darker and I start to become anxious, I find no signs of any path further. Have I walked completely wrong? After a while, after going around the field and surrounding vegetation, I fortunately and quite accidentally find a waymark and after some more nervous pathfinding, I have located where the path continues. For a while, I envisioned that I had to follow the overgrown valley bottom down, through an undefined terrain.

It does not however become any better after having located the path, since the rain is increasing in intensity and it does not take a long time before the first thunderclaps are heard. Again the waymarks disappears into nothingness, into the void, when I am nearby a curious farm, La Móra de Montañana. I go the wrong path, have to return, for then to find out that the trail took another and not obvious way, but where it goes there are suddenly a lot of waymarks (that you do not see before you are at them). It is a little shame, since the bad waymarking are otherwise lessening the experience of the trail somewhat. Because it is cool, you walk on an old paved path with mossy fences of stone.

View from Armita de la Palleroa, the rift that forms the Congost de Mont-Rebei is clear.

The continuing walk is also wonderful. Clouds and rain tear up the landscape. In the horizon, I can see that the landscape is also torn up by sharp ridges that cuts straight across it. And again am I walking on a ridge with a view, on a great path, with (dumpe smell) from the sky. Again am I passing by a deserted farm, a shrine adorned with fresh flowers. And then are the remnants of an old tower, Torre de la Mora, and the Nuestra Señora de Baldós church standing in front on me out on the edge of the ridge, guarding above a historical village. I have arrived at Montañana.

Montañana is a wonder of a forgotten time and place, I forget to notice the rain that is hammering down at my face, I forget that I am cold. The time that I am there is too short to give it the honour it deserves. Going in detail is in no use, you have to experience the place. The way the houses, the towers, the churches are built; by the way the stones that forms them are stabled on top of each other. It is almost as if every single stone has been thoroughly scrutinized to find its proper place in the whole. To walk down through the village is another walk back in time, an experience that as with the mentioned time leaves traces of itself.

The trail to Montañana.

There are still people living here, but it is not many. In the furious rain that is however hard to see, if there are any, they are sitting inside in the heat and are not outside, I walk lonesome down through the small streets. Small streetlights brings some warmth and atmosphere to the surroundings. The path goes down on paved stones from the church and through the village, past another tower, Torre de la Cárcel. On the other side of the small valley lies another small chapel, Ermita de San Juan, and a third tower, Torre de las Eras. A small and lovely bridge carries you over to the last houses in the village.

A shrine next to the path on the way to Montañana.

The rest of the walk to Puente de Montañana goes mostly alongside a road, with the rain whipping me in the face. Towards the end, it is little of the area that interests me, although it could have been a nice walk next to the river at the end. I see Hostal Isidro on the other side of the road and crosses it in haste, goes in through the door and let the heat embrace me.

Montañana.

On days like this, it feels extra good to arrive. To wring off you the wet clothes and hang them up to dry, get a hot shower and then put on dry clothes. With the necessary things done, I walk down to the restaurant and spend the rest of the evening there. In warm surroundings, with some cold beers and a good dinner, get my warmth back. Just relaxing and enjoying the evening, thinking back on a walk that gave me some challenges, but was of the exciting kind at the same time. Outside it is continuing to pour down, other visitors comes and shakes off the rain. These evenings feel extra good.

<- Torre de los MorosÁger ->

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