Thursday, September 29, 2016

Olite - Gallipienzo Antiguo

GR1 Sendero Historico day 21.
Distance: 31.1km (614.1km), time spent: 9:25.
Waymarking: Almost absent until Ujué, improving afterwards, but still lacking.
Weather: Gorgeous.

This was the day when I finally finished walking through the flat landscape of Navarre. And together with the route moving into a more hilly scenery, the waymarking ever so slowly came back to life. Both leaving the flat horizon and the prospects of finding the way more easily was long awaited. As soon as I left the lower part of Navarre behind me and gained altitude, it became a nice walk, where the really beautiful villages I came to was the greatest rewards of the day.

The fields and plains between Olite and Sierra de Ujué in the horizon. On top of the ridge is the Santa Maria church in Ujué a distinct landmark.

It still took some time to be completely finished with the lowlands, which was less exciting. Someone else has also clearly been irritated by the lack of waymarking and done it themselves. I could follow the arrows marked with Ujué that had been painted at almost every intersection. Beyond that, it felt once again like to be walking in the blind. However, to get lost was something that I could look away from; with the sun shining in the sky, the church in Ujué was clearly visible, a more clear navication point hardly existed. If I turn around, I can still see the towers and spires of the Palace of Kings in Olite, which regretfully becomes smaller and smaller.

Canal de Navarra, a 177km long irrigation channel going like a blue river through the landscape.

At Canal de Navarra, I cross a sort of a custom border to the hills that forms the boundary between the flat landscape of northern Navarre and the journey ahead, going first through the Sierra de Ujué. The man-made channel flows through the arid landscape like an invigorating blue river. A 177km long irrigation canal, both loved and hated. It is tempting to jump into the clear water to go for a swim, but the prohibition signs and a clear current counterweights that.

With Sierra de Ujué, I get views and a respite from the usual gravel tracks, up into the hill the trail goes on a path, if you find it that is. In the valley below lies forgotten and abandoned remnants of farms, but also some houses that clings to their existence. Canal de Navarra is breaking up the landscape below like a road coloured blue.

View of Ujué from the top of the ridge.

On top of the ridge, I can look out across a scenery that is markedly different from the flat landscape of the latter days. Going up the hillsides, there are terraces upon terraces. On top of one of these terraced hilltops lies Ujué, a village that was built in the Middle Ages as a defense againts the moors. Dominating in the centre of the village and visible from almost all sides is the church of Santa Maria, which is now a national monument. Ujué is an exceptionally beautiful village.

The Santa Maria church in Ujué, a national monument that is dominating the village.

And it is almost wrong not to spend the rest of the day here, I have to content myself with just a couple of extra hours. Astonishingly enough, the church is open and when walking inside it, it looks almost like there is a church within the church. You cannot miss the contrast between the size of the church and the size of the village. Letting yourself get lost in the narrow streets that winds around below the church is just pleasant. In a small square I find a hospitable bar (El Villal (?)), where I eat lunch out on a terrace. I get a caramel pudding on the house. Afterwards, I visit the church once again.

In Ujué.

Where the GR1 leaves Ujué, lies the ruins of another church, San Miguel. Just the shell of the church remains. Through the empty belfry, I can see the church of Santa Maria. A memorial is erected behind the remnants, next to something similar to a row of Roman columns. From there, the trail continues into an area that almost looks abandoned and may feel remote to some. Shortly after, I go wrong and is chased by imaginary dogs, until I become aware of my mistake and returns.

The ruins of the San Miguel church, the tower of Santa Maria visible through the missing window of the church.

There are some areas that gives the impression of being remote and desolate, although they relatively speaking are not, often in a location quite close to a road or a place. As the area you go through between Ujué and Gallipienzo Antiguo. And yet, it is perhaps the remnants of farms that underlines the feeling, like the houses that nature is about to reclaim, where the trees grows in the middle of the rooms and vegetation takes over both outside and inside. That there are no one else that I meet, just adds more weight to the claim.

The scenery to Gallipienzo Antiguo from Ujué, Gallipienze Antiguo is situated at the end of the ridge going from left to right in the picture.

I arrive at Gallipienzo Antiguo from above and the first thing that greets me is the church dedicated to the Saviour, you can see the top of the church long before you get there. That is the only visible sign of the location of the village, high up on one side of the ravine above the Aragón river. Gallipienzo Antiguo was once a significant village, but now it is a place that is almost abandoned. Arriving from above gives a different experience, watching the village from a bird's perspective. Going down through the streets, I pass by houses and buildings whose previous owners have left them to history.

In the evening, the sun disappear behind the church in Ujué and colors the valley below the bird observatory red, next to lies the ruins of Ermita de la Conception o de la Virgen de la Peña.

An abandoned village, Gallipienzo Antiguo seen from the hill above the village and the church dedicated to the Saviour.

That I am not the only one who thinks it will be exciting to spend the night in a near abandoned village is likely to be one of the reasons why a hotel has emerged here, Heredad Berugu. It looked typically catered towards more exclusive clients, this will be the decidedly most expensive stay on the walk. Regardless of the price, the hotel is nice. Even more exclusively, is the dinner, which is good, but does not merit the price I pay for it. Over 30 euro for two small quiche with salmon and onion, two poached eggs with asparagus and dessert.

Gallipienzo Antiguo in the evening, seen from the path to a bird observatory and the ruins of Ermita de la Conception o de la Virgen de la Peña. The hotel, Heredad Berugu, can be seen down to the right in the picture.

After dinner, when darkness has descended, I go for a walk in the village. This is when the slightly eerie atmosphere of Gallipienzo Antiguo takes shape. With so few villagers left, there are no one to see in the small streets, almost as narrow alleys. Only here and there can I see lights from windows. Occasionally, I can hear the crackling sound from tv's and radios, coming from unidentified places. The street lights blinks and disappears, leaving me in utter darkness, for suddenly turning on again later. Eyes of animals glows in the dark towards you. Perhaps not for those who are afraid of the dark, but I was almost overjoyed.

Evening walkin the empty streets of Gallipienzo Antiguo, almost eerie; moments after taking this picture, the street lights went out.

From fairytale castle to ghost town indeed.

<- OliteSos del Rey Católico ->


  1. Gallipienzo Antiguo is one of my favourite places in Spain

  2. Yes, it is a truly wonderful place, especially walking around the village in the evening was a haunting experience. Glad I have had the experience of visiting it.


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