Saturday, October 29, 2016

GR1 Sendero Historico

The GR1 - Sendero Histórico is an about 1250km long trail that crosses the northern part of Spain just to the South of the Pyrenees. The trail starts from Puerto de Tarna in the Picos de Europa and ends at the shores of the Mediterranean in Sant Martí d'Empúries. Originally envisioned as a coast to coast walk of Spain, but Asturias and Galicia did not join into the vision since they already had enough routes to administer (it is still fully possible to undertake such a journey, by connecting some small local routes between Oviedo and Puerto de Tarna to the Sendero Histórico and the Camino Primitivo and Finisterre).

Hiking on the trail, you will be brought along the history of Spain from Roman times through the Middle Ages to the civil war. The trail takes you past abandoned villages, desolate areas where remnants of history can be seen in the many castles, forts, ruins, villages and churches you pass by. As well as walking beneath the shadow of the towering Pyrenees to the North with its majestic mountains. In the fall of 2016 I travelled to Spain to walk the among the ghosts on the GR1 Sendero Histórico trail, this is my story from it.

Day    2 (10.09):Collado del Pando - Besande
Day    3 (11.09):Besande - Col Alto de la Varga
Day    4 (12.09):Col Alto de la Varga - Estalaya
Day    5 (13.09):Estalaya - Brañosera
Day    6 (14.09):Brañosera - Reinosa
Day    7 (15.09):Reinosa - Corconte
Day    8 (16.09):Corconte - Pedrosa de Valdeporres
Day    9 (17.09):Pedrosa de Valdeporres - Salazar
Day  10 (18.09):Salazar - Návagos
Day  11 (19.09):Návagos - Bóveda
Day  12 (20.09):Bóveda - Tuesta
Day  13 (21.09):Tuesta - Armiñón
Day  14 (22.09):Armiñón - Alto de Molino
Day  15 (23.09):Alto de Molino - Bernedo
Day  18 (26.09):Los Arcos - Larraga
Day  19 (27.09):Larraga - Olite
Day  20 (28.09):Olite
Day  21 (29.09):Olite - Gallipienzo Antiguo
Day  25 (03.10):Murillo de Gállego - Loarre
Day  25 (03.10):Castillo de Loarre
Day  26 (04.10):Loarre - Bolea
Day  26 (04.10):Ermita de San Cristóbal
Day  27 (05.10):Bolea - Embalse de Arguis
Day  28 (06.10):Embalse de Arguis - Nocito
Day  29 (07.10):Nocito - Paúles de Sarsa
Day  32 (10.10):Salinas de Trillo - Graus
Day  33 (11.10):Graus - Lascuarre
Day  34 (12.10):Lascuarre - Castigaleu
Day  34 (12.10):Torre de los Moros
Day  36 (14.10):Puente de Montañana - Àger
Day  37 (15.10):Àger - Hostal Roig
Day  38 (16.10):Hostal Roig - Massanès
Day  39 (17.10):Massanés - Cambrils
Day  43 (21.10):Gironella - Lluçà
Day  44 (22.10):Lluçà - Ripoll
Day  47 (25.10):Oix - Besalú
Day  48 (26.10):Besalú - Orriols

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Orriols - Sant Martí d'Empúries

GR1 Sendero Histórico day 49.
Distance: 25.0km (1429.4km), time spent: 7:50.
Waymarking: Good, with one ugly exception.
Weather: Wonderful.

Of all my walks, this is the most special last day’s morning of them all. When you have walked so far, it is even stranger to know that you have made it. I eat a good breakfast, and make myself ready for the taxi back to Orriols. With a significant difference. Since the trail will carry me back to Camallera, I can leave my backpack behind and the hostess is happy to help. Which means that I can walk the first seven kilometres with a light weight on my back. My feet should be celebrating for that reason. The end of the walk does otherwise fit nicely to the name of the trail, when I arrive in Sant Martí d'Empúries, all my experiences underway will have gone into history. They will dwell around every abandoned village and towers, castles and bridges from the past, like timeless threads wanderers leaves behind.

A pink red sky over the Pyrenees to the north in the morning in Camallera.

Less heavy on my back, I am back in Orriols. The route leaves the village underneath a small underpass; there are markings of a Camino here also. Yet another unknown one, there are Caminos all over Spain, almost as if any decent village here should have one going through it. The GR1 however, continues further in a rural scenery, which also here is interrupted by a highway, but this time you can walk under it. Then a lesser road is crossed, where the signpost afterwards tells me that GR1 is following the road southwards, but I detect that there is something amiss. After looking in the guidebook, I follow the forest track leading west instead. That it turns out to be the correct way makes me surprised anyway. To Camallera, the trail is similar to yesterday, but is now lighter and brighter at heart. The village is larger than I first believed it to be.

Out from Orriols.

After retrieving my backpack and had a break with some refreshment, and some simple food, I start out on the last part of the walk with all of my equipment back on my back again. I find it odd how different the scenery appear here, according to what it did on yesterday’s walk from Banyoles. It has not changed in any spectacular way; the view does not offer any new surprises. Still a landscape consisting of woods and plains. Only more pleasant perhaps. The tiny hamlet of Pins is barely noticeable when you walk through it.

A shepherd with his flock of sheep outside Camallera, the bell tower to the church in the village in the background.

In the lowlands, even small hills become tall and from a ridge the horizons forms a special view. To the north, I can now see the Pyrenees again, gradually sinking downwards. To the east lies the ocean, the Mediterranean. My goal is in sight, somewhere at the shores of the ocean lies Sant Martí d'Empúries. I am rather excited on the short walk across the small ridge, before the route crawls further towards a short reunion with familiar mistakes on the trail.

I walk wrong, does not see the waymarks pointing away from the forest track to a less inconspicuous path, quite possible there were no waymarks doing so either. It is not an unknown phenomenon on the GR1. The result is however just as before. Map, route description and what I see does not match each other. The forest track forms a junction, and there is nothing indicating which exit I shall take. Back and forth is just as long, several times. I get some help in the bar of a shooting range in the end of one of the exits. What quiet there is, is broken by the sound of shots on the way back to GR1.

The church in Camallera, notice the drawing of a church outside the doors of the church.

Last day of a long distance walk is always something of a paradox, especially one of this distance, on one side you are happy to be finished. On the other side, you actually wants to continue walking, to keep the adventure going, not coming out of the rhythm and life one has got accustomed to. The wish to see what awaits you around the next corner. Discover the unknown close by. One thing that is now unknown however, is that I am nearing the end. Even the hills flatlines eventually. Vegetation gradually changes to resemble what we associate with the landscape around the Mediterranean. The smell of it also changes. Yesterday can in that way, be said to exist in the no man’s land between the high country and the lowlands. The Pyrenees becomes more and more clear where the horizon becomes flat towards the horizon to the north of me.

On the trail on the last day, here on the wrong way.

Viladamat is the last place I get to before I will be in Sant Martí d'Empúries. There are no other villages, hamlets or small town to walk through before I stand next to the waves. It is relatively quiet here, as opposite to the road that quickly passes by outside. I order myself a bocadilla in a bar, but have to wait a little; the bread is not ready yet. A large cerveza con limon is a treat that I feel I can lavish myself with now. Four kilometres left, considerably more behind me. My father, Jan, has now already arrived, but he has escaped to walk almost across the whole of Spain to get there.

The sea at last. From the top of a small ridge, I could for the first time behold the blue water of the Mediterranean.

Flat is the word of the last scenery I walk through, but it is not boring flat. I walk past large fields of white flowers, with the mountains where the GR11, HRP and GR10 also enters the last of their tracks in the background. A small snake worms across the trail. Today, my feet has not bothered me, luckily, but then again I have not had to carry my backpack for so very long on my last day. Still, I do look a little bit longingly backwards, when I walk unto the road towards the Bay of Roses.

Painted tiles on a wall in Viladamat.

Here the trees and vegetation seems almost strange to me when I arrive, so different they are from the landscape that I have passed through. From the limestone mountains in Picos de Europa to the blue wave crests of the Mediterranean. Another world. I am at the end of the road. In front me lies the ocean and there are no longer any way further. The sound of the waves crashes onto the beach. 49 days it took me to walk the GR1. It has been 49 days of toil, pain, joy, boredom, feelings, great experiences, abandoned experiences, ghosts, small experiences, irritation, pride, happiness. It has been an adventure, but now it is over. And another begins.

On the flat coastal plain of Spain. Large fields with white flowers and the Pyrenees in the background.

It is still quite strange to walk for so long, without meeting many other people, for then the first person to meet when you arrive is your own father. On the other side, oddly natural. Jan was down at the beach, while waiting for me, when I took my last steps to the edge of the Mediterranean.

In Sant Martí d'Empúries.

I have not walked almost two months and over 1400 kilometres to the Mediterranean and a beach, for then not to bath. That gets to be the last thing I do on the GR1, to swim in the ocean where the trail ends on its journey through the northern Spain to the small village and ruins, Sant Martí d'Empúries. Afterwards, I throw away my hiking pants that so faithfully has been used on all my long walks, now it has done its job, is worn out. It would perhaps have been more proper to do what is done at Finisterre after one has finished a Camino, to burn the pants in a symbolic bonfire, But I do not think it will be as well received here (it is really not so well received there either). The pants goes into the trashcan without any large ceremonies.

Later we go for a walk in the small village and looks at the ruins. Then we sit down for a quick drink, and so to leave the GR1 behind and drive to Cadaques. Now I will have some calm days in Spain together with my dad, but that is another history than Sendero Histórico.

A tired hiker at the end of the walk in Sant Martí d'Empúries and the Mediterranean, 49 days after set forth from Puerto de Tarna. An adventure is over…another begins.

<- Orriols

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Besalú - Orriols

GR1 Sendero Histórico day 48.
Distance: 37.5km (1404.4km), time spent: 9:51.
Waymarking: Bad most of the way.
Weather: Pretty, with lightly veiled clouds.

It is a little bit strange to wake up and know that I have just one night of sleep left until I am finished. To the coast, it is still some 60 kilometres left, but I am anyway determined to make an effort on hurting feet to make it in two days. The reason why I have pushed myself a little more towards the end of my hike is that my father has decided to fly down and meet in Sant Martí d'Empúries when I finish, something I look forward to. Where I will go to today, is a kind of a question mark though. Banyoles is too short a distance, Camallera just about too long, no place available in between. Moreover, I still struggle to pitch my tent too near people. My plans for camping as much as possible on the trail has become a somewhat embarrassing affair.

Besalú, walking on the bridge in the morning on the second to last day.

The good thing about starting early is that I get Besalú all to myself, both the streets and bridge. When the tourists sleeps there is a solitary walker carrying a backpack walking through the narrow streets, while the light in the sky gets brighter and brighter. It is a majestic start on the day, walking across the bridge, with the buildings of the Middle Ages at my back. For then to go wrong, when the waymarks seems just as old and has not stood the test of time. The poor waymarking shall pursue me on this day also.

A farm passing by between Besalú and Serinyà.

Comfortable enough can it be said about the first minutes out of Besalú, if you do not take the wrong turn as I did and followed the GR2 instead. And more confused I get at least, when I at a junction sees the red and white blazed next to both the two other options you can choose from at the junction. Not unexpectedly does I make the wrong decision, again, and faithfully follows the marks until I arrive at a farm with some angry dogs, fortunately leashed, where the marks stop dead. After turning back, the tracks of the trail are erased down by a road, which I decides to follow until I get to an even more trafficked road. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself having to follow that road around almost all the way to Serinyà, but given how much traffic there is on the road, it is a very bad idea. Again, now what?

A small aqueduct of some kind that the route passes underneath on the way out of Serinyà.

Now I walk back again and makes a certified guess where the trail goes. Luckily, I hits the mark. Nothing much is there to be said about the route to Serinyà, it is more tension connected with finding the way than what you see next to what you are trying to find the way to. It is a tension I could have been without. Serinyà has some buildings with a noteworthy architecture, otherwise little. Outside, however, I pass by an area that are housing some prehistoric caves.

Ruins just outside of Banyoles, it is written Patro de Banyoles under the statue.

The continuing trail to Banyoles is if possible even more characterless. Flat fields, alongside trafficked or dusty roads. But from some ruins before the slope leading to the town, there is a nice view over Estany de Banyoles. I do not feel like staying for long in the tourist town, but still manages to throw away a lot of time trying to find an accommodation for the night. I get some help at the local tourist office, but ends up fixing it myself. There is a market in the town, so it is crowded in the centre. I eat lunch before I go, at a café next to the same square with the marked. It is the birthday for a woman working at the café, so I get some additional snacks.

Estany de Banyoles in the colours of the fall, the lake was used for the rowing competitions during the Barcelona Olympics.

The route out of Banyoles takes a meandering course through the town, past a short visit to the church of Santa Maria Turers (14th century) and the monastery of St Stephen. Which is closed, but I feel that I have had my shares of monasteries now, so I does not get very disappointed. The suburbs passes by, and then I am outside, which feels good. Banyoles got too busy to my taste. Finding the way out proved to be strangely less problematic, quite unexpected actually. Hopefully the twenty kilometres ahead of me to Orriols will be more quiet and calm. You do not have to go down to Banyoles really if you do not want to, at Melianta the trail does not passes very far away from where the GR1 goes down to Banyoles. Melianta offers a reminder of Banyoles, being almost like a sleepy suburb to the town, but now the woods are waiting for me.

Windows with glass paintings in the Santa Maria Turers church in Banyoles.

The stage to Orriols is not a great stage of the GR1, but better than the previous one from Besalú. After the scenery earlier on the trail, this is something of a letdown. Worst it is that my feet now hurts all the time. Sharp stabs to the sides. Combined with quite boring walk it makes this day a less memorably experience. The waymarking are at times also not to be trusted too much. A trio of disappointments in other words. What is causing the pain in my feet; I have not got to the bottom of. I have walked a long way and sometimes longer than wanted, but that should not be enough to get these pains. My main assumption it that I have not maintained my hiking boots well enough and those they have stiffened a little bit too much down here. Too much pressure to the sides of my feet.

An unusual view on this stage, between Banyoles and Orriols.

This walk unfortunately goes more on paved road than I had been promised. In between, pungent smells from the nearby cowsheds reaches my nostrils. I could probably have avoided much of the pains and boredom by not making this day longer than 30 kilometres. The day has still not been without any bright spots. Parts of the trail through the woods after Centenys was soothing for the senses. With composed sceneries of comforting woods and hills in between. Towards the end, there is a wonderful light on the sky. The trail crosses a highly trafficked highway, with trailers roaring past. A bad crossing, running over, for one with hurting legs. Orriols is not the biggest of places, still there are narrow gates you have to come through to get into the village. There is a nice church here, San Ginés, and an old castle, now converted to a fashionable hotel, L’Odissea de l’Empordà. Closed for the moment. I am however not to spend the night here. I sit down outside the church and relax, let my aching feet get some deserved rest.

Mushrooms on the trail.

About 7km further on the trail is Camallera, where I have got myself a room at the Pension L’Avi Pep. I have not mind walking there, now. They told me that I could just call and they would arrange a taxi for me. After a short while, it rolls into Orriols, barely through the narrow gates. At Pension L’Avi Pep, I am meet by a friendly and hospitable hostess, I feel welcome. In the afternoon and evening I does not do much other than relaxing in the related bar and restaurant. Football on the tv (Real Madrid), burger, beer. Just to relax feels good. There is a somewhat odd mood in my mind now. Tomorrow, I will be finished, it has been a long hike and now there is just one day left. I was unsure if I would make it all the way.

The route, going on a gravel track, meanders on its way across the lowlands, on the path to Orriols.

It is a little bit sad that the second to last day on the walk became the worst one. This was a very boring walk, with my feet screaming all the time and where parts of the route are so badly marked that I constantly walked and wondered if I was on the correct way. Anyway, I am happy, the Mediterranean awaits.

In Orriols, the church of San Ginés.

<- BesalúSant Martí d'Empúries ->

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Oix - Besalú

GR1 Sendero Historico day 47.
Distance: 24.4km (1366.9km), time spent: 6:55.
Waymarking: Very good to Tortellà, extremely awful afterwards.
Weather: Overcast, some rain, then lighter later.

The clock is ticking towards the end of the hike, there are now not many kilometres left to the waves of the Mediterranean greets me. Today it was not the longest of walks that stood ahead of me, since I was adamant that I would want to experience the Middle Ages in the shape of Besalú on the way, and not just as a stopover underway. I wanted to have both the evening and night at the place. The reason for it was that Besalú competes with Sos del Rey Católico for the title of the best-preserved town from the Middle Ages on the GR1. I care little about which of the two that are the best preserved, but when I read it, it tells me much of what I can expect when I get to the town, I cannot wait to get there. Along the way, the trail took me on a rollercoaster of emotions, where the highlights where at the beginning, and the bottom was reached later.

The conical mountains of L'Alta Garrotxa.

The morning starts as the evening ended yesterday, with rain outside the doors of the accommodation. Breakfast brings properly of food. The Japanese wants to go by taxi to Olot and to Camporodon from there, memories from the GR11 (the trail is on my list). Some will call the weather I venture out into for depressive, they might be correct, but this kind of weather appeals a good deal to the melancholic romantic in me. I can now clearer see the conical mountains around me, with drifting low-lying clouds around them. Less rain when I am on the way, but the clouds and the idea of rain lingers on.

Oix seen from the hills above.

It is however still rain in the air when I leave the road out of Oix, past where the path to Pont Romá d’Oix goes, which I for a short moment considers revisiting. The conical tops behind me, greyed out behind a veil of clouds and rain. Today, I will say farewell to the mountains and descend down to the lower plains near the coast, but at first, the route goes up into wooded hills with sad clouds wandering restlessly between the valleys. The sky is not in such a good mood, but I am. I enjoy this walk through the subdued surroundings. Always a quietness of its own in such weather as this.

A grey and melancholic landscape and sky, on the way from Oix to Pont del Llierca.

Along the route several more of these shrines or idols of saints appears. I become aware of the red berries that I tasted yesterday, berries that I otherwise would have just registered in the passing, but now I become standing and studying them closer. From higher up, I can in the grey view see that the scenery is slowly sinking. The lowland waits.

One of several idols of saints along the route.

After a nice walk over the hills, I come to Pont del Llierca, yet another impressive bridge. In this section of the trail, the bridges has taken over the roles the abandoned village had earlier. You do not find a clearer border between the mountains and the lowlands towards the Mediterranean on this trail. Pont del Llierca is a slender bridge with just one arch that reaches 28 metres over the el Llierca river, three metres wide and 52 metres long. It is a lovely bridge, built on the 14th century. I cross over on the cobblestones and almost at the same time, the route changes to a flatter terrain. Sun looks out only seconds later.

Pont del Llierca seen from down below at the el Llierca river, 28 metres up to the span of the bridge.

I am happy that I took a break in Tortellà, in a local bar with old posters on the walls. For without a refill of energy, I am unsure of how I would have tackled the awful waymarking and continuing trail. From here, the GR1 disappear down into a messy terrain were the waymarks are outright absent. That I was to take an almost overgrown path instead of the more apparent path I was following went right past me and I walk a short distance before I believe that I have to turn. On the overgrown path, there is one faded waymark further in, the last waymark that I will get to see for quite a while. Because the path now becomes more and more impassable and bad, with logging around making it even worse. To walk is a toil, to find the way is even worse. I wonder what they were thinking when the made the trail go down into this travesty. In the end, I give up and hews my way back to the outskirt of Tortellà, where I find out that I have spent a long time on getting a very short distance ahead. Now what?

Pont del Llierca.

By the map in the guidebook, I see that there is a road to the northeast of Tortellà where I can find another road going towards Besalú, which the route joins later. I decide to try to find it, which makes me go a wrong way again, to Sales de Llierca and the Sant Marti de Llierca church. Where I find a map on an information board with an arrow telling me where I am, with that as aid, I find the correct road and so after a long detour and time spent, I am finally back on the GR1. GPS is necessary to hike the trail properly unfortunately. I easily admit that I am somewhat pissed off at this moment.

On the flat plains after the mountains before Tortellà.

And when I am, I usually clench my teeth together extra well and increase my pace. There is anyway little exciting to see on the last part to Besalú. The route goes for a good time next to a highway, before it makes several poor attempts to lead me on the correct way south of the highway. The waymarking here is about as much in ruins as Can Guell, which once must have been a hotel and restaurant. The place has been vandalised by both nature and people. Not a pleasant place to be in the evening and night, I believe.

The amazing bridge in Besalú, Pont de Besalú that crosses the Río Fluvià.

My mood luckily quickly returns when I arrive in Besalú, although I arrived a good deal later than wanted. I have no place to stay, so the first thing I do, in between all the amazement of the buildings I pass, is to walk around to find a place to stay. I spend some at it as well, there are several hotels here (this is a tourist place), but most of those I try is too expensive (a tourist place as said) and the cheap one I knew about is closed for some reason, but it turns out well for tired feet in the end (Hotel3Arcs). This was not entirely true, for the first thing I really did, was to visit the monastery from the year of 977, Monasteri de San Pedro. I thought I had to take advantage of the chance since it was open.

In Besalú in the evening.

Besalú is as Sos del Rey Católico, a small town with an overdose of medieval buildings. The main difference between these two is that there are significantly more tourists here and hence also more souvenir shops. This is probably the only negative thing that I find with the place, but since we are not talking about the most flamboyant appearance of tourists, it matters little. Outside the main tourist season it likely also is.

The monastery of San Pedro.

To go through all there is to see here, I do not have the time for. Below the narrow streets going between the old buildings the Río Fluvià runs, with a small park and green area between the houses and the river. The other second difference is that Besalú is in possession of an absolute amazing bridge, complete with towers that the route across the bridge passes through. To stroll over the bridge is mandatory and will show you the town from another side. You can get lost in the narrow streets, like in a maze, but I am also satisfied by just sitting down and relaxing at one of the several cafés. In front of the monastery of San Pedro, there is a large open square with several restaurants and inside the small streets; there exists lots of pleasant small cafés and bars.

The afternoon and evening in Besalú makes a great remedy for the deplorable experience after Tortellà. The hike from Oix was of the atmospheric kind and all to my liking. Two days left to the ocean.

<- OixOrriols ->

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sant Joan de les Abadesses - Oix

GR1 Sendero Historico day 46.
Distance: 31.1km (1342.5km), time spent: 8:52.
Waymarking: Usually good, but the trail has been rerouted before Sant Pau de Segúries.
Weather: Nice, but a little rain in the evening.

Parque naturel de L’Alta Garrotxa, a name that made my expectations high when it came to the surroundings I would enter after Sant Pau de Segúries. The area is know for its conical mountains, ruins of ancient volcanoes. Expectations are not always kept and today they made an otherwise nice walk feel worse than it actually was. It must be said that my expectations, met with fantasies of fire breathing volcanoes, was founded on wrong grounds. During the day, I also got a shock of an altogether different kind, but it was not lava that stood behind it.

A walk underneath a pastel coloured sky in the morning after Sant Joan de les Abadesses.

Something did not go right when I checked the time table for the bus back to Sant Joan de les Abadesses. For at the time I wanted to go there was no bus leaving Ripoll, but when my taxi drives onto the road out from Ripoll, there is a bus driving in front of it. Wasted money. The morning above the wonderful bridge and small town carries with it a sky full of pastel colours, between the veils of clouds drifting across it, the closest I get to a volcano eruption this day. Anyway, it is a nice start of the walk.

Route crossing an almost dry ford, with stepping logs to walk on when the water runs higher.

Underneath the pastel sky in the beginning, the trail reminds me of the Camino, also here the trail goes down in the valley like out of Ripoll, only that here the road is further away. This enhances the enjoyment along the route considerably. With the exception of when the trail forgot itself and climbed up into the hills before Sant Joan de les Abadesses, the GR1 keeps down in the valley bottom between Ripoll and Sant Pau de Segúries. The trail is follow old thoroughfares, so that is probably the reason, but I must say that my thoughts seeks up towards the mountains at times. Beyond that, it is a pleasant walk past small farms and cultural landmarks. When the sun rises on the sky, the pastel colours are expelled, replaces by a blue colour.

Camino Historico? Parts of the route between Sant Joan de les Abadesses resembled Sant Pau de Segúries the scenery of the Camino.

When I am approaching Sant Pau de Segúries, the trail has been rerouted and creeps up into the hills to the south of the road instead of following the north side of the road further, as described in the guidebook. Confusing at the start, but since it brings me up into a quieter forest than the original trail would have done, it seems like a ok reroute. Sant Pau de Segúries does not appear to rouse my interest from where the route enters the small town, but it does offer me the possibility to get myself a coffee, a coke and something small to eat.

View of La Vall del Bac.

GR1 then continues into L’Alta Garrotxa and La Vall del Bac, the surroundings becomes at once more calm where the nature can breathe more freely. Now there are even more autumnal colours to trace on the trees. You have to walk a little on an empty road in the beginning, but afterwards the route leaves the road for never to return to it (except to cross it once later). It is a tranquil valley, with some few farms here and there, the trail stays down in the valley. Pleasant for the eyes, but also with small hints of boredom.

Dense trees with vines makes it like a jungle down in La Vall del Bac.

Where the path crosses the Riera de la Vall del Bac river, one or more farmers has put up enclosures with electrical fences around. The route passes straight through these fences by gates by unhooking the conductive wires. At one of these gates, I receive a jolt of electricity. As I hook back on the handle, I startle as I feel electricity go through my body, the shock comes out of the blue and is incredible unpleasant. Something is not right about how this fence has been set up, since I was holding the rubber-handle when I got the jolt. Pissed off, I walk on.

At the next gate, I encounter another problem, here the wire is strung up so tight and the hook on the handle bent so much that I am unable to get the handle off. So here I stand frustrated on the wrong side of a conductive fence that will not let me through. Finally, I manage to rip the handle off with the aid of some solid small branches, I sling the crap to the ground, which lies crackling ominously. Even more pissed off than before, I consider letting it lie on the ground and thinks that if I come to another gate I will break it down using branches and trees. Still, unsure how wise it is to leave the conductive handle behind on the ground, I get back to work trying to get it on again. Which I manage after a while, but also here I felt on my hand that there was an electrical current on its way to be formed just before I got it hooked back on. Crap.

A remote farm in a quiet valley as seen from higher up.

If nothing else, I am now wide awake, a lot of tension arrived. The route climbs up from the bottom of the valley with the sun shining through the trees, for then to follow a forest track to Llongarriu. A small hamlet with just a few houses, the usual chapel and three donkeys that eyes me sleepily curious. The trail passes over to some few houses where the road once again is crossed, where I eat lunch at nice stony bench next to a small water source. From there, I walk up into the part of the trail that pleased me most on this day, up into a hill on a clear path with branches and trees hanging above me like a tunnel. With views down to the valley below to small farms in between, and further in the direction of the valley, covered by trees. On the way, I come to a square pillar standing in the middle of the path, an altar dedicated to Sant Isidre.

Walking on a distinct path underneath a tunnel of trees.

Curious sculptures and things in a farm yard meets in in Toralles, in between cliffs the trail continues past enclosed acres and fields. Where the landscape is comfortable, my feet is anything but, on the last part to Oix my feet are screaming loud. Also in the heaven there are changes at large, the otherwise nice weather is now threatened by grey clouds coming over the mountains. Oix is a wonderful small village, but it is quiet in the streets. Hostal de la Rovira is added to the list of great places to stay along the trail, it is a pleasant place with a comfortable atmosphere.

An altar in the woods dedicated to Sant Isidre.

Outside the village there is a bride that I want see and I want to visit it before the sky changes character. Outside, it has suddenly became dark and imminent rain would not be surprising. Pont Romá d’Oix is a thin and high arched bridge from the Middle Ages. According to the myths, the bridge was used by the local baron to parade women about to be married, to decide if he would carry out his right as a feudal lord and hereby get the first night with the bride (I almost wrote bridge here). The dark ages indeed. The bridge however, is a beautiful small bridge (not bride), with the walkway on the top partly covered by green grass. From the top of the bridge, you can look up at a large manor, perhaps where the baron lived once upon a time. In the picture in the guidebook, you can see the mountains in the background, but now it is overgrown around the bridge and little visibility. A small river with little water runs underneath the bridge.

Pont Romá d'Oix.

The rain arrives in the afternoon and evening, a light rain. Despite the ominous clouds, there is never a serious downpour, but given the dark clouds it is nice to sit inside the cosy lounge at the place. Though, I do take me a small walk around the village in the evening, under the illumination from the lights in the street. There are not many guest around the dinner tables, few guests at this time of the year probably, but the dinner is very good. A local dish based on gratinated meat as a starter, salted cutlets as the main dish and cheese with honey as dessert. Also at the place is a Japanese who has earlier hiked the GR11, now he is walking part of the GR1, but are in between jumping between places using buses and taxis. The hostess are challenging us to eat berries from local bush, where eating more than four berries can be dangerous. A nice day, although some of the walk was of the ordinary kind.


<- Sant Joan de les AbadessesBesalú ->

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ripoll - Sant Joan de les Abadesses

GR1 Sendero Historico day 45.
Distance: 14.0km (1311.4km), time spent: 4:11.
Waymarking: Good.
Weather: Modestly overcast.

There are times when you get ideas that just takes a hold of your mind and stays there, until you go ahead and accomplish them. Or leaving behind a disappointing emptiness after itself, if not. This was not a large idea, but it was a good one. It feels wrong not to visit the known monastery here, Monasteri de Santa Maria de Ripoll, now that I am here and has the opportunity. However, the monastery does not open until 10 o’clock. Which means that I will not reach so far when it comes to the walk for today, so now, I am actually gonna do the opposite of yesterday and earlier, I will cut a stage in the guidebook in two, and walk to Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Where there also are a monastery that it is worth visiting.

Inside the monastery of Ripoll, Monasteri de Santa Maria de Ripoll.

In the morning, I wake up too early; it is a small bummer since I have better time available than I think. After a breakfast at the usual bar, I then unfortunately have to wait a while for the monastery to reach its opening hours. The wait is well worth it, this is maybe the nicest monastery I have seen during my walk. The only fly in the ointment is that the entrance, which is said to be impressive, is under maintenance. Flashback to Olite. What strikes me most are the colour tints inside the church, which has an incredible purple hue. The monastery was founded by Wilfred the Hairy (which had everything but hair at his head) in year 880.

The cloister garden in the monastery of Ripoll.

I am also so lucky to get in before a large group of tourists makes you see more of them than of the monastery itself. The two storey’s cloister garden is also very nice, a relaxing place where the surrounding world is closed outside. Unfortunately, you cannot get up into the tower. Above the walls, I can see the hills and mountains around Ripoll. It is also quite special to see the old stone graves in the crypt underneath the monastery. I still have to return back to the church and its illumination and purple toned blackcurrant-coloured walls. Whatever outcome of my decision, I do not regret it so far.

After Ripoll, the GR1 followed a water canal for a while.

When I finally feels the weight of my backpack on my back again and leaves Ripoll (for this time, I count on returning here later today), it is to a feeling that a rhythm has been broken. It feels weird to set out this late. The first part of the walk from Ripoll is quite boring, which goes next to the trafficked road out of the town. To me, the only reason why the trail is going here is that it also goes next to an old water canal. For this could have been a pleasant walk, if it would go down in the valley, next to the canal in autumn colours, only it does do exactly that in a way, but that most of the autumnal colours are coming from the rust on the cars passing by. After a while, the water canal disappears, leaving just the car canal behind.

Up in the hills between Ripoll and Sant Joan de les Abadesses, Ripoll lies down in the valley you can see, but is not visible from here.

The trail follows the road for a time and then it takes off on a route that bears up into the hills and mountains above, to my great joy, the boredom is lessened quite a lot of that reason. The weather above me is indecisively, as if it cannot entirely decide upon whether it shall let the sun come forth or wrap the landscape in clouds. This makes that the upper parts of the mountains above are mainly hidden from me, but anyway it is a pleasant walk upwards. In between, I can see glimpses of them, small windows of temptations that beckons you to leave the trail and climb higher up. There are also hunters out in the embrace of the woods; I encounter some on my way up. Here and there, the familiar sights of lonely farms.

In the hills, with view of the mountains above where the clouds reigns.

On the highest point the trail reaches on this section, I walk among meadows between the trees. There are some points with views of the valley below, I can see the valley where Ripoll is, but the town itself is hidden behind one of the hills rising up from the valley. The path points downwards again, through the woods and past a small settlement, Serra del Pradell. Too short of a stage really, but it may be that it will do me well, I have not walked so far that my feet has started to hurt today. It was relaxing to walk up in the hills, I arrive at Sant Joan de les Abadesses and the wonderful bridge leading over to the small town.

A distinct dirt track up in the hills, before the trail descends towards Sant Joan de les Abadesses.

The monastery in Sant Joan de les Abadesses, carrying the same name as the town, does not open until 16:00. There is however a pumpkin-festival here and with that many happy pumpkins to see in the centre. Many people too. Pumpkins are eaten in plenary. There are dragon-pumpkins and pumpkin-competitions, with several odd variants, the largest one weighs 614,5kg (the record in Spain is 631,6kg), a solid size. The sun is making more use of itself in the sky when I eat lunch at a café next to the monastery.

Sant Joan de les Abadesses with its great bridge leading in to the town.

The monastery here is smaller than the one in Ripoll, and can be traced back to the 12th century. There are no purple glow in the walls in the church here, which is of a more normal shape, and darker inside, which increases the effect of the existing windows. Inside the monastery, there is a small chapel that seizes my attention, with walls and roof resembling a manorial hall. The cloister garden is also smaller, with only one storey, but it is a pleasant and tranquil place with a small green grass in the middle. In addition to the monastery, there is a small museum.

Monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses.

No place to stay for the night here, one place is closed and the other (a youth hostel) does not answer my call, the trail further goes mainly down in the valley and I am not tempted to try finding a campsite there. So I decide to return to Ripoll. While I sit and wait for the bus, a car stops and I get a lift back. This time, back in Ripoll, I go for a room at the Hostal del Ripollés.

Inside a small chapel in the monastery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses.

Since it is Sunday, there are not as many places open as yesterday, it is sleepier out in the streets. Yesterday, I found a place for dinner today, but given that it is Sunday, they do not serve food. It is still a very nice place, so I sit down with a local artisan beer. When I leave, I forget to pay and do not notice it until shortly after, when I return it turns out that they had not noticed that I had walked. I eat dinner at small street food parlor instead, which serves good burgers and other quick small dishes.

There is pumpkin-festival in the small town, here a dragon-pumpkin begins to take shape.

A day of more cultural (some may say more religious, except that I am not religious) activities than hiking, no matter a nice enough day on the walk. I lost some of the headway on the trail, but I will regain it tomorrow, I have decided to walk to Oix then.

<- RipollOix ->

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