Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Graus - Lascuarre

GR1 Sendero Historico day 33.
Distance: 32.0km (971.0km), time spent: 8:32.
Waymarking: Terrible, misleading and mostly non-existing.
Weather: Wonderful.

Let it be said at once. This was the first day on the hike where the bad waymarking made me loose my temper and at the same time had to resort to find another way to get to my destination. What was supposed to be a ‘short’ twenty kilometres to Lascuarre, for then to walk some further to find a place to camp, became brutally something else. When I in the end arrived at Lascuarre, I had walked over thirty kilometres and was so annoyed and fed up that I had lost all motivation to continue walking.

Basilica de la Virgen de la Peña.

Unfortunately, the signs was there almost from the beginning of. After crossing over a great bridge, Puente de Abajo, just after leaving Graus, I do not see a waymark again until about 3km later. The bridge is ancient, goes over the Río Ésera river and you can get a good picture of the Basilica de la Virgen de la Peña from the bridge. The problem you get when there is such a long distance between the waymarks, is that you do not know how far you have to go before you can expect to see a new and reassuring waymark. Which means that if you take a wrong turn, you may have to actually walk a long way before you can start assuming that you are on the wrong way, and vice versa. More on that later.

Puente de Abajo.

After Puente de Abajo, the route enters a forest on a gravel track, it is unlikely that I am on the wrong way, but I still walk with an uncertainty. Both marked and unmarked paths and tracks leaves the gravel road I am walking on. And so, 3km after I left the previous waymark after the bridge, can I breathe more easily again, when a new and rare waymark appears. Through the trees, the sight of Portaespaña also appears, the abandoned village is situated at the top of a quite circular hill. Here also small walls of stone guides me up to the ruins.

Sunrays filtered through the trees on the way to Portaespaña.

For it is ruins Portaespaña are. Overgrown and less accessible remnants of buildings where people have lived. Where the most of the other deserted villages was located in remote and some desolate areas, this one however is located not far away from a bigger place, something that makes you ask the question why this village was abandoned. Walking in between the ruins provides no answer. That Portaespaña is so close are also making the place not as exciting as the previous ruins. It is still interesting knowing the last time people lived here, 5 in 1960 and when the new year fireworks may have been visible on the sky in 1970 there were no one here to see them.

The ruins of Portaespaña at the top of a hill in the view.

Another wonderful bridge greets me at Capella, with seven arches over the Río Isábena river and everything, but that is all that Capella has to offer for now. I give up trying to get me a café con leche here. Probably should not have done so, to calm the nerves for what was coming.

I cannot know what you think, but I am of the kind that thinks that as long as I do not see any sign telling me to leave the route I am walking on, be it path, gravel track or road, then I continue on the same route until I see a sign telling me to. Unless I know in advance where I have to leave the path. For after Capella, I follow the designated gravel track, there are no waymarks visible. They have disappeared. After a while there are fumes coming out of my ears, I am thoroughly upset, as I have to acknowledge that I have walked 2.5km in the wrong direction. I know that since I cannot go any longer, I am standing in the middle of an acre and there are no way out except where I came from. I have to walk 2.5km annoying steps back again, five wasted kilometres in total. Should I have found out earlier? Probably, but how could I? Read what I wrote earlier, then you understand why.

A farm with the ruins of Portaespaña above.

Almost back at the bridge, I relocate the trail. Or, I do not know, there are no waymarks here telling that this is where the GR1 goes, but it is the only opportunity when the gravel road that I took is not. Should maybe take something of the blame myself, the guidebook do write that I shall follow a dirt trail that goes parallel to the river, the more faint gravel track does so. The more obvious gravel road that I followed, does mainly the same thing.

The seven-arched bridge at Capella.

It happens again after Pociello, a small hamlet, I end up messing around in some fields above it. Back and forth. Guided on the wrong way by some faded marks on the side of a wall, perhaps this where were the trail once went for a long time ago. Pociello is in itself quite interesting. It is a tiny mass of houses standing so close to each other that the space between them form a small entryway as in a small town. The correct route out had passed me by.

Castillo de Lascuarre.

Getting to Lagurarrés poses no problems, which strikes me as odd given the problems so far, where I quite resigned eats lunch. I end up as a tourist in the village when I try to find the way out, not so easy, further complicated by the presence of another GR-trail here. Again the waymarks disappear. Some walking later, I look south, on the top of something that resembles a large rock, I see the ruins of a small fortress. It cannot be anything else but Castillo de Lascuarre, but that does not fit in at all where I was supposed to be located, both by the map and the description in the guidebook. So, across fields and through bush, I stumble up to the fortress. Which is completely taken over by bush, thickets and vegetation. Nothing much that resembles a castle as well.

View of the Pyrenees to the north.

I am definitely ‘lost’ when it comes to the location of the trail now. Walking across one of the acres, there is an older couple walking, I haste over soft earth to ask for directions. After many Spanish words that I do not understand, I have received some kind of description, if I continue crossing over the acre, I will arrive at a path. I follow it downwards as they told me, but then I end up at the place where I saw the castle from. There are markings here for a bike trail, but I have no idea where it goes, it might just as well disappear over the hills to the south of me and over to Benabarre on the other side. If I instead walk in the opposite direction, the location of the ruins become all wrong according to the map and description in the guidebook. Since the castle ends up to the west of me, and not south, and the trail is supposed to go eastwards just south of the castle and then north. After walking back and forth without having got any clues as to where I should go, I give up.

Another u-turn. I get myself down to the road and then follows it directly to Lascuarre, it feels like a small defeat. And it is not fun to walk next to the road either with cars passing by all the time, but next to the road there are at least signposts telling me where to go. I arrive tired and fed up at Lascuarre and walks straight to the bar that I did not know existed. After all this, I need a cold beer. There are about 20km here from Graus, on my GPS, the small digits screams 32km in disbelief. 12km of lost mileage, lost on wrong turns. The bar is run by Oscar, who fronts a great curly grey hair and is great guy, although we do not completely understand each other. He calls Antigua Casa Catones and arranges a room for me. All my motivation to keep on walking has now vanished. The weather are also not going to be good in the forthcoming days.

Old buildings in Lascuarre.

On the bright side, Antigua Casa Catones is truly a wonderful place, as with Casa Bielsa in Salinas de Trillo. In the evening, I go for a walk in the village, which has something worn about it, but contains a certain charm. Many narrow streets and gateways. The church is as usual the dominating building. I have some more beers in the bar, and Oscar makes a gin tonic to me. The evening in Lascuarre is more worth than the walk.

Dinner at Antigua Casa Catones is absolutely fantastic and perhaps the best yet on the hike. For starter, I eat a fried egg with fried potatoes, it is actually extremely juicy. A large salad and a platter with meat, a great sauce and fried potatoes forms the main course. For dessert there are two large cakes that resembles profiteroles.

Small and narrows streets and entryways in Lascuarre.

Today, the total lack of waymarking ruined most of the experience, there are always some days like this on a long walk however. If only the GPS track had worked on my GPS. In addition, the was nothing very exciting about this stage, perhaps the only positive side about it, it was not a magnificent walk that was ruined. And the evening was very nice. These things happens as well.

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