Monday, October 3, 2016

Murillo de Gállego - Loarre

GR1 Sendero Historico day 25.
Distance: 19.6km (728.9km), time spent: 7:11.
Waymarking: Good, but followed El Camino Natural de la Comarca de Hoya de Huesca mostly.
Weather: Overcast and dramatic at the beginning, then nice.

Disappointment turned to joy on this day that take me from majestic red cliffs to a monumental castle from the Middle Ages. I also feel an additional tension in my body, since the section of the trail that I have most eagerly anticipated is ahead of me. Murillo de Gállego marks the beginning of a long line of days with beautiful landscapes, but most of all, an unforgettable series of abandoned villages. I do not pray for rain. The day would also offer some drama that did not originated from the historical jewels along the current route.

Dramatic view from Murillo de Gállego. The GR1 goes up through the gorge in the middle of the picture. To the right you can see Torre de Marcuello.

In the morning however, I was not that happy when I walked out of the door. The sky was no longer open, instead dark and sombre clouds had closed the door. It was dramatic and cool, but still I was a notch disappointed. Above Mallos de Riglos, the clouds drifts quickly over the cliffs, with sudden sunrays that appears and focuses light at chosen spots. In the horizon, the Torre de Marcuello now squints towards me like a gloomy dark tower, which could fit right into The Lord Of The Rings, only missing a red light from its windows high up there.

Riglos beneath the red cliffs of the Mallos de Riglos.

In Riglos, you get close to the cliffs, they leans over you. It is not hard to understand that this is a very popular location for climbers; I can already see some small figures up in them. On the way to the village, my left leg again made some noise, so I feel it necessary to take a timeout in the bar. The Clash feels irritating in my mind at the moment. To give up when I am about to enter what almost may be called the main part of the trail, is really not an option, and now the clouds has begun to loosen up its embrace.

Walk beneath the Aguja Roja cliffs, the GR1 disappears into the gorge at the end.

The road goes ever on; I leave Riglos with its cosy houses and astonishing location behind. The route ahead is no less astonishing, it rises slowly upwards underneath Aguja Roja and ends in a gorge further up. My mood has also lifted significantly, although I really would have loved to see the cliffs illuminated in all its red glory up close. The cliffs are closing in around me, with its layered formations above. When you have climbed up from the gorge, you get to Collado de Santo Roman. And now the blue sky is almost outnumbering the cloudy sky, without me being able to see the Pyrenees as I have been promised.

View down through the gorge towards Mallos de Riglos.

Wandering above, I can now look down through the gorge towards Riglos and Mallos de Riglos, still it is onwards that my eyes are fixed. Out on the tip of an arm lies the ruins of Torre de Marcuello and Ermita de San Miguel. From a distance, the tower looks complete, but from the side you see that it is actually just one of the walls that still stands upright. Stretched out across the view below lies the flatter area known as Hoya de Huesca. Above the remains of this part of Sancho Garces I's defence line, a blue sky has finally taken over.

View from Torre de Marcuello, further back we can see Murillo de Gállego.

There are benches to sit on at the viewing point below, I fish up the baguette that I bought in Riglos from my backpack and eat lunch. The tent I have put up next to the chapel to dry, in the powerful wind it quickly dries; at a time, I wonder if it will blow away. To spend the night in the tent here would have been awesome, even though I probably would not get any sleep. A marvellous location.

At this point, the guidebook deviates from the original GR1 and instead chose to follow El Camino Natural de la Comarca de Hoya de Huesca. There is a simple reason for that and I buys the arguments. Where this route keeps the altitude, the GR1 descends from Torre de Marcuello down into the lowlands below to Loarre. This stands in strong opposition to my purist mind, but since I feel that I already have broken it earlier on the walk, I also decides to go the recommended route by the guidebook.

The ruins of Torre de Marcuello with its one remaining wall and the Ermita de San Miguel, seen from the viewing point below.

Why the GR1 is not also staying up in the heights is a good question, something it really should have done. Although I goes away in a small forest for a while, I get good views over the Hoya de Huesca below from this route. Later on, I can see Loarre further away, but Castillo de Loarre most of all. Further behind in the horizon is the peak of Pico Gratal visible. There is a marked path going to the huge castle above Loarre, I consider going there at once, but it feels better to visit the castle without being burdened by the backpack.

Torre de Marcuello with Ermita de San Miguel to the left of it.

In Loarre, everything is closed and quiet, some older villagers sits and dozes on the picnic benches in the middle of the village. In the hotel, it is dark and just as quiet. When I call, I can hear a grunt from the second floor. Nothing indicates that there are many visitors here now, I might be the only one. The stage that lies ahead of me tomorrow will be short, but there are a lot of places around that it is worth spending time to look at. So by my plan, I was to go up to the Castillo de Loarre early tomorrow, but since there is now a clear blue sky above and it is not given that it will be so tomorrow, I chose to get up there today instead.

View over Hoya de Huesca from El Camino Natural de la Comarca de Hoya de Huesca. Loarre is visible and further above to the left lies Castillo de Loarre at the top of some cliffs. All the way back, we can see the summit of Pico Gratal.

In the shower after coming down from the castle, I notice a large red spot on my stomach, the unnecessary warning lights start to blink. Bitten by a tick? A little bit rashly, I ask the guy at the hotel if there is a doctor at the place. Instead, he calls the closest medical centre and describes the spot to them; this becomes the beginning of another small micro adventure. They recommend that I get there. I then becomes driven to Ayerbe by a friend of the person at the hotel. There they quickly ascertain that it is not bite from a tick, great. Instead I get an injection against inflammation and has to go through a lot of forms and questions regarding payment of the visit at the medical centre. I would have been satisfied if they only had told me that it was not a tick-bite.

Castillo de Loarre seen from the route down to Loarre. Pico Gratal in the background.

The guy at the hotel had suggested that I ate dinner in Ayerbe, so I had a deal with the friend to call him when I had finished eating, then he would come and get me. Hospitable done at least. Anyway, the dinner in the restaurant I was recommend was good. Pasta with spinach, chicken fillets with chips, and caramel pudding, a bottle of red wine. After today's walk, the wonderful visit to Castillo de Loarre and all the mess regarding the red spot, I cannot deny that I was quite tired.

A small Roman bridge in Loarre.

Back in Loarre, I get two beers from the hotel employee, who was a really friendly man, which I drank while I relaxed in the hotel room. A fantastic wonderful day with enough drama. If the further walk in this section of the route is as wonderful as this, I can only look forward to the continuation.

<- Murillo de GállegoCastillo de Loarre ->

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