Friday, October 14, 2016

Puente de Montañana - Àger

GR1 Sendero Historico day 36.
Distance: 30.9km (1047.0km), time spent: 9:34.
Waymarking: Very good, except from just after Puente de Montañana.
Weather: Heavy clouds at the start, then it became better and better.

Through a mountain ridge there is a gorge, at its narrowest there are only twenty metres between the walls of the cliffs, at the bottom a turquoise and blue river is running. Carved into one of the cliffs, there is a trail going through the gorge.

There has been (and is) many places on the trail that I truly have looked forward getting to, but there is one stage of the GR1 that I have had the greatest expectations of. This section was also the direct reason why I chose to split the previous stage into two, due to the bad weather forecast. From Puente de Montañana the trail goes through the Congost de Mont-Rebei, a spectacular walk through a gorge known as Noguera-Ribagorçana. At the crack of dawn however, my hope is sinking, rain is pounding hard on the window, the weather outside is awful, I pull the blanket even tighter around my body.

Puente de Montañana, on the other side of the bridge crossing the Río Noguera-Ribagorçana.

Early dawn became a little later in the morning and when I awoke, the rain the relocated itself to another place, probably close by, but fortunately not right above Puente de Montañana anymore. Hostal Isidro gets a good score by me when it comes to the breakfast, a large baguette with cheese and bacon, included in the price for the stay. The weather however, cannot be said to be cheerful when I set forth. Grey and sad, and over the gorge in the south, the clouds are lying as heavily packed together as possible. Yesterday, I did not want to defy the weather to get to see the village, but now before I leave it, I take quick look around, a quietness rests here that has some kind of relaxed feel about it.

Approaching Congost de Mont-Rebei, clouds about to rise, but still lies somewhat dominant down in the gorge. Castell de Girbeta at right.

The cluster of clouds that pushes itself down into the gorge makes me somewhat depressed and downcast, so I walk a while lost in my own heavy thoughts and does not pay any notice that that the trail takes an unexpected change of course. I might just as well have continued on the road I was walking on when I noticed I had taken a wrong turn, the trail entered the road later anyway, after a less rewarding passage through a muddy and dense path. The continuing trail is following the road, announced as a little dull, but it is really not that bad and in the horizon there are things afoot. When I am getting closer to the entrance of the gorge, the clouds are about to lift, and my mood with them.

Entrance of the Congost de Mont-Rebei gorge, Castell de Girbeta up at the right, Ermita de la Mare de Déu del Congost out on the brink below.

The entrance to the Congost de Mont-Rebei are guarded by the ruins of a tower, Castell de Girbeta, and an old and tiny chapel, Ermita de la Mare de Déu del Congost. There is a small wetland area just before the rift, dominated by the sand sediments the river carries with it. When I cross the suspension bridge that leads into the gorge, the clouds has lifted so high that I can see the top of the cliffs, what follows is pure witchcraft of a trail.

As with L’Entremon, the trail through the Congost de Mont-Rebei carved out of the walls of the cliffs on one side of the Noguera-Ribagorçana gorge, only that this route is even more spectacular. If I stand at the edge of the route and look down, I will see a vertical cliff going almost straight down into the turquoise river that runs at the bottom of the gorge. One step out and I will have an unpleasant encounter with the river, but this is still not an exposed route, as long as you do not feel like taking too great chances. In addition, there are safety wires attached innermost in the walls of the cliffs you are walking by, but they really does not have any function. On the other side of the gorge, there is another cliff wall towering, if I look up, I cannot see the top of the cliffs. It is a magical walk. And I have the whole route too myself.

Congost de Mont-Rebei, at its narrowest it is only twenty metres between the walls of the cliffs, the trail is carved out of the cliff.

On the river below, I can see boats going, mainly tourists boats by the look of them, you can hear them a long time before you see them. It is probably a cool thing to do as well, looking up at the cliffs from the bottom and see the people walking on the carved out trail. Underway, you get to a small house also carved out of the cliff, which the trail is passing through, of an uncertain function. At some places, I have to turn and walk back again, just to expand my experience further, but what I really want to do is to turn back when I am finished with the whole section and do the whole walk again. Towards the end of the passage, when the cliffs begins to expand, it turns out the sky has still something to offer. It starts to rain, but fortunately it does not last long. When I am through, I begin to meet other people coming from the opposite direction and I can now hear that there are more people coming from behind.

The Noguera-Ribagorçana gorge with Castell de Girbeta guarding in the background.

Behind me the walls of the cliffs are converging, looking as they are closing in on each other. In the gap between the cliffs, the Castell de Girbeta is guarding over the Congost de Mont-Rebei, the trail is meandering alongside and inside the cliffs. I arrive at a junction, stand still for a while, thinking, and then continue. For then to make sudden stop and turn back again, this is an opportunity that I cannot pass by, although I know that my feet will complain about the added kilometres and the climb that this decision causes. On the other side of the valley can I see an amazing construction, going up a vertical cliff there is a wooden path that practically hangs in ‘loose air’ out from the cliff.

Going vertically up the wall of the cliff there is a suspended wooden path, with Embalse de Canelles below.

To get there, I have to cross Congost de del Siegué on a suspension bridge, then do a relatively steep climb, you actually arrive at the stairs from the top. The suspended stairs are spectacular, it goes in zig-zag down the cliff wall. Maybe not for the faint of heart or fear of heights, but it feels completely safe when I walk down on it. At the bottom, I can look up at the construction, which according to the guidebook is built to provide access for climbers, something I find rather ironic. There is another suspended path like this a little further, but I feel content having climbed this one. Then I climb back up again, repeating the great experience. Back up, I meet two Spaniards, but they just shake hard on their heads when I recommend that they climb down the stairs, instead they just take some nervous steps out on the upper part of the suspended path.

On the way down the suspended wooden path.

Out of the gorge, the GR1 is moving upwards, first through woods, then over an open landscape higher up. The view is great, where Montsec de L’Estall and Montsec d’Ares are separated by Congost de Mont-Rebei, the suspended wooden paths are also well visible on the other side the turquoise water of the Embalse de Canelles. The lake is running almost like a river in zig-zag between mountain ridges that rises up of the water on each side. Out on one of the ridges can I see the contours of the small chapel Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa. Also on this path there is a small section that is carved out of the cliffs. The trail goes steep down and up the valley sides between the ridges, past remote abandoned farms.

View over Embalse de Canelles from the trail after Congost de Mont-Rebei, Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa visible out on the tip of one of the ridges rising up from the lake.

To get out to Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa, you have to scramble over the narrow promontory, which the tiny chapel are perfectly located out on the tip of. The remnants of a small defence tower functions now more like a hug pot for a tree. Just that they have built the chapel out on the tip of the promontory is fascinating in itself. The door is of course closed and here there is also no possibility to get a sneak peek of how the chapel looks like inside.

Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa, located out on the tip of a small promontory.

Ermita de Mare de Deu de la Pertusa marks the end of the most exciting part of this stage. From here, you continue walking on a gravel road before coming to Corça, where everything is quiet. The following walk is pleasant, but less interesting given the wonderful experience earlier. Almost the first thing that I notice when I come to Àger, is ‘Bombers’ written on the gates of the fire station, which gives an altogether different association than what it really means. Over me, the weather has changed to clear blue and sunny sky.

In Àger, narrow streets formed by archways beneath the.

In Àger, I get a room in Alberg Vall d’Àger, it is a dormitory, but I get it to myself. It is a quite interesting village, where the old town is characterized by small and narrow streets that leads up to the large church at the top of the hill. The church, both inside and the area around it, is unfortunately closed. Some parts of the streets are formed by small archways underneath the houses in the village. After the wonderful stage of today, one of the absolute best so far, the evening in Àger is a great conclusion to the day.

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