Another warm blue sky day by the time we had surfaced and had a decent ‘desayuno’ Finding one’s way out of Spanish villages with all their intricate lanes can be a problem, the GR7 way-marks only reappear on the outskirts. As usual we had the locals shouting and pointing to the correct way. An old lane lead up between the cliffs and on up through a large barranca. It crossed our minds if this route would be passable after heavy rain — but how rare is that?
Coming out onto a plateau of abandoned terraces there were great views back to Vallibona. Can you imagine the activity when all this land was cultivated, I just wonder with all Spain’s [and the rest of Europe] economic woes if there may need to be a resurgence of such labour?
We enjoyed a picnic stop watching several Griffon vultures soaring above us. My photos of these are poor but if you are interested watch — http://vimeo.com /3210466 They are spectacular. Woodland tracks and open hillsides took us on down to the next village of El Boixar. We passed several Chozo which we assumed to be shepherds huts.
As we approached the village there was an obvious change in the weather with low mist coming and going. El Boixar is small and looks run down, the owner of the casa we hope to get for the night is away, and we inquire rather optimistically at the local bar. Toni, the bar owner, takes us up to some rooms in the village and invites us for dinner later. All sorted!
The bar was very small, only half a dozen people live in the village. Nevertheless it was quite lively [half the village population!] when we returned for dinner. We were treated to a lovely meal and lots of local entertainment.
One of the men talking loudly in Spanish turned out to be originally from Darlington, my birthplace!!! What are the chances of that? He had been living and working here for many years and was obviously well assimilated into the local community. Their main topic of conversation was the lack of water as there had been no appreciable rain for two years. We stocked up with food for the next couple of days, i.e. bread, tuna and tomatoes. Several orujos [strong spirit] later we tried to find our way back up through the confusing alleys to our casa.
Next morning everything looked a bit dull, not just us, as we set off along ancient paths through previously cultivated fields. There was an eerie silence to the place. The temperature had dropped and there was moisture in the air. A small village of Fredes [population of 4 but a retreat from Barcelona at weekends] provided a bar for a drink at lunchtime. We went and sat outside to secretly eat our own bocadillos with our beers only for the barmaid to bring us some olives and titbits to accompany our meagre repast. Can you see that happening in England — I just love the Spanish. Carrying about 3litres of water we set off to the Refugio Font Ferrera at 1200m where we hoped to find an open room as there was only a guardian at weekends. The old track took us up through forests below superb unclimbed crags.
By now the mist had descended and we were in a remote world of our own hoping the refuge would appear. We were a little disappointed by the size of it –
This one housed a questionnaire on the GR7 – not many people passing through according to the book. An hour later we stumbled across the real refuge hidden in the the mist and trees.
We were relieved to find an open room at the back with decent sleeping platforms and mattresses. There were even some bottles of water left so we needed to have carried any — still it leaves some for the less fortunate. The Pieman was concerned that we had no candles but I located a switch that provided light!! [Solar panels have arrived in the mountain refuges] The night was foul with wind and heavy rain, but we were as snug as two bugs in a rug.
The only thing disturbing my dreams was what tomorrow would bring ……….
You convey the magic of new discoveries round each bend, interesting people met, and problems solved all of which contribute to the satisfaction of long distance walking. Although day walks are ok they don’t seem to have that extra dimension.
I walked just short of 8 miles on Thursday down the Lancaster Canal from Hest Bank and back – a mundane contrast to your activity. My friend Pete is trying to restrain me from doing downhill until my knee improves, so he devizes these walks on the flat, and continually warns me against going off on my own descending steep Lake District ravines and the like.
Thanks Conrad. There is something unique about multi day walking which draws you in. Far more of an adventure when you don’t really know what’s ahead of you. I suppose the ever changing scenery adds to this sense of anticipation. I’ve found the walking in Spain gives a greater variety than some other areas.
PS. Keep building up the miles on flat and even ground.
I spent a lot of time one year on the same canal tow-paths around Preston whilst recovering fro an ankle break.