Vilaverd to Mont-ral.
A good nights sleep on the adjustable orthopaedic bed and I was ready for the off. First there was the small matter of breakfast. Carlos, my host thought it highly necessary that I ate well for the day’s walking. There was a healthy bowl of fresh fruit and natural orange juice. Then Carlos gave a demonstration of how to prepare the perfect pa amb tomaquet – toast rubbed with garlic and tomato, dribbled with lots of olive oil and then converted into an entrapan [sandwich] with goats cheese.
This is a Catalan special – I was stuffed and could taste it all day. Followed by coffee, croissants and home made jam! Certainly no need to pack any lunch for what should be a short walk.
Luckily the first 100m walking was only down to the bus stop to catch a bus back to Vilaverd where I would rejoin the GR7.
The bus was busy with chatty women shoppers going down to Reus for the day. Bus fares are very cheap in Spain and the service excellent. Didn’t seem to be anybody about in Vilaverd as I crossed the river onto the original way down valley.
A well constructed limestone path wound between shrubs. Met an old man picking herbs to make country soup, but didn’t stop to enquire which – kicked myself later.In 3k I was crossing the busy road into the small town of La Riba where I found a friendly cafe for a coffee. The day was by now hot and sunny as I started the uphill bits. La Riba has built itself on paper mills established in the 18th century because of a good water supply. You pass many old ones, as well as modern units, as you climb steeply through the town and into the open countryside.
The track gained height and there was a view across the valley to crags of La Riba which I’ve climbed on in the past when visiting the Costa Durada. In fact the next few days will take me past many of the well known crags of the area, memory lane.
Topped up with fresh water at Font Pasqual – “flavour of the rock, pine, lavender and rosemary from the depths of the mountain”
The track now left the forest road and headed straight into the thick, prickly, undergrowth. Seemed to just plough it’s way through on stony ground – not very pleasant at all. There were signs of wild boar activity but unfortunately [or perhaps fortunately] one never see them in the day. Hot and sweaty, with few views.
This was apparently one of the first climbing venues in the Prades mountains, over 50 years ago. There are the remains of rusting bolts and pitons visible, and some of the largest name plaques I’ve ever seen on rock. Suspect a lot of the climbing would have been artificial in those days.
Battling on through the never ending forest I eventually came out at a col onto a forest road which dropped into a valley and a confusion of other rough roads. None of these seemed to fit with the map so I needed to be careful not to miss the faint waymarks at junctions. Came past an isolated holiday house and a handy font somewhere along the way. Didn’t see a soul!
Expected to keep following the forest road out but the path kept heading off into the scrub and re-emerging onto road. I’m fairly sure it was the same rough road all the way and I could have followed it. The day seemed to be getting longer and I was glad to see the church spire on its hill at Mont-ral. Here there was a climbers’ refuge [Refugi Muste Recasens] which I knew was open and it didn’t take long to find it in the small village.
Friendly warden and it looked like I had the dormitory to myself. Rested up and then enjoyed a simple refuge supper of omelette, beans, salad and chips. Just as I was going to retire two young French climbers came in for the night so chatted to them about the climbing in the area. Not a noise in the night.