Tag Archives: GR7 Spain

GR7 in Northern Catalunya – king of the castle.

Solsona – Lladurs – Hostal del  Pla.

Getting out of Solsona was pleasanter than getting in. Almost immediately onto tracks by a stream which soon entered woodland. The usual groups of mushroom gatherers were out, one family were just starting and the kids each had a small basket, start them young.

One section of track was on bed rock and a ‘drainage’ channel had been cut down the middle, presumably an important route at one time.

This path brought you out onto the road at a couple of houses named Lladurs on the map.the principal attraction hereabouts is the XI century castle high on a promontory. As my day was short decided to explore. I found a way, not necessarily the correct way, up the very steep hillside only to be confronted by high barbed wire fences. I realised later that these were to prevent visitors who’d come the approved way from straying onto dangerous ground. Utilising some Colditz style crawling I found myself inside, I know that sounds perverse. What a place- the ruined castle and attached chapel have sheer drops on two sides no health and safety barriers or handrails here. I was free to wander at will. And the views!IMG_20141019_123431_307

Lunch was taken in my temporary  eerie. The way  off was straightforward along a grassy track to rejoin the GR7. It was along here that the route ahead up to the mountains became evident.

An old cattle trail brought me to the isolated Hostal del Pla. Across from it were views to white limestone cliffs above conglomerate grey buttesses. Looks as though there must be climbing here, must check in the Lleida guide book when home.

Despite its name the hostal has no accomodation. Forewarned I had arranged a taxi and was back in Solsona in 20 mins. The taxi driver was learning.English using Skype to a tutor in Barcelona.

I had time to wander the narrow lanes of the old town and enjoy a plato combinado in a local bar before an early night.

GR7 in Northern Catalunya – waiting for a miracle.

El Miracle Monastery.

El Miracle Monastery

Su – El Miracle – Solsona.

Yet another beautiful day in prospect, how long can this weather last.

Keep plastering my troublesome, left, little toe up each morning to alleviate the pain, it has never really recovered from my GR70 trip a couple of weeks ago. Still not suitable for public viewing in the raw. Have butchered my insole to try and give it more space. Hoping for a miracle cure – maybe today?

Jpeg
JpegStruggled with the ploughed fields and scambly thickets to get back on route again, don’t know why I retraced last nights mistake. Head high brambles claimed my glasses at one point. I think my concentration was disturbed and I looked for a  track off the road on the left whilst it had been on the right I found out later.

Passing stone crosses on the way  I arrived in El Miracle. This a large sanctuary dating from the 16th century. There is a grand monastery for 5 silent monks, an old church with the most amazing Baroque altar and lots of other religious buildings. Unfortunately the cafe was closed. I spent some time wandering about the place and marveling  at its past grandeur. It is perched on an escarpment with wonderful views of  that Serra de Cadi range.

The walking improved in the afternoon, on small paths through oak woods, past old farms, across ploughed fields and over little brooks. A couple of hours past unnoticed, I was enjoying myself so much. A great stretch downhill on heathland with views to the extensive town of Solsona. Then I got temporarily lost at a worn stone riverbed.  The route through the outskirts of town was not well way marked and I found myself  walking up a busy ring road. Things were safer in the historic centre. The whole place has gone mushroom mad this weekend with displays, markets and fungi inspired menus in all the bars.

My hotel turns out to be an impressive Modernist building on the tourist trail, with prices to match.

Can’t believe this weather, very hot and sunny for October the locals tell me. And it’s set to continue.

Oh and by the way – no miracle toe cure is apparent yet.

GR7 in Northern Catalunya – switchback mountains.

Sant Pere Sallavinera – Sant Pinos – Su.

The discussion in the bar last night wasn’t overenthusiastic regarding a taxi for this am but I was pleasantly relieved when he arrived on time. So I was back in Sant Pere faced with the first steep climb through the woods to reach a col next to the prominent Castle Boixadors. Sant Pinos at 900m is 300m higher than Sant Pere but to reach it I climbed 800m which gives you an idea of the switchback ridges I had to cross. Cars were everywhere on the poor forest tracks, people out collecting mushrooms. Couldn’t believe where some people will take their family saloon. From the next ridge I could see Pinos village and the sanctuary on the hill behind.Sorry about the pictures, I’m using my phone for everthing and it is master of none.

Unfortunately the route was on tarmac which despite being surrounded by beautiful scenery was not the best walking. I did however travel along accompanied by the Travelling Wilburys. The village of Pinos looked interesting, virtually one building of church, castle, and houses combined.. It probably was better viewed from a distance, the climb up to it was a mistake as I lost all the height on the hidden side. It became a slog climbing up to Sant Pinos in the heat of the day.JpegA bonus was a cafe on top, busy with the usual Spanish lunch. However a coffee boosted me for the afternoon. The Serra due Cadi range of mountains is looking closer, still don’t know where I will be going through.Jpeg

Down the other side new tarmac seems to have swallowed up the tracks taken by the GR7. The way marks are also very poor and faded, maybe the two go hand in hand. Eventually enjoyed some woodland trails through oak trees with acorns dropping all around me. The oaks here are diminutive and when young resemble holly, except for the acorns. JpegJpegManaged a bit of off route (ie lost) scrambling and ploughed fields to reach Su. Have an apartment for tonight in an upmarket country house and very smart it turns out to be. The village itself is again all joined up and has only 3 families resident. I was the only resident in the hotel and was duly spoilt.

Su across the pool.

Su across the pool.

It's been a hard day!

It’s been a hard day.

GR7 in Northern Catalunya – follow your nose.

Ref. Mas del Tronc – Sant Pere Sallavinera.

An excellent simple breakfast. People were arriving for a session of  fungi hunting. Overnight specimens pushed their way through the earth. JpegA steep scramble down through the woods brought me back onto forest tracks and the GR way marking. Prominently ahead was the  hilltop tower of St. Marti de Macana backed by the Serra due Cadi range which are to be crossed in 3 or 4 days. They look impressive. The track bypassed St. Marti but took me to the pretty little St. Maria hermitage.Jpeg Close by here I noticed a large boulder with a coffin shaped carved out hollow, learnt later that is precisely what it is and there are more in the area.  ? The dating.Jpeg The rest of the day was simply following the well signed tracks, no need for the map. Easy walking making for fast progress. I strolled into the small hamlet of Sant Pere Sallavinera  (quite a mouthful). No accomodation here, so I was hoping to catch a bus  at 2.30 according to the timetable outside the ‘town hall’ – but the girl inside knew nothing about it. She closed up at one and disappeared. Lunch was taken in the little park, no matter how small a village is in Spain there are good communal facilities, I sometimes wonder who uses them. As a bonus I found an open restaurant and was able to enjoy a coffee, the staff here were unsure of any bus. Came out of the cafe at quarter past and strolled back to the bus stop just as the mini coach came racing through, obviously not expecting any passengers. Managed to stop him and we were in Calaf before half past. Could still have waiting there. Racing coach.NobodyRacing coach.t my hotel,  so looked round the old part of town – a poorly restored castle, the usual large church but more interestingly a multi-arched market square. My hotel room was 1st class but my dinner in a cafe across the road decidedly average.

GR7 in Northern Catalunya – hang onto your hat.

Clariana – Ref. Mas del Tronc. I was up  early as a taxi was booked to take me to Clariana Castle to renew my walk on the GR7. See posts March 2013

A sign set me on the route….

… unexpectedly scrambling down a steep and slippery limestone path. It has been dull and damp here for a few days but the sun is out now and the forecast good. Pleasant lanes led me past scattered farms, there seems to be more barking dogs than humans. Leaving the lanes a path through woods brought me to a natural gap with the old road and now a motorway to cross. Motorways in Spain fill me with navigational dread, often little provision has been made for the walker, give me a mountain top any time. I spotted a fading mark in time and dissapeared under the road. Good walking on woodland tracks took me up to a higher farming area with views up to Rubio castle up the valley and all those wind turbines!JpegI was soon up to the deserted village, there was water and the terrace of the closed restaurant was as good as any for lunch.JpegNow roads not shown on the map threaded through the eerie whirling turbines.Up on the ridge a fierce wind was blowing, they have chosen well!    It certainly  was a case of hang onto your hat, or better still remove it. I had my last view of the Sierra de Montserrat serrated skyline.A well signed  and cleared path dropped down to the  the refuge Mas del Tronc, the dogs gave me a great welcome as did Raquel the guardian.IMG_20141016_090546_248-1

.This building was originally a farm, it was restored in 1969 to be used as refuge.There is a standard dorm and a spacious dining/common room. There is only minimal electricity from a solar panel. It is ironic that the place is surrouned by electric generating turbines. For supper we had a wild mushroom stew, it is to be hoped Raquel knows her fungi. This was followed by fresh figs in yoghurt – delicious. We were the only two but people kept dropping in from nowhere for a chat in this remote spot. Slept for 10 hours.

GR7 in Northern Catalunya – getting there.

Preston  –  Igualada.

Quite a busy day. The M6 was at a crawl  but I managed to escape onto the M57and reach the airport at Liverpool in time. Sneaked into one of the extra leg room seats by the emergency exits.

Luxury for £30.

Luxury for £30.

Despite missing our take off slot we arrived in Barcelona to the new Ryanair fanfare. My plan of catching an early train was somewhat dented by my checked in rucksack not appearing on the carousel. Frantic enquiries at various desks didn’t help. One’s whole trip depends upon your rucksack and its precious contents. The lady at the Ryanair desk came to my aid and located said sack lying somewhere in the docking area, a close one!

Found at last.

Found at last.

Exiting this large airport and locating the shuttle bus isn’t easy, but jumping on to a train with a minute to spare in Placa Espanya made up for it. The journey starts as a busy metro and eventually emerges into the hills north of Barcelona. My destination of Igualada has been visited before on the GR7, I think I had exactly the same hotel room last time. (Posts in March 1913.) Being tired after the journey here I came to the restaurant just after 8pm – of course being Spain I was the only one eating at this early hour – was becoming busy as I retired to bed.

Early Spanish dining.

Early Spanish dining.

IN BETWEEN.

Recuperated  from the French GR70 trip, my blistered little toe is on the mend, the garden back in some sort of shape and the family checked over.  So what next?   It doesn’t take long to get restless.

The weather has been good and dry until now and I have been tempted to go bouldering again. Started off with an easy hour up at Kemple End one misty morning doing the usual traverses. On arrival in the quarry I often disturb deer but today it was a pair of Barn Owls swooping between the trees like white silhouettes.

A misty Kemple Quarry

A misty Kemple Quarry

Another morning was spent in Crowshaw quarry on a low wall to the left of the main face. Some good problems are emerging here but I need a spotter for my best project.

A sunny Crowshaw Quarry.

A sunny Crowshaw Quarry.

I recently received a video from Robin Mueller highlighting some of the harder problems on that main face, quite an artistic effort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2M1Oc3G-JQ

A couple of visits to Craig Y had me feeling fitter and the big left toe didn’t feel too painful. I caught up with the chat and felt more positive about further climbing. Of course the weather has now taken a turn for the worse, heavy rain most days and Dianne’s forecast is not good…

So out come the sunny Spanish maps and a little planning sees me booked on a flight to Barcelona to hopefully complete my marathon, 2000k, GR7 walk up to Andorra before the snows arrive. I’ve only about 10 more days of walking and I’ve spent a lot of time this last couple of days trying to break them down so that I should have accommodation every night, as I want to avoid carrying camping gear. It’s not been easy as Catalan is the language of this area and my simple Spanish doesn’t seem to get me far over the phone, thank heavens for email and booking.com!  I shall see how successful I’ve been once on the trail. There look to be some interesting Catalan villages and some fairly high mountainous passes to cross. Watch this space.