Thursday 23 June 2016

Being tourists

It's not easy to unwind and slow down after a long distance walk. We are slowly getting the hang of it and have even been swimming - at a beach with a zillion other people. Had to swim in our undies cos we had no togs but no one took a blind bit of notice - there was much more naked flesh on show than we revealed! Talking of naked flesh, after checking in to our hotel in Valencia, we went to our room number 318 and surprised a naked man on our bed! We were told it was a computer error and were promptly upgraded to a better room.

We are enjoying Valencia, especially the old city, and finding our way around. We spent a day at the science complex and watched a fantastic Imax movie and spent ages at the ginormous aquarium.

Today we went to the produce markets and drank the traditional Valencian horchata - a bit like coconut - and ate fartons - a sweet cake. We visited the beautiful Silk Exchange - a Unesco World Heritage site, and the church of San Nicolas with a painted ceiling like the Sistine Chapel. 

And we are loving all the outdoor eating opportunities!

Thursday 16 June 2016

The Mediterranean!!!

We made it!! 1040 kms, 47 walking days, 22.5 kms a day average, total ascent equivalent to climbing Mt Lowry 105 times or 4.4 ascents of Mt Everest from sea level. "Knocked the bastard off". Not too bad for a couple of old codgers.

The Greek ruins at Sant Marti d'Empuries was a lovely finish to the walk. Most impressive ruins on a grand scale.

Truth: everything hurts. Sense of relief. Glad to stop. Really happy to just sit and be tourists for a week. But, we loved it, a fantastic walk and nothing else quite like it. 

Bless our socks that lasted over 1000kms. Bless John Hayes for writing a guidebook in English. Bless Back Country Navigator for the maps. Bless all our amazing trail angels. But most of all bless my constant companion. Not a cross word between us for 1040 kms. Might let it all rip now.....

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Penultimate day - Orriols

Ah-ha,  today we cracked the 1000 km mark! Woo-hoo.

We had a little assistance though. First a taxi to avoid a section between Besalu and Banyoles. From where we were dropped, a flat walk mainly on quiet back roads meant we walked 18 kms pretty fast. The surroundings were quite different - flat fields instead of mountains. Of course there was still the odd pig farm, but the one pictured below didn't smell.

However, we hadn't been able to get accommodation in Orriols and found that the hotel we had booked was 4.7 km away down a major road with lots of fast traffic and no way to avoid it. Then we discovered that there was nothing in Orriols and we wouldn't be able to get a taxi. That's when yet another trail angel, Pila, helped us out by taking us in her car to the hotel. Amazing. We have been helped by so many people, honestly I don't know how we would have managed without the kindness of strangers. 😊

Countdown to the Med! Beautiful Besalu

Our guidebook said that today we left the mountains and started our descent to the coastal plains. So how come straight after breakfast we were climbing the equivalent of Mt Lowry??

An hour or so later we did begin to descend and we actually felt sad to be leaving the high country behind, with its tiny isolated villages, peaceful landscapes and interesting trails.

The track was nice all morning and we crossed a stunning old Roman bridge.

But the afternoon was a shocker. Poor waymarks - no waymarks for large sections - and overgrown tracks. Bring back the mountains!

We finally found our way to Besalu, a town with very much intact medieval origins, rather lovely but full of tourists. We are sitting outside at one of many restaurants surrounding the main square opposite the Monastery of San Pedro. Sipping an ice cold melocoton to which we have become quite addicted. And wondering what on earth we will do with ourselves when we finish the GR1 in 2 days.


Rob was very pleased to know that he was not alone in the tic count. He has had 5, but today was my turn to get 1. Mind you, he is still ahead on wasp stings, he's had 2 on his ankle - I reckon they like his bright red shoes. Between us we have had a few bites from various annoying insects. But only 1 tiny blister in over 900km. And we have both taken a tumble but remained unhurt.

It was a pretty walk today - with an incredibly long descent followed by a long climb up a very rocky track - to the lovely Oix where we are staying in a renovated 15th century house. The stone walls are several feet thick and there are wooden beams everywhere. Lovely.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Potato envy

Rob is very very envious of all the gardens here with their wonderful crops of potatoes. In the photo below are a few spuds growing near the lovely old bridge at Sant Joan de les Abadesses where we managed to get a great bocadillo for our lunch today. The food here in Catalunya is interesting especially when we are just guessing what something is on a menu. Catalan is totally different from Spanish, and we struggle enough with the latter. Rob was really brave and had tripe - I tried not to gag!

Sunday 12 June 2016

Culture shock in Ripoll

The town of Alpens is dotted with imaginative iron sculptures created by a local man. He has now been seconded to work on the famous Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona and has work there until 2026.

The walk to Ripoll was very pleasant, lots of forest tracks and a beautiful high valley with huge old farmsteads. Cooler weather helped with the 2 big climbs. But as we approached Ripoll, our first big city for weeks, it was quite a shock to come across people everywhere, walkers, cyclists, trail bike riders, cars. The noise of traffic was awful!

The monastery in Ripoll was huge,  the main entrance was built in the 12th century and has a number of old testament figures carved into it.