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.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Distracted by donkeys

When we left Lluca this morning after a terrific breakfast, Kin's dog Zorb wanted to come with us.

It rained last night which cooled things down a bit and made a short and easy day even easier. We wandered along happily but when we saw some interesting donkeys we lost our focus and missed a marker. Luckily we soon realised we had gone wrong and turned back, much to the surprise of the donkeys.

Later on our trail we saw cyclists, a horse rider and Rob made friends with some handsome horses.

When we got to Alpens we discovered that we did not have a booking at the hostal. The owner was not renting out rooms for various reasons, but was very helpful and tried to find us a flat nearby, but with no luck. Eventually he said we could stay in his hostal, AND we could have dinner and breakfast! The room is very basic and the water in the shower kept turning off, but we are exceedingly grateful to our host for having us.

BIG mistake in Lluca!

Our hostess Kin said dinner at 9, too late for us, and she offered to make us a simple meal earlier, to which we readily agreed. Then problem with water so couldn't feed us early and we were still in the dining room eating our simple (delicious) meal when other patrons arrive and get fed course after course of the most amazing gourmet dinner we have ever seen which WE could have had!! Rob VERY big grump. Now back in room listening to the happy chatter of the diners below and feeling miffed. Sigh.

Lovely place though and really we are quite happy! Photo is of our comfortable lounge. We are of course the only people staying here.

Nice walk today but stinking hot in afternoon, and track rerouted so gpx trail and our guidebook didn't match the signposts causing much confusion for quite some time....

Friday, 10 June 2016

A day in the life of a long-distance walker

Daylight creeps in to the bedroom. Rob says "Time to get up". Debby says "Noooooo".

We drag ourselves out of bed and bleary-eyed slowly swing in to the put-everything-back-into-the-packs routine; every item has its own particular place.

If it is a long day we make our own breakfast so we can leave early - no one in Spain seems to eat breakfast until 9.00am. But if breakfast is included in our booking then we ask if we can have it at 8.00am so we can hoist packs and leave by 8.30.

We find our trail, lose our trail, flail around in the undergrowth, walk up and down a dirt road looking for waymarks, Debby reads the guidebook instructions yet again,  Rob turns his phone this way and that trying to work out our position. Compass comes out for direction finding.

We find the track, cheer, and plow on. Find some shade and stop for water and a snack mid-morning. Carry on and find some shade and stop for water and a bocadillo about 1. Carry on, grumping about wiggly trails that go around or over hills when they could go straight and moaning about nettles and grass awns and blackberry that snag and scratch and hurt. Have another moan about muddy patches.

Stop for water. Debby slaps on yet more sunscreen. Move on. Stop for water. Take a photo. Move on. Pee stop.

Arrive at pueblo. Hunt high and low for hostal. Check in. Shower/collapse on bed. Drink water. Have some snacks. Clean shoes. Wash socks. Sometimes wash other things. Write diaries. Research and ring next hostal hoping we can make ourselves understood. Check the forecast. Check emails to see if anyone back home remembers us. Stagger out for a beer and a look around the pueblo. Buy supplies. Try to get dinner at 8.00pm - no one in Spain eats dinner before 9.00pm by which time we are beyond starving and utterly exhausted.

Go back to room, throw all duvets and blankets off the bed. Go to bed, try to read. Rob snoring in 5 minutes.  Try to sleep.

Next morning, daylight creeps into the bedroom and we start all over again.....

Truly insane.

0bjects of joy for the long-distance walker

End of section 6, dusty, but not so tired

Here we are in Gironella at the end of section 6 having walked 867 kms in total. We embark on the final section tomorrow which feels somewhat  unbelievable.

The Cal Majoral where we stayed last night has been in our hostess Rosemary's family for 3 generations. It is a beautiful hotel on pretty landscaped grounds. We were the only guests! We had a stunning room with big windows looking out over the green landscape. Rosemary had many Michelin awards on display, and she served us a 3 course dinner. Each was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. Breakfast was also incredible, she put out enough food for 10 people with so much variety, it would take ages to write it all down. She also cheerfully did our washing herself and unlike another place we know, charged us nothing. In fact the entire bill was exceptionally reasonable.

Our walk today was through a softer landscape, lots of green fields. Bit of a shock to be in a more populated area though, with cars whizzing past us on dirt roads and spraying us with dust. Not such a lot of climbing over the day and although it was hot we arrived here feeling a lot less tired than usual. Different scene in our hostal, it is tiny but we are in a newly refurbished room, very modern and flash. It was fun eating tapas in a local bar full of people.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Stayin' Alive...

Call us chicken if you like but today we chose an alternative local trail rather than our GR1 so that we could avoid a "10 metre section of exposed track with a significant drop". Significant drop from the perilous heights we have been walking at could only mean death if you fell. Now we are celebrating our survival by living it up in a gorgeous hotel.

Yesterday there was karma at the monastery. Rob broke off a piece of bramble which was in our way only to have another branch of bramble pull the hat from his head and fling it in a mud puddle.  Hilarious.

Photos are of a narrow street in Sant Llorenc de Morunys and our gorgeous 13th century hotel at Sant Lleir - one of our favourites. Also a view from today and Rob enjoying a bocadillo in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A tough day to Sant Lleir de la Vall d'Ora

At one point today I thought I couldn't possibly take another step, I was all out of energy and cursing the mountain goat way ahead. Still don't think it's fair that the old boy beats me hollow up the hills, especially in the heat. Talking of goat's,  we came across a couple of friendly ones on our track today. Rob had a moment of close communication with them. He also rescued a little bird this morning, and a slug - he will surely go to heaven.

We looked down upon, and later visited, an especially beautiful ermita, once part of a Benedictine monastery, and now a national monument.

A rocky track was part of our 1200 metre climb today, one of our hardest in terms of ascent. It took us 8 and a half hours, so it was mighty fine to get to our very remote Masia el Pujol to be greeted by 3 big friendly dogs, and our hostess bearing a jug of ice cold water for us. Wonderful. There are delicious smells wafting from the kitchen  and the tummy is rumbling!

Monday, 6 June 2016

Sant Llorenc de Morunys

Yet another stunning day, greatly improved by our host taking us 6 kms along a very dramatic road carved out of the cliff-face to our track. Our trail continued under the huge cliffs and eventually passed by lovely waterfalls, and caves once used by the Moors. The last section was a tough steep rocky descent for 3 kms,  but it wasn't quite as bad as we feared it would be. Nice to get in to our accommodation minutes before a violent thunderstorm - hail and heavy rain would have had us soaked!

Cracker of a day to Cambrils

Hot hot hot, lots of sweat and a total ascent of 960 metres, but a day we both enjoyed. There was one dodgy bit of track over the top of an enormous eroded gully; the protective fence was broken so we were a bit nervous scurrying over it. Apart from that a great days walking up high on really beautiful tracks through some gob-smacking remote scenery.

At a road junction we were briefly diverted by an installation depicting a cyclist celebrating the Tour de France which came through in 2010, and a few minutes later enjoyed watching a group of cyclists excitedly taking photos in front of it.

On the next track we overlooked a truly massive valley formed by 2 lines of cliffs. The photo doesn't do justice to the dramatic nature of it.

It was a short day too, ending in a very nice casa called of all things Fonda Casa Nova! Hmmmm. It was bursting at the seams with people having Sunday lunch when we arrived, but as usual we will probably be the only ones here tonight.

Sunday, 5 June 2016


The restaurant Cal Petit in Oliana had a fantastic display of cups and awards. The owner was a motocross champion, in fact the Spanish Champion in the 90's. Emily and Tommie, I'm afraid you have to collect a few more trophies to match up.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Beaut day to Oliana

Today was such a great day, even though it was 27km and mostly hot. The walking was largely through forest, then along an interesting dirt road where we were passed by 18 four-wheel drive vehicles on a rally - Bob, the photo is for you! Final section was under lovely cliffs on a great track, then on easy terrain into town.

Our most expensive hotel so far tonight, sorry Rose, Sam and Em, we're chewing through the inheritance!

On the menu here tonight are such delights as snails, salt cod, grilled rabbit, quail, pig trotters, pork cheeks, boar civet and octopus. Oh, what to choose????