Friday, October 19, 2007
We get away early (8am) from our little cabin at the camping ground at Albanyà. The sun is just coming up. Daylight saving doesnt finish for another week here in Spain. We walk through the village and straight into a vertical climb. Even though we are out of the high peaks the GR11 doesnt let up. The next few days are long distance days but we decide to up the pace. We push through at high speed and dont have a break until El Moli d'En Robert. The guy there says they only open on the weekends this time of the year but I explain that we are doing the GR11 and he brings out 3 beers. You cannot complain about that. The weather is perfect. Sunny but not too hot. We go on and in 30 minutes we arrive at Maçanet de Cabrenys, a beautiful village that dates back to when Adam was a cowboy. Its 2 o'clock and lunch is the first item on the agenda. We go straight to Hostal La Quadra and have nearly the best lunch we have had. Certainly the best dessert and the largest cognacs (Carlos 1). We next had to organise accommodation and thanks to Juan Molina we got in touch with Maria who organised us a great apartment. We go back to La Quadra for dinner and meet Mari and Harry for a drink first. The owner puts on the french tv so we can watch Argentina play France while we eat an amazing dinner. Argentina 34 France 10. Great game. Buenas noches.
Easy day today. Just a downhill cruise to the village of Albanyà so we sleep in until 8 o'clock. The sun is only just coming up and for the first time, in the distance through a gap in the hills, we can see flat stuff, the Mediterranean sea. We knock off the 10Kms in just over 2 hours dropping 600 metres. At 230 metres above sea level, this is the lowest we have been virtually since the beginning of the walk and it shows in the temperature. From here to the end it will be shorts and t-shirts, the snow gear gets put at the bottom of the pack. We have a lazy afternoon, lunch at the only bar in the village, we rent a little cabin in the camping ground and drink a few beers. After yesterdays exertion we figure we deserve a break.
The forecast was for bad weather and we had a dilemma. We had a 2 day walk from here to the village of Albanyà with no confirmed place to stay on the route. We have found it really difficult to get information about the GR11, even from the villages that are right on the route so it makes it hard to make decisions. Some people have compared our trip to the Camino de Santiago but as CJ put it very aptly today: the Camino de Santiago is a walk, the GR11 is an adventure, and part of that adventure is not knowing where you will be sleeping that night. The actual day's walk as planned by the published GR11 map is around 14 kms and stops at Sant Aniol d'Aguja. However, there is nowhere to sleep at Sant Aniol so our only choice was to continue further on to Bassegoda where there was a refuge though we didnt know what condition it would be in or even if we could get into it. The days walk would take us over 22 kms with 3 climbs totalling 1400 mtrs so we knew that we would be arriving near nightfall. If we couldn't stay at the refuge the nearest town, Albanyà, was another 3 hours away and would be a walk in the dark. We set off from Beget the day being a little cloudy but no rain. Nice. We climbed up to an old abandoned farm, Las Feixanes, and stopped to look at the impressive view down the valley. The area we were in, La Garrotxa, was forested with beech and oak making for really pleasant walking. We walked past some rivers with clear water and trout. Waterfalls pouring down narrow gaps carved out of the rock. The valleys were steep sided with sheer limestone cliffs showing through the forest cover. At the top of the 2nd climb we stopped for lunch near the old romanic church of St. Martì de Talaixà and the small Refugi d'En Rodri de Talaixà. It was a quick lunch cut even shorter when it started to rain. We headed off towards Sant Aniol walking along mule tracks made centuries ago. We walked through the abandoned village of Talaixà taking note of the terraced hills supported by drystone walls which would have taken generations to build. Originally built for farming, the forest has now taken them over. Like many of the remote villages in the Pyrenees without roads, only as little as 2 generations ago the younger people moved off the land to the cities and little by little the villages died after being inhabited for hundreds of years. We arrive at Sant Aniol. It was a monastery built in this remote valley in 859. Virtually nothing remains except the church built a 1000 years ago. For me Sant Aniol has a special significance; it was here 15 years ago that I found out about the GR11 walk. Now we had the tough climb up to the Coll de Bassegoda. CB as usual taking the lead with me as tail end charlie. The walk is magnificent, stunning views. By the time I get to the top the sun is setting and I still have 2 kilometres to go down through the forest. Meanwhile CB has arrived at the refuge to find it locked. Fortunately there is notice written in several languages including english advising that a key is available at a nearby farmhouse. By the time I get down there night has just fallen and CJ has the dinner cooking. The refuge is at 820 mtrs altitude and tonight will be our last night in the wilds. With only 6 walking days to go we will be staying in small towns from here to the finish. After dinner we go outside to look at the stars and in the sky above the hills on the horizon in the distance, the reflection of the glow of lights of a city can be seen. Something we havent seen since we set out on this trip.