Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Spanish Pyrenees Walk 1: Mollo to Beget
Let’s start with a final look into Mollo. It was certainly a tiny place made of stone buildings snuggled into the foothills of the Pyrenees not far from the border with France. In fact that closeness meant that somewhere between 85,000 and 95,000 people fled through there in March of 1939 during the Spanish Civil War on their way to France. Signs abounds describing the retreat of the locals from the nationalist forces. Other signs describe some of the very old or newly rebuilt (new is a relative term here) buildings. People have been making Mollo home for over 1,100 years. Our Swiss chalet style hotel is likely rather newer than most but still has a great old European feel about it. Even at this late date in the year we saw one tour bus present, Thoughwe never did see lots of people at dinner or breakfast. Dinner was, as expected, excellent. Breakfast was adequate.
The morning dawned clear and crisp. When we hoisted our day packs and left the hotel at 09:30 I suspect the temperature was in the low 50s but even at that it felt pleasant enough as the sun was shining on us and there was little if any wind. We would be hiking through the valleys to the village of Beget some 12km distant. The Inntravel guide informed us that we would gain about 250m and loose 900m. That’s quite a bit of ascent and descent over the 12km walk. Signage suggested that most people hike the paths, mostly the GR11, in not much more than 3 hours.
We left Mollo and were slogging down a stony descending; the guide says cobblestones but that suggests something more regular than it is. I found it stressful going. We popped out at the Rive XX As we passed a water purification building we picked up our hiking companions for the day. Two dogs, we named them Shep and Panther, came down the cement path happily barking to greet us. We figured they lived nearby and were just checking us out. That may well be true but they did more than just check us out. As we climbed up and away from the river on a now dirt single track that steadily climbed away from the river the two dogs stayed with us. Shep would move ahead and settle down and waiting gazing at us. Panter stuck to Mom and Dad like glue and now and then would trot back to me if I had fallen behind to check on my progress. They’re either well trained to stay with whoever they adopt or maybe that is just how they are. They stuck with us over hill and dale. We left the river behind leaving the dirt single track for a grassy path that would up and down through pastures. The dogs kept us company. We passed through electrified fences and they stuck with us. We walked one-person wide paths that clung to the edge of hillsides descending towards streams and they stayed with us. For something like 10.5km Shep and Panther stayed with us all the way into the village of Beget. Remarkable but we understand they adopt walkers who make this hike routinely which means they trot easily 20km each time they do it if the place they picked us up is their home base.
It was a lovely day. The walking , for people with good vision, is easy going. Even the steep narrow descending path that drops you into a dense forest is not too bad as the trail bed footing is pretty consistent. For me it is somewhat slower going especially on some bits but as long as it wasn’t stony I did alright. We certainly were not moving at anything close to the suggest speed the signage posted (about 2-2.5MPH we were likely moving around 1.5MPH). Now and then views of the valleys would open up but this isn’t a walk that will sate your desire for grand eye candy. It is a walk through history in some ways especially near the start. It is also a walk that reminds you how close things can be here. We passed several groups of cows grazing.
There may be an alternate path into Beget for the last 1.5km instead of walking down the modern quiet paved road. We certainly saw waymarks that implied that. But we walked the road and when we caught our first glimpse of the village we knew we were in for a treat. Beget is tiny. Today it has a population of 17 people. Still it has at least one restaurant and hotel and I suspect more than that. During the tourist season it supposedly sees plenty of visitors and that must be so otherwise how could places like that survive. But what make the place special are the clearly very old stone buildings. It is a medieval village that doesn’t allow car traffic except for certain special purposes. The cluster of buildings including the lovely Romanesque church at the heart of town set on a hillside connected by cobblestone roads that once must have seen their share of horse drawn carts and the like. Mollo had a bit of old European flair but Beget takes that to a whole other level. It is really special and certainly made the walk worthwhile.
Our home for the night is quite nice and the rooms are well appointed. We settled in for a snack in the afternoon. We arrived just after 15:10 and the skies had clouded over by now though hardly a threatening overcast. Shep and Panter plopped down to rest but when we would get up to explore more of the village they were up and trotting alongside once again. In fact, it would be several hours before they finally left us to go wherever they go (we think a couple of loud ladies might have scared them off). A lovely first day.
The walk ended up being 12km but the ascent and descent number, according to the GPS, were a bit les than the guide suggested. 135 meters ascent; 770 descent. Our speed was typically about 2.3KPH. We took just over 5 hours to do the hike with about 45 minutes worth of breaks. That makes the whole day of just under 6 hours.
1. St Cecilia church in Mollo.
2. Mom in Mollo by St. Cecilia.
3. Dad bonded with Panter, the blond collie-lije dog, and Shep. Here on the bench in front of Beget’s church.
4. A good view of the church in Beget.