Friday, October 20, 2017

Spanish Pyrenees Walk 9: Garriguella to Pilau-Saverdera

leaving Garriguella

Let’s start with dinner in Garriguella on October 18, 2017. We had an adequate, fortunately inexpensive, meal at one place and figured to go there again. A big plus for us was they were open early. The other place kept “Spanish hours.” We walked over arriving around 19:00 and found it closed. The other place wasn’t open. A little bar/cafe was open but we couldn’t decipher the menu and what we could figure out wasn’t appealing. We were stuck. But we had noticed 2 grocery-type stores on the block. Time to find food we could heat up at the house-hotel we were staying at.  A butcher shop provided us with a pasta and meat dish along with a meatball dish; another shop yielded tomatoes and drinks. I am quite sure the total cost was tiny and once we returned and warmed everything up we actually felt we had a tastier meal than the meal at the resturaunt on our first night in Garriguella.  Now this wouldn’t have worked if we hadn’t had access to a kitchen with microwave and a hostess who was fine with our using the stuff. But the kitchen facilities did exist and she was fine so all is well that ends well.

We set out at 08:44 under heavily overcast skies. Throughout the night it had stormed including thunder and lightning. You could tell rain was still in the air, though as we departed the house it was only spitting just a little bit. The Inntravel notes say the walk is 17km and we agree with this number (I actually failed to turn on the GPS track right away so likely lost 50-100m but that’s not really much). The first few km of the walk would take us out of Garriguella first along the surprisingly busy paved town road to dirt roads that wound through farms slowly gaining elevation as they passed by olive orchards and vineyards (maybe).  It was becoming clear that if this were a cloudless day the views would be quite good indeed.

We continued on through the hills passing beehives and old Spanish civil war (Nationalist) bunkers that even under these cloudy conditions had superb views of the surrounding countryside. We could see a long way too.

After crossing a very busy road, likely the most dangerous bit of the hike,  we entered a natural park area and continued to climb along a dirt road. Up we went and the sounds of a rock quarry faded away. It was easy going and the weather though gray was still co-operating. I suspect the temperature had crept up a bit into the low-mid 60F range. It was nice hiking weather and we were making good time. 

At 11:30 things changed. The rain came. At first it was gentle but though it slackened from time to time it also intensified a fair bit too. We were first walking along a narrow trail between two paved roads and we had a little tree cover. We lucked out sometimes when in more open country as the rain eased a bit. That was especially true on a 400m or so stretch of road walk. But it didn’t last.  As we climbed a steep and rutted dirt and stone track that would climb for nearly a km to the top of a hill where lonely homes sit, one under renovation and the other occupied, in the rain pelted down. This was not a place you would want to get stuck.  It eased off some at the top but the wind picked up so we felt the chill as we paused to have snacks and keep the internal fires burning. 

We were still having a good day even if the steep climb had made us nervous whether we were truly on the right path. As we walked across the top of the hills towards our next goal, a ruin of some sort, the rain tapered off completely. At the ruin - call it about11km I think - we settled down for a fast lunch. The sun even made a very brief appearance. Just enough to show a shadow or two but it didn’t last. By the time we hoisted our packed again (15-20 minute lunch ) that moment had pretty much passed.

As we approached Mad Vente (Farm of the winds) we found we had entered another type of terrain: a tiny pine grove. Lovely.Our only complaint is that we got confused by the directions. But once we sorted things out it was an easy walk down a dirt road with what would normally be exceptional views of the Bay of Roses and the towns that dot the Mediterranean shoreline. Today you could see the sea but not all that well. 

Perhaps just before 14:30 we reached Elmira de Sant Onofre (Shrine of Saint Onofre). According to the notes it’s about 2km from there to the end of the walk. It is a tough 2km. Specifically a solid 1.5km down what the notes warn is steep and rocky and requires use of your trekking poles. In other words: very slow going for me. I am pretty sure it took over an hour to make the bulk of the descent . I am sure Mom and Dad had lots and lots of time to wait. Though it had been a wet day the path, such as it is, was remarkably dry. It drains well and the rocks were surprisingly unslippery (unlike say wet cobblestones in a village street). I am still glad it wasn’t raining as I plodded down the slopes slowly descending something like 300m in the 1.5-2km distance. While ascending would have been physically tiring I think I would have preferred it as much as Mom would have loathed it.

Once we were at the bottom it was fairly straightforward, with some fits and starts and asking for help, to find the hotel Niu de Sol. My room doesn’t seem to have any solid stone walls but Mom and Dad do. It is clearly another ancient building that has been nicely re-purposed.

We won’t have any real time here in Pilau-Saverdera to explore. It appears to be sizeable and yet retains that air of old-ness. We know people are about as we can hear them from our second floor hotel rooms. Some dogs bark now and then too. We have had a very satisfying dinner at the recommended resturaunt and we’d have had coffee and desert had they come back to our table in a more timely fashion. Perhaps it is just as well that I , at least, did not as i feel pretty full. I’m not quite sure what Patanegra is but it was a tasty cut of meat, well seasoned with vegetables and potatoes. Mom and Dad enjoyed their dinners too. 

It has been a very good day with a walk that though tougher than some was certainly well worth it even though it did rain for 75 minutes or so.

Distance 17.35km (a bit short as I didn’t start the track right away; likely 17.5km)
Ascent: 550m
Descent: 505m
Moving time: 6 hours 18 minutes
Stopped time (parent’s would be longer): 1 hour 8 minutes
High temperature upper 60s. Overcast with 75 minutes of moderate to hard rain.

1. Leaving Garriguella.

2. We’ve been walking for an hour and though we can’t see much it has been enjoyable walking so far.

3. Coming up on lunch time. We’ve left the renovated house and occupied house that both sit lonely on top of a hill well behind. The rain has ceased and we are ready for lunch.

4. At Mas Vente Mom and Dad are figuring out where we go next. The directions were a tad confusing.

5. It is hard to see much but the Bay of Roses is down there. The Meddeterranean Sea.

6. Looking back towards the Shrine of Saint Onofre. That is a nasty path winding up the slope to the shrine. Very slow going for me to make my way down from there.

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