Saturday, October 14, 2017

Spanish Pyrenese Walk 4: Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park

I suppose I should be calling these walks now something more like Catalonia Walks as we are certainly still in that particular region of Spain. We are certainly moving away from the Pyrenees mountains. The walk today continued the trend of moving us from one town to another. We left our hotel in Olot to hike through Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Parker and the seemingly older Santa Pau which appears to have the feel of a much older village.

We got a small sense of what parts of Olot might be like as we walked along a busy street and then past many small gardens, what Inntravel call “allotments,” and past small and slightly bigger homes. It was easy walking. So easy we made a mistake. I think we just skipped a direction in the guide and so kept walking along the path we were on. That path gently curved around for nearly a kilometer. We popped out on a busy major set of roads, clearly still in Olot and could not find the field or major monument to people who died in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. We wandered around and saw nothing. We found a path that looked promising and followed it. Mom and Dad recognized the place. We had seen it before. We just walked a near 2km circle. The GPS track confirmed that.  Mom had felt we were making a circle before that confirmation. I had no clue.  We still weren’t quite sure what had gone wrong but with the help of a local we found a way back to where we should have been all along. Her way may have been an alternate route to get us back on walking route 3 (as signposted). What a joy to see the big field with the cross memorial standing tall in it. The goof cost us likely almost an hour but at least it was easy walking.
memorial cross

For the next 1.4km we ascended a paved quiet road past small farms and homes before turning down a woods path that seemed to have plenty of people on it. Families were out and about. Maybe hunting for mushrooms. We were working our way towards the visitor center  in Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park. It got more crowded as we got closer. When we walked through a parking lot it was clearly full. Walkers everywhere. A couple of horse drawn wagons carrying people went by. Families with numerous dogs were all over the place. 

Our walk took us along single-track dirt paths that gradually ascended through thick forest towards a mountain road and a hot air balloon center (we saw balloons in the early morning; sure looks like fun but I guess we will never do that). The mountain road would open up and take us through a wide open space bounded by fields and volcanic cones rising in the distance. Vil Crascot rises and people do walk the slopes to the summit. We ambled down the road along with scores of other people. The views are decent but there was something missing when I think of this bit of walk as compared to the between-the-peaks walk along a mountain high road in Sao Jorge in the Azores.I can’t put my finger on what that something missing is but the Azores walk had it and this stretch doesn’t really. I am not knocking the walk just saying it lacked something.
crater and church Santa Margarida

We had a leisurely lunch at a roadside picnic/park area. The scores, if not hundreds, of people were still about. It is a national holiday of some type and that accounts for the crowds. We decided to climb up Volcano Margarida and down into its crater. It’s a steep-ish climb covering some 500 meters on a woods road. You’ll know you worked. Then you drop down along a 300 or so meter descending path into the crater of Vol Margarida.  The volcano last erupted ages ago. The crater floor is covered by grass and shrubs and is probably a couple hundred meters across. The church Santa Margarida sits in the middle of the crater. An odd spot for a church by itself. Margarida is, according to legend, to have slain the dragon that lived in the volcano. Today the crater hosted hundreds of people (and numerous dogs ; they abound in this region of Spain) picnicking, running about, playing soccer. You have to work to get to the crater so I imagine people make a several-hour day of it. We left by another route ascending back to the rim before joining another mountain almost-road to descend down the mountainside towards Santa Pau. 
Mom and Dad entering Santa Pau

You walk through forests again before stepping out onto a paved road that winds through farmland towards the old village of Santa Pau.   Once again  a small village has a centuries-old feel about the buildings. This time though it is clear that more people hustle through the village. Perhaps that is because it’s a holiday today but I think we will see more people about tomorrow too.  

1. The crosss in the field that we were so happy to find. This cross is a memorial to republicans who died during the Spanish Civil War that brought Franco to power.

2. The church Santa Margarida in Volcano Margarida. (Olot to Santa Pau)

3. Entering the village of Santa Pau. Mom and Dad standing under an arch that leads to the heart of the village. Certainly larger than a place like Beget and a lot busier too. Beget still has the best “old feel” about it.

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