Day 32 GR1 Gironella

If all or even most days were like this, than I would definitely not be doing long distance place to place walking. Still it had some memorable features.

First the good news. We now have a contender for the purveyor of the best sandwich on the GR1 Sendero Historico. Hotel Casa Joan in Sant Llorenç de Morunys was a fairly modest place but great value, and the owner was only too pleased to provide a sandwich for our lunch. It was a masterpiece, double decker tortilla with olive oil and tomato juice soaking into the bread - perfectly seasoned - it was still warm when we removed it from its foil wrap four hours after leaving. We would not have survived without it.

Sandwich masterpiece
My original plan to walk from Sant Llorenç de Morunys to Alvia or Gironella was hopelessly optimistic, particularly as the weather has now taken a turn for the worse. Agreed with Juan that the best thing to do was to get a taxi to the Pont de Llinars and take a great slice out of the first part of the walk. For some reason Juan and I had concluded that this would reduce the total to 20 kilometres and as usual this turned out to be an underestimate.

A house in the forest
Started walking at about 9.30. It was raining, somewhere between drizzle and rain, and the visibility was very poor. You had the sense that it would have been a good walk on a nice day, but there was so much gloom it was hard to tell. Walking along an easy trail through a gorge next to a river, the first highlight was the stunning little Romanesque church of Sant Pere de Graudescales tucked away in the valley miles from anywhere. Very pretty, and one of the best churches on the route.

Sant Pere de Graudescales
We then started to go uphill with the path twisting and turning and going ever higher. We were still on the strange conglomerate rock we've been on for the last few days and it erodes into nasty nobbly stones that are really uncomfortable underfoot. In addition the path was continually blocked by a series of pins which had blown over in a recent gale. Christine was moaning and groaning by now, saying she hadn't expected so much uphill. The rain continued.

After the storm
We finally got to more level ground, a sort of upland grazing area at around 1400m. The rain was easing off too, though we were still in cloud and couldn't see anything much. Time to stop for the tortilla sandwich.

On the top
Pressing on we walked for several kilometres along a high altitude ridge that would have been stunning on a good day. The route was quite hairy in places and thoughts of the sheer drops below and 'touching the void' came to mind. At one point we had to scramble up a steep lump of exposed conglomerate cliff and just hope for the best.

At around 3pm we saw a little ruined church on the top of the ridge ahead and made for it, somehow loosing the way marks in the process. We messed about taking the wrong routes down for a while and finally came across some yellow way marks and a sign to Alvia (not the GR1 Sendero Historico but by all accounts a quicker route).

We set off on a steep but good downhill path and congratulated ourselves with chocolate. The trail seemed very well marked and we were feeling smug. Christine said she preferred the yellow route because there were fewer churches on the top of hills.

The yellow marks took us over a small road and into a wood. OK for a bit, but then things started to unravel. First the marks petered out, then the path turned into cow churned ankle deep mud with whatever had been the route now invaded by box trees. We were still 1,000 metres up the side of a cliff, very frustrating and perhaps a little dangerous.

Having completely loss the way marks and after floundering around we saw a farm trail and made for that, desperate for some firm footings. A few yards along the trail the yellow markings re-appeared almost mocking us. We were surrounded by cliffs and at the top of a huge gorge. After 30 metres or so the markings pointed once again into the undergrowth and not without some hesitation we followed them steeply down. After 200 metres we were confronted with a gushing river. The final test or the final straw? We persevered and in the pouring rain removed our shoes and waded to the other side. Having passed the test we were rewarded with an easy but long path all the way down the Alvia - found a bar and secured a taxi. Sitting drinking a beer we couldn't believe we had only walked 26 kilometres.

If you want to see where we went today on a map then go to the following link.

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  1. John. You have left the last high altitude ridge, so then on you will find low plains and hills easy to walk by and indeed the Mediterranean sea is at hand now.

    1. Thank heavens for that wonderful bocadillo!