A Saturday in Montserrat

November 26, 2006 at 5:20 pm 3 comments

What a day. We just now returned from a hike up in Montserrat. It was a great hike, but right now I am really tired. I love the going up but coming down really plays havoc with my knee and right now, my knee is swollen. I’ll have to figure out an exercise to try and strengthen it for downhill treks. OK, I’m too tired to write anymore so I’ll go and work on the photos for this blog.

We were out the door at 7:15 to meet whoever was coming on this hike. We were meeting at Placa Espana near the tower at 8:00. Sebastian, Alex, myself and Zephyr, Naomi’s nephew were the hiking crew. We caught the 8:36 train and arrived in Monistrol de Montserrat an hour later. Last time we were there we took the funicular to the monastery and we missed the beautiful old streets ofMonistrol de Montserrat.

I wonder about the traffic through these streets 500 years ago.

As soon as we got off the train, the trails were marked. You had to keep your eyes open to catch the markings but they were there. We followed them trhought the town and ended up at the trails GR5 and GR96. The GR (Gran Recorrido (Spanish) or Gran Recorregut (Catalan)) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. Many GR routes make up part of the longer European walking routes which cross several countries so we are only connecting to a small portion of the trail. GR5 and GR96 are a single trail at this point. We passed an old orchard, and I mean OLD, and the remaining trees assumed some really amazing shapes. This was one of the most gnarled. The reason, it was made up of two trees that had wound around each other.

This old path had two sentries guarding the way. It looked like the entrance to another world and the area had a very mysterious feeling to it.

At the beginning I couldn’t shake the feeling of all the souls that had passed this way before. This trail was also part of the pilgrimage route to the old monastery. It was almost 1000 years old and had seen many pilrims pass this way.

We had passed the place where GR5 and GR96 separate. We took GR96 upwards and as we climbed higher, we could see GR5 far below us winding its way along. The two trails meet at the monastery but from here, looking down on GR5, you wouldn’t know it.

After a while, we stopped for some food and to take in the area. Of course, Sebastion saw the old frame on the post and suggested a photo in it. So here we have Alex, Sebastian, Zeph and myself.

We still had to walk well past thatdistant bluff with the boulder at it’s bottom and we noticed that the clouds were getting lower. It looked like it might get foggy again.

We’re getting closer to our destination and the sun is trying to break through the low clouds.

The rock cliffs are made up of smaller stones held by some sort of hardened clay or other cement like material. It’s really hard and the embedded stones are quartzes, flint like rocks, marble. Much of them seem to be rounded by water like in stream beds. I’m just guessing on this so it might be interesting to read up on the geology of this area, how it happened to come into existence.

We were quite high up when the fog began to beat out the sun for dominance. The vegetation at this location was quite dense with fair sized trees.

Well, a few more metres onwards and the fog came in. It was really beautiful but I’m glad it came late. If it hadn’t we wouldn’t have been able to see the wonerful views on our way up.

There were some really interesting berries on the way up. Here is a photo of one of them. Zeph was also commenting on all the wild spices he found growing alongside the trail.

We finally made it to the monastery. The fog made it absolutely stunning. I wish I could have had the expertise to take some more photos of the area but this is all I can offer.

Alex wanted to go into the cathedral because she heard that the choir was going to sing at 1:00. The children’s choir at Montserrat is world famous for it’s music and school of music. Here’s a detail of inside the cathedral. There was a choir singing but not the one Alex wanted to hear.

From the cathedral we made our way to the cafeteria to eat something and chat for a bit before heading back. On our way back to the trail we passed this modern version of a knight in a medieval alcove. The artist also had a work in the Generalitat in Barcelona. It’s the inverted maiden that I have photos of in flickr. The Knight is also inverted in the stone.

Wow, the fog really picked up on our way down. It was really beautiful the way the wind would blow it by. We were going to return by way of GR5 so we would have a different trail to return on.

And on the way down, more interesting berries. Sebastian saw the colour of these and I had to get a picture.

As we descend the fog begins to lift. It wasn’t coming and going as we thought (or as I thought) but it was us who were going into it and coming out of it. It was the cloud ceiling itself and we were climbing into it on our way up and descending out of it on our way down. I should have realized it when we saw the peaks from Monistrol. They were in the clouds.

The GR5 was a wide path with a gentle slope downwards. Most of the climb down was immediately after leaving the monastery. There were stone steps, hundreds of stone steps, leading down to the wide path. It be a big surprise to those who take GR5 upwards. A nice leisurely walk until you hit the steps. It must be a 400 metre climb up those ill spaced steps.

The sun trying to get out again.

And we finally make it back to Monistrol de Montserrat. It was a great day.

By the way, upwards is fine, downwards is hell. My knee has a great deal of trouble going down. If anyone has any suggestions to get it into shape, please, let me know.

Have a great week.

Entry filed under: Alan's Blog, Barcelona, Blog, Churches, Day to Day, Friends, General Medieval, Hiking, Montserrat, Spain, Trekking, Virgin of Montserrat.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HD  |  November 26, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    Great hike Alan! Sorry to hear about the pain in the knee. You know I love to hike and the best hikes were in the ones in the Picos, North of Spain. Lots of foggy wheather, but that makes the woods so lovely mysterious, doesn’t it? Here’s my advice for your downhill: never place your feet facing forward, but try to walk down the hill sidewards, zigzag-ing the path, and I also find that, especially on rocky or uneven terrain, walking with TWO walkingsticks instead of one gives you much better balance. I saw you guys already got a pole, but try to use two and make sure you use them on the right hight (like Alex’s pole). here my favourites http://www.leki.com/html/home.asp
    Hope you recover soon and Happy Hiking!

    Reply
  • 2. Alan  |  November 26, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Hi Heidi
    Thanks for the advice. The pole I have is a Leki and you’re right about using two. I think I also need to exercise the knee, There is no cartilege in the joint and the ligaments are totally severed so I do have to be careful ith it.
    How is the Bruce Trail ?
    Hope you have a great week
    Alan

    Reply
  • 3. HD  |  November 27, 2006 at 3:31 am

    Aiai, that must hurt then… ! Take care. H.

    Reply

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