The mountain roads weren’t as steep as I was expecting, proving to be no problem for our little Fiat Punto. I was actually thinking it wouldn’t be too difficult to scale these 1700m passes on a bike – which are usually famous last words of mine. The temperatures were noticeably dropping outside. We no longer had air conditioning running, and when we stopped to enjoy the views and take some photos, Risa quickly ran back into the warmth of the car (or just gave me her phone to take photos for her).
The views were beautiful and well worth stepping out into the cold air for, even if it was getting dark, and the clouds were dark and heavy. However, it wasn’t long before it was too dark to enjoy the scenery, and we still had to make it to our pension for tonight – Refugi Rural Vall de Siarb. Getting to this tiny (and tiny really is an accurate description) cluster of houses was easier said than done. Even with our GPS, we ended up taking the wrong turnoff, which took us down a steep and narrow path, with the added excitement of un-barricaded drops and small rivers flowing over the road. We took our chances and tried to turn around, and even though we were in a tiny car, it was quite some effort and breath holding – I couldn’t imagine it in anything larger.
We were later than expected to arrive, and the managers/owners had gone out, but had left the place unlocked for us – we just had to find it – which again, was easier said than done as our map didn’t have any roads within this tiny village.
We found ourselves eventually inside a large hostel, which I could imagine being a hive of activity during the winter months, but tonight we were here on our own. By pure chance, I later learnt that my brother stayed at the very same place last winter! After waiting for the owners to return for a while, we ate dinner and had an early night in our cosy little room. It felt great to be sleeping in a cold environment again.
The next morning we woke to beautiful skies and sunshine. We didn’t have any food, so we had to wait until we got into the next town, as there were no options here in Llagunes – we know, as it took us two minutes to walk all of the streets of town to confirm that.
But, before we left, we went on a really quick hike into the hills on the other side of the valley, passing through some beautiful green meadows, and climbing up some dense and rugged terrain towards a giant rock hidden in the forest. It felt good to stretch our legs and lungs a little again.
Lunch was another quick effort from a supermarket, eaten by the side of the river that flows through the middle of Sort. I read about the great white water rafting that is possible here, but we decided to give it a miss this time.
I saw an interesting mountain pass that travelled deep up a valley to the foot of some 3000m mountains. The drive was a bit of a detour along some amazing and beautiful roads, but after an hour or so of winding slowing uphill, we reached the end of the road. This was the Pyrenees experience that I was searching for, remote green valleys, empty roads, and rugged mountains. I just wished that I was on a bike instead.
There was a large reservoir for a hydroelectric power plant, and also a cable car, Teleferico Vall Fosca to take you higher up into the mountain range. It was going to be a few hours until the next service, and it was also quite expensive to ride. If the weather had been spectacular I think I’d have made the investment, but clouds were rapidly growing and I didn’t think the weather would hold much longer.
We were coming towards the end of our short journey around Catalunya, and had to return to Barcelona to return the car tomorrow. The mountains flattened out again, and soon we were back in productive and golden plains. The roads became two lane, three lane, and four lane motorways.
There was still one thing that we really wanted to see, and that was the monasteries at Montserrat. The accommodation nearby was all exorbitant, so we settled for something between Barcelona and Montserrat – which turned out to be in a rest stop in the middle of the motorway. We had to pay a toll to get access to this hotel, and once we were there, the only way we could leave (and return) was to pay another motorway toll. Plus, with the limited number of exits, it would be a very long drive to get back here. Without much that we could do about it, we came to terms with the fact that we were stuck here with the overpriced (well, for the quality anyway) food for dinner, which we begrudgingly ate and had an early nights sleep.