Walking in the Muntanyes de Prades, Days 1 & 2

Our next adventure is a 6 day self guided walk, starting at the Poblet Monastery and ending some 100kms later at La Vilella Baixa. We are doing the walk through a company called On Foot Holidays – they supply the walking notes, make the accommodation bookings, and transfer the luggage for us (http://www.onfootholidays.co.uk). All we have to do is the walking – and try not to get lost.

Day One: Poblet to Rojals, 14.9km, 921 CSU

  

We farewell the genial Carles from Fonda Cal Blasi in Montblanc after breakfast. We depart via taxi; it is a short ride to the Monastery of Poblet, the start of our hike. We are three, as an Englishman called Michael arrived at Fonda Cal Blasi last night. Coincidentally, he is starting the walk the same day as us. Once disgorged from the taxi, Michael heads off. We have a quick wander around the outside of the monastery, then a coffee before we set off.

   
 
It is a long steady climb from the monastery, through lovely forests that have the occasional splash of colour thanks to deciduous oak trees.

  
  

Towards the top of the first climb we come across a ruined ice house, which at some stage had been made into a dwelling. 

  
From here it is a short climb to Casa Foresta de La Pena, the forestry house of the Pena forest. It is now only used for special events, but is very lovely.

  
   
 The forest is a special place, as it contains yew trees which are an ancient conifer, in danger of extinction. The yew is a primitive conifer that can live up to a thousand years. The entire plant is toxic, apart from the flesh covering the seed, which is red and very attractive to birds. There is also an oak tree, called Pyrenean Oak that is only found in these woods in the Catalonian region.

We continue climbing for a short distance, before the descent into the valley commences:

  
We walk through mixed woodland, with rosemary and gorse bushes. Just off the path are two Neolithic art sites, both fenced off so we are unable to get up close enough to really see the art, but do spot one ochre coloured animal:

  
Of course what goes down must go up, so shortly after we start the climb back up. As we climb we have magnificent views of the limestone cliffs.

   
It is a slow climb up to the little village of Rojals 

 Which we eventually reach, just as the clouds start to descend.

  
  
 From the village it is another 45 minutes to our accommodation for the next two nights, Mas de L’Arlequi – a small bed & breakfast of 5 rooms, set on 16 acres and run on sustainability lines (they only have solar power for example). That’s our room upstairs, above the front door.

   
  
Our hosts are the lovely Merce and Daniel. They bought the place in 2000, and it was virtually a ruin. Daniel has done all the work himself, including the dry stone terraces , and it is lovely. 

They have 5 rooms, and are full tonight as there is an orienteering event tomorrow in the area. The organiser and several competitors are staying here tonight. Merce is the cook, and we enjoy a simple meal of creamed pumpkin soup, followed by meatballs and rice and then I have what Daniel calls pudding, but seems to be a caramel flan of some sort. 

Day 2: Farena Circuit, 15.5 km, 722 CSUs

  

We are up relatively early (8am) as the orienteers are on the move. Breakfast is the Catalonian tomato toast, with some local salami, and cheese. We set off about 10, after Daniel takes us to the cliff edge to see where we are going. I’ve got to walk all the way to the valley floor, then come back up again. Why, I ask?

  
  
But, the day is clear and the sun comes out later. Be grateful for large mercies I guess.

Our descent is via a wide, gravelly track which makes for much slipping and sliding:

  

Given it is now Autumn there isn’t much in the way of wildflowers, but there is a small pink Heath flowering, and lots of red berry bushes. 

   
   
At the bottom of the valley we follow the river Brugent, which has lots of lovely swimming holes (not warm enough today) and several ruined water mills. The mills were used to mill flour, olive oil and for producing paper.

   
 
The valley has interesting rock formations towering above it:

  
And we pass through some beautiful wooded groves :

  
Our destination is Farena, a little village where the houses have been lovingly restored. It would seem that these are largely summer houses for people who live in the larger cities, who use these houses to escape the summer heat.

   
   
We had a not bad coffee in the local cafe (which Pete accompanied with a beer):

  
Then it was the slow climb back up to the top of the ridge, again on a loose rocky path.

 
So, this is where I have to get to, up to the top of there:

 We diverge off the track to see the remains of a dwelling under a rock, and supposed Neolithic rock art (I’m not convinced).  Supposedly they are from 5000BC and were discovered in 1927. It has recently been discovered that these figures receive the first Rays of he sun along the wall at the summer solstice (and, on the other side of the valley more illustrations from the same period are the first to receive the suns Rays during the winter solstice).

   
   
And, finally stagger back into Mas de L’Arlequi about 4.30, desperate for a shower, before making ourselves comfortable on the couch – in front of the fire, and with a bottle of white wine to keep us company. 

  
  

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