We woke Monday morning to the sound of steady rain, and no matter how many different weather aps we consulted, they all sang the same tune: the rain had set in for the whole day. One look at the resident Newfoundland summed up how I felt about the situation.
So, over the usual hearty Catalan breakfast of cured meats, cheese, tomato and bread we decided to abandon the day’s walk and instead hitch a ride with our luggage to our next destination – Olot. The luggage handler was amenable to the idea but we were now a party of 5, as we had befriended the English couple who also happened to be doing the same walk. The problem was that the driver had brought a mate with him, which meant there were only 3 spaces in the back seat and the dickie seat in the boot. Never mind he said, the ‘girls’ can sit in the back – which meant I clambered into the dickie seat and Cathy was left to perch on top of the luggage. We made it to Olot just before Cathy turned completely green – turns out that facing backwards along twisting roads made her feel somewhat car sick. Meanwhile, I had lost all feeling in my legs, which were up around my ears! But, we were dry.
Neither Olot nor the unprepossessing Hotel Perla are really the places you want to be stranded for a whole day, particularly in the rain. After storing our luggage, and donning the faithful waterproof gear, we headed out to check out the local market – rain sodden – and the art nouveau buildings written up in our notes. That took about 15 minutes.
So, we hopped on a bus to Castellfollit de la Roca, a medieval village that is perched atop a dramatic basalt cliff and sits between the Rivers Fluvia and Toronell. Had the weather gods been kinder we would have walked 15km from Oix to Castellfollit de la Roca, and then have finished the day by catching the bus to Olot.
This is how Castellfollit de la Roca should look:
After a short and wet wander around the old part of the village we hopped back on the bus to return to Olot, via the local Carrefour to buy a bottle of vino tinto and retired to our now available hotel room to eat the picnic lunch supplied by Cal Pei and drown our sorrows with the red!
But, hurrah, hurrah the next day dawned clear and sort of bright. Jubilation all round:
So, we set off for Santa Pau with a spring in our step. Soon after leaving the hotel we were in a wooded glade, and slowly climbed up and away from Olot. Looking back, the town looks quite charming, framed as it is by the snow capped Pyrenees.
Our walk today takes us into the heart of the volcanic Garrotxa National Park, past and around a cluster of extinct (hopefully) volcanoes. In all there are some 40 extinct volcanoes, with the last eruption being 11,000 years ago (although there can still be seismic activity in the area). The rich volcanic soils make a fertile ground for agriculture, and wild flowers.
before climbing up the side of volca de Santa margarida, which is 682 m high, with a crater perimeter of 2kms. Crouching in the middle of the crater is a hermitage, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1428 and then rebuilt in 1865.
We stop for our excellent picnic lunch just outside of our ‘home’ for the night, the beautiful medieval town of Santa Pau. Then it is just a short walk into the town. We have clocked up 16.5 kms and 465 vertical metres, so the feet are a little tired.
We head directly to our hotel – Cal Sastre – only to find a note on the door redirecting us to their restaurant in town where they opened their new hotel 3 weeks ago. They will keep both properties, but the old hotel is currently being repainted, so we are lucky enough to be staying in the brand spanking new, and beautiful, hotel. The current owners are the second generation – the business started as a restaurant 30 years ago, but has grown to include the two accommodation sites.
Dinner that night is a merry affair as we are joined by Chris and Cathy, our new English friends. Mine host starts us off with a complimentary glass of cava, before we move on to an excellent Rioja and an enjoyable meal. We are all very happy walkers – no rain, lovely accommodation, good food and wine.