A few weeks ago I asked P for a day to myself. I wanted a few hours of doing my own thing. P was cool excited for motorbike trip. That was until I found out where he’d planned to go. Parc Natural Montsant. Catching up on blog posts, maybe indoor climbing, the beach, a few hours for me vs my inner Indiana Jones and ZhenZhen (Rim of the World) exploring rope bridges, trails, warmer temps and the sound of nature silence. Parc Natural Monsant won.
P initially planned a 4 hour hike, but as I was now coming this was reduced to a ’70min’ 5km hike The Soul of Montsant to an old hermitage in the Priorat region of the park. Getting there was about a 4 hour round trip and we were now leaving later. More packed lunch to be made!
The ride in was flat until hitting the park away from the motorway when bends and hills started. I got confused by the direction TomTom took us. Rather than head south out the city, it slung shot us up and around the city going south toward Tarragona. TomTom was good until hitting Ullrodieso when the road became only a dot in the middle of nowhere. There’s no direct sign post saying trails this way. It’s almost a local only secret spot. The only clues are Ermites sign posts with a vista symbol. I have a confession. I didn’t know a hermits house is called a hermitage. Ermites is hermitage in Catalan after a little help from Google Translate. Hermitage, hermit, it sounded hermit and with fingers crossed it wasn’t a false friend we followed the signs into the the Park. The road finished in a car park and thankfully a ranger was on duty (simple as. Standing outside his car with an official park lanyard!) as the park info sign wasn’t too clear where hikes were. Or maybe we just can’t read elevation maps. The ranger recommended just going to the river where you can swim, cool off in thinking we couldn’t manage the full hike. P downloaded a hiking app that had the route so after getting changed, sorting out what to take leaving the rest in panniers we set off following the trail guided by the app. Which was great. The hike’s marked every now and then with 2 horizontal white and red lines, with some markings vertical indicating wrong way. Which we turned several times as the marks weren’t always visible. No mobile coverage but the GPS app on P’s watch buzzed to say wrong way! I’m usually, no don’t need an app for that! However shhh, I was grateful for it although some wrong turns you sensed wrong turns but carried on thinking maybe around this tree….
Light was bright even at 17.30 when we arrived. It was near the summer solstice with light brighter than usual. It was hard getting the right exposure, speed, ISO (why some photos look grainy) etc as I couldn’t see sh*t through the view finder. Excuses, excuses!
The bathing spot No hunting safe zone One of many streams feeding the riverSo many faces and shapes carved into the rocks by the wind, rain and wet season waterfalls.The rope bridge! Okay, the wood and metal suspension bridge!
I know we hiked down into the valley however as the path’s mostly wooded it didn’t seem that steep. The steepest part was the walk down to the river. Perhaps my favourite part was walking on dropped pine needles that provided a bounce, coolness, and less bugs. 2 hours. Yes, 2 hours after we set off thanks to detours to the bathing spot, wrong turns, endless photos we finally made it to the hermitage. Now ruins you’re free to walk through the old hut built into the wall. Later we both said we asked permission to enter in our minds. It only seemed right to ask. I didn’t sense anything but you know, it’s quiet and cold from the coolness of the rock. Only peeking out the windows you see a church! Built in the middle of nowhere in 1799. The original hermit, a monk or Friar Guerau Miquel lived there in the 1160. Later reading there’s a cave just off between the 2 building with a dry wall where he might have originally lived. I walked towards it as I heard dripping water, but it was cold. Montsant’s climate’s humid and I was already getting chilly cold from the other cooler parts. Okay, I didn’t want to explore in. Maybe if P had explored it too, but he was flying his drone! Now I kinda regret not looking venturing into the cave. I’m not sure what the church is called, however the hermitage is known as Sant Bartomeu or Saint Bartholomew.
I liked how only 1 of 2 windows in the hut overlooked out onto the church and how there’s 1 fancy French style pine tree and few fruit trees. The Friar Miquel picked an amazing place to live. When P was flying the drone I was imagining him overlooking P’s shoulder thinking so that’s what it looks like from above! Imagine Star Wars bubble houses as the drone flew higher. P wanted to fly the drone longer and higher but knew I was ‘no! it’s disturbing the tranquility’. Haha! Sorry. It ran out of altitude signal anyway. The footage of the rock above was something else.
Margalef as I found out from my climbing gym is the Spanish or Catalan rock climbing mecca.
After eating late lunch dinner we headed back the way we came. The humidity was still high but cooler. Walking back I enjoyed more than going. I was over any photos so could just enjoy the Park. We were quicker until the steep hike back from river when giggles and tiredness set in. Going down we took the short cut, going back we stuck to the road until I was no, let’s try the last off road bit. Pausing on the slope in a dare if I have energy to run up, I took up to see the setting light, light up ahead an amazing near full moon and the rocks red. It felt like no one else had ever witnessed the moon and rocks lit up glowing. I’m sure hundreds have. I’m not sure if they found a fossil sea turret shell. Placing my rucksack on the ground I noticed a stone looking out of place yet familiar. Even miles away from the modern day shoreline the sea’s still with me. Yes, I took it home. Shhh.
Going back on the motorbike I learnt the hard way if you’re cold before you get on a motorbike, you’re in trouble. I packed a jumper but the temperature dropped so much we had to stop off at a service station for a cup of tea around 23.00. I needed to warm up! It didn’t work. As soon as we hit the motorway my legs wouldn’t stop shaking which set off giggles. They wouldn’t stop! I had to sit with my legs out wider than usual which was hard as they were shaking so much in an effort not to bother P. It took breathing, relaxing, tensing muscles, imagining wearing a warm coat and telling myself nearly back to stop the shaking. Thankfully the air temperature warmed up closing in the on the city, though even after a hot shower I was still cold. And my run the next day. Heavy heavy legs. Mountain air and trails.
I’d love to return to the park (by car) in cooler months to explore more. This part, the rocks looked otherworldly, yet it’s only down the road from Barcelona. I curious if the rest the park’s the same. Have you visited otherworldly parks that are nothing like it’s surroundings? Please share in the comments!