Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 43

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 43 - Monday 6 September 2004 - Stage 35

Postcard Summary (on tomorrow's card)
Empty Hotel to D’Incles Valley
Another good but hard day’s walk – 9.0 hours, 17 km, 1300m ascent
Best weather for a few days for a long but very well graded 1100 metre ascent to the Col des Miners (2713m).  Good views and very few people, then a scrambly traverse and thrutchy climb to a peak (2505m) before descending to the D’Incles valley where it took some time to find the campsite.  Then we walked into Soldeu for a nice meal beside a coach load of Germans.
Diary Entry (by Martin)
Hotel Tristaina's breakfast - continental as always - was good, and included delicious kiwi fruit. I felt rejuvenated after two short days and lots of food since reaching Andorra. We discovered that we were the sole guests at the hotel - other people seen had just been using the bar, etc in passing. Amazing how high season quickly evaporates to no custom for these places - apart from coach parties if you can get them.
The sky was clear again, though we expected high cloud again later.
Hotel Tristaina - 1600 metres - 8.45 departure up to a hairpin bend recced by me last night. Nice ascent east in shade and trees (initially). 16°C. Very pleasant. We reached the end of a dirt road (luckily we only had to walk on it a little) after passing some Botanical Gardens - very quaint.
We soon reached the unmanned Sorteny Refuge at 1980 metres. (10 am) This had water outside and a toilet inside what otherwise was just a huge room with metal bunks, tables and benches. A strange selection of left over foods graced the shelves. We decided wild camping would be preferable here.
Suntan cream was applied and we continued the well graded ascent to Collada dels Meners (2713 metres), past Leopardsbane, Rockroses, Harebells and Dog Daisies, which are not yet 'over'.
Lots of flowers now are in their final throes - Pasque flowers and Willowherbs waving their seed heads merrily in the wind, and other plants taking on a very desiccated appearance.
We reached the col at 12.05, 10 minutes ahead of Georges Véron's timing.
But Sue was struggling, still being very tired and feeling unwell today. Knackered and needs a rest. So we ducked out of an easy walk up to Pic de Serrera (2912 metres), and headed down to a convenient lake for lunch. Very few people (7) seen today, but four of those were English! They were on day walks up to the col or the Pic.
12.45 to 1.20 - lunch with grasshoppers, soon left us with a short debate about which of three possible routes to take. We chose Georges Véron's old HRP route - the middle course - to Cabana Coms de Jan. A new 'GRP1' route seems to have been introduced (per latest map) which is better marked but may not be as much 'fun'. We enjoyed the scrambly bits and reached the Coms de Jan cabin (2 to 2.15), where we discovered it has been split into two - one section (locked) for a shepherd, and a small section for 2-3 people. Not very homely.
We tried to follow Véron's route to Collada del Clot Sord (2458 metres) and found a reasonable way (no real path), with a thrutch up the mountain at the end. A vague path led us across a scree slope to the west of the 2505 metre summit, at which we arrived at  3.40 pm. (We could alternatively have gone to the col / saddle, and would probably have easily scrambled to the summit.)
Then a 700 metre descent, pathless at first then marked with frequent yellow arrows and blobs.
This took us down to 2050 metres before a junction sent us off up Vall d'Incles, contouring past a balancing rock (Roca del Home Dret) before finally dumping us down a concrete road into the D'Incles valley.
We walked to the edge of Soldeu and asked in a bar ("where campsite?") The bemused man pointed up the road we had just come down ("1 km"). We then spotted two signposts within 100 metres of the bar, both pointing to 'Camping Font Dels Ferrosins', which we duly found at 5.40 pm, 1 km up the road we had just come down. Virtually empty, office shut, but hot showers working and a man arrived to be paid (€7.50) before we walked the half hour into Soldeu for a good meal surrounded by a coach load of overweight old German tourists, at Hotel Nandi, before a pleasant walk back to camp under the stars.
Stats and route (Viewranger):
17 km, 1500 metres ascent, 9 hours

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 42

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 42 - Sunday 5 September 2004 - Stage 34

Postcard Summary 
Fishermans Camp to El Serrat
Into Andorra at last for beer and ski resort lunch (supplies low) – 6.0 hours, 12 km, 800m ascent
Today, another hazy sky.  The morning involved a descent, then a climb to the Port de Rat – out of France and into Andorra.  The view of ski lifts was rather ugly, but an open restaurant provided us with cheese baguettes and salad – a good alternative to tins of fish!  We see lots of tourists walking the short distance to three scenic lakes, then we lose them when the descent gets steep.  Now enjoying beer, crisps and a valley view from the terrace of Hotel Tristiana, clean after a good bath.  Only one more day until a day off in Soldeu.

Diary Entry (by Sue)
After not an especially good night's sleep (bad pillow, sheep bells, gusty, too hot), I managed to miss both alarms (due to ear plugs), and woke with Martin suggesting a weather deterioration. Although the same high cloud was present, the pressure had fallen and the temperature had risen to 16°C. Delayed start due to toilet stops for both of us, but then we had a good run. Leaving our lake, a path descended, then contoured around the end of a very hazy valley, to meet a dirt road. (See top picture for the view down the Soulcem Valley.)
Not long on this gentle gradient upwards before our path is signed with cairns and yellow marks. We climb steadily, stopping once for mountain mix, to reach the Port de Rat at 2540 metres.
Ascending to Port de Rat
Two large cairns mark the border, and a fairly big landmark for us - we've reached Andorra (11 am).
The view is of ski lifts and pistes, and newly sown grass, but the advantage is that the Restaurant La Coma, by a large car park and a chairlift, is open. Although only 12 ish, we welcome a lunch of cheese baguettes and a plate of salad, with a tin of coke.
Leaving there, the path rose steeply for a short while, and it was soon clear why everyone and his dog were heading this way. Over a brow, and three lakes lay below us, very easily accessible from the car park. But, as usual with the HRP, we leave the tourist spots quickly, and after the lower lake, we saw no one walking.
A steep descent followed, where care was needed, with a rather scary crossing of a dam at the bottom, over which water was running (Martin avoided this by crossing the stream higher). Then, a section of ski piste, one of old road, one of new road, and one of track, and El Serrat appears.
A ski piste above El Serrat
It was hot (28°C) and sunny on this section, so no real change in the weather. El Serrat only has hotels and no shops, so we book into Hotel Tristaina, without finding out the cost for a night's half board, and immediately swing into the hotel / early finish routine (2.45 pm) - washing, baths and airing sleeping bags. Once these chores are done, we can adjourn to the terrace bar, for a beer, crisps and a few postcards. The swifts fly around this lofty location, and the hazy sun shines on our view both up and down the narrow valley, lined with pines.
We are their only customers for dinner at 8 pm, so we sit in the bar, instead of the restaurant, along with only one other customer - a small man who doesn't remove his hat and who drinks red wine and watches the blaring TV! Dinner is an ordinary salad, pork (M) and sausage (S) with chips and veg, and apple cake (S) and lemon mousse (M) for pudding. The waiter makes an excellent effort to describe the choices in English, more accurately than the 'English speaker' at the Graus campsite. Bed is around 10 pm.
Stats and route (Viewranger):
13 km, 680 metres ascent, 6 hours

Monday, 11 November 2019

Monday 11 November 2019 - The Alhambra, Granada



Leaving our hotel, a respectable place 100 metres from the Cathedral, I spotted a rat dashing to the cover of a rubbish container. So we can add that to our list of flora and fauna...

After breakfast, a short walk took us to the entrance of the Alhambra and the nearby Generalife, where we spent the entire day. Sadly it was overcast and cold.

These places are a conglomeration of structures and gardens dating from the 13th to the 20th centuries. The structures are being preserved, but there is no attempt to reconstruct what they might have looked like, furnished, in their heyday, and access to the interiors is very limited. Since the mid 1900s efforts have been made to return the gardens to their original magnificence. Many gardeners were hard at work today, mainly giving the numerous cypress and other trees an autumn trim.

We retreated from the cold wind for a luxurious coffee break in the posh Parador Hotel. Still cheaper than Starbucks.

The main attraction is the Palacios Nazaríes, which is entered by way of a timed ticket. By the time our 3 o'clock entry time came round, the battery in my audio guide was nearly flat. However, I didn't miss much as there are only so many ways you can describe an alabaster ceiling or wall. Apparently there used to be some pictures, but given the profusion of ornate plaster, we couldn't really see where any artwork would go.

Back in Granada, Restaurante Bicicleta was our chosen refuge in which to warm up and enjoy their assortment of tapas. That will last us until breakfast tomorrow, after which we'll be dashing off to the colder wetness of Timperley. So this is probably the last mobile posting for a while, though some more photos and some routes from this most enjoyable trip will appear in due course.

Today's pictures:
Inside Palacios Nazaríes
A typical 'plastered' wall
Freshly trimmed cypress trees 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Sunday 10 November 2019 - The Carthusian Monastery in Granada

Today has been comparatively restful, with a 10 km stroll under a heavy sky around Granada taking us to the Carthusian Monastery, returning via Sacromonte, where the houses are built into the rock of the hillside.

We went via the University campus, quiet on a Sunday morning apart from the screeching of a colourful band of Iberian magpies. We were also lucky to see a hoopoe in the same spot near the Dental School.

Collared doves and warblers were also in evidence today, as well as lots of mountain bikers, runners, a few hikers, and numerous tourists like us.

The monastery is an interesting place. Its construction started in 1516 and continued for about three centuries despite being occupied. It was occupied until 1836, when the church and the land belonging to it was confiscated.

The land passed to various owners and the cells of the monks and other outbuildings of a fragile structure disappeared. The ruinous state of the main buildings was eventually recognised as requiring restoration, and that took place, very successfully, in the 1960s.

The entrance fee of €5 included a helpful audio guide gadget.

There are some magnificent paintings on view, many by Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán (1560 - 1627), and his protégé Vincente Carducho (1585 - 1638). Some of them bring to life (or death) scenes described in CJ Sansom's Shardlake books that I'm currently reading.

The Sacristy and the Sanctuary are particularly ornate, being crammed with engravings that must have taken years to make (if not 300 years!).

I could go on, but there is lots of information elsewhere, and I don't want to bore you. A guidebook dated 1976 lent to us by Dot has come in useful!

After a delicious smoked salmon baguette, we were back at base by mid afternoon for a bit of down time before venturing out to a Moroccan restaurant, Palacio Andaluz Almona, for another tasty meal. The going rate for a meal for two, with drinks, is about €40 here.

Today's pictures:
From the Carthusian Monastery:
The Cloister
The Church
The Sanctuary

More to follow in due course.