In The Shadow of Montserrat

[Iโ€™m using the (Un)Inspired Ramblings Facebook page to post some more regular updates and photos in between main blog posts here. You can find it here.]

Leaving Vic a little later than planned, with a rushed packing up of my gear that would have been done the night before were it not for an invitation from Mia for some beers, I head up over the local hills on a minor road towards Manresa. Despite warnings that I’d be better taking the flat main road I’m on top within a couple of hours, pause for something to eat in Moiร , its then a breeze down into Manresa to find a hostel for the night. Manresa feels a little bit edgier than Vic.

There are lovely old streets…

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…and shops selling just freshly cut jamon…

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But it feels a little bit rougher around the edges.

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There is, however, a strange view over the rooftops.

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It was only a couple of days ago that I realised that the direction I was headed would take me close to Montserrat (the mountain, not the British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean :-)).

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I’ve of course heard of this place but didn’t know much about it. Sitting underneath the incredibly grand, multi-peaked 1200m mountain is the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. The mountain has been of religious significance since pre-Christian times with a temple built here by the Romans, and with the first mention of a monastery here in 880 AD.

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Montserrat, which literally means “saw (serrated, like the common handsaw) mountain” in Catalan, is 10 kilometres long and 5 kilometres wide and gives the appearance of being higher than it actually is, due to the fact that it rises straight up from the Llobregat River. As I ride out of Manresa, following small roads and then a GR route, the mad silhouette of its peaks, made out of a pink conglomorate sedimentary rock, are always visible.

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Along the way there are what I assume to be some little walkers refuges to distract attention…

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…but with this on the horizon, that distraction doesn’t last for long.

What a view.

The trail slowly takes me closer.

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And higher.

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In the end there is a lot of carrying the bike up narrow rocky trails.

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I know that eventually this trail reaches the road that skirts around the base of the vertical outcrops. I hadn’t planned on taking this road up to see the monastery itself but by the time I get there, and get my water replenished by some friendly builders restoring a smaller monastery, I cant resist. I get some funny looks from the tourists who have come by coach or the railway that climbs the mountain, as I roll into the visitor centre on the Ogre. The views from up here are amazing..

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…even if the monastery itself isn’t a particularly special building from the outside.

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I stock up on healthy fluids and energy food at the visitor centre…

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and then go and take a look around.

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A little more impressive on the inside.

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I even find a fan from Taiwan, who tells me that he loves me. It must be the helmet.

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Back outside to look at those views again, I then head off and roll back down the road as its just a couple of hours before dark and I plan to head down to a town to find somewhere to stay. As I’m passing a little picnic area I catch sight of a truck parked up and a thought occurs to me. I spin back round and go and talk to the two guys with the truck, wondering if its a little spot for some sneaky camping.

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The truck that Martien and Juan Carlos are staying in is truly amazing. Its a long term project for Martien, who is a ships captain and works for ten weeks, with the following ten weeks off. This thing is his home and he spends his non-work time travelling in the mountains of Europe and further afield.

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They seem friendly enough and so I pitch my tent in not a bad spot.

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Unfortunately Martien’s dog decides that my tent needs a little bit of modification. But after some repairs, I’m invited for a beer and to share a barbecued leg of lamb.

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How can I refuse. This is how I imagine my campfire cooking to be…

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…whereas all too often, its smoked meat from a packet, sauce from a jar, and some token veggies. I guess there is chocolate in there though, so I shouldn’t complain.

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This night, however, after my own meal, this awaits ๐Ÿ™‚

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The views that evening and the following morning were astounding, with constantly changing skies and light. What a place.

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What a day and night, that I wasn’t originally really looking forward to because the trail was a little uncertain and I knew it was going to be hard work getting up there. But the following morning, I’m so glad that I did. I pack up my gear and follow the road west, traversing under the vertical peaks on my left, with cloud filled valleys off to my right.

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As I take another trail and pass the western end of the Monserrat, different views are offered up, until I’m riding with the mountain behind me…

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…and eventually leave it behind the horizon.

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What an unique place, and all seen from a viewpoint that I never would have experienced by coach or rail. Thanks Ogre :-).

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Posted in Bikepacking London to Seville (2014) and tagged , .

9 Comments

    • Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Its a Tubus Vega rack. The Ogre has all sorts of mounts for racks and stuff, but if you’re using a bike without those mounts, the Thule could be a good option? I think there is a review here (when it was made by Freeload, before Thule bought it). Have fun!

  1. The Monastry was one of the first places Mike and I visited as a couple. A beautiful part of the world and thanks for sharing your pictures it brings back good memories!

  2. Absolutely love the photos. I can’t believe I travelled/camped around Spain in 2012, visited Barcelona and didn’t make the time to see Monserrat. It looks incredible.

    What are the trails like? Worth spending a week with an MTB there?

    • It could be but you might want to do some research first. There are long distance routes that cross the area, including GR routes and local walking and mountain biking routes, as well as circular routes that are waymarked to some degree, and must be mapped somewhere. I’ve just found this, for which I saw some signs (and which I may wish I’d found beforehand!). There is also a lot of stuff on Wikiloc, and you can search for specific areas.

      • Excellent, thanks.
        My wifes given me a consent form for a week or so away on the bike next year, so i am using your blog for ideas and inspiration! ๐Ÿ™‚

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