[I’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 Moià, 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…
…and shops selling just freshly cut jamon…
But it feels a little bit rougher around the edges.
There is, however, a strange view over the rooftops.
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.
Montserrat, which literally means “saw (serrated, like the common handsaw) mountain” in Catalan, is 10 kilometres long and 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.
Along the way there are what I assume to be some little walkers refuges to distract attention…
…but with this on the horizon, that distraction doesn’t last for long.
The trail slowly takes me closer.
In the end there is a lot of carrying the bike up narrow rocky trails.
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 can’t 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.
…even if the monastery itself isn’t a particularly special building from the outside.
I stock up on healthy fluids and energy food at the visitor centre…
and then go and take a look around.
A little more impressive on the inside.
I even find a fan from Taiwan, who tells me that he loves me. It must be the helmet.
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.
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.
They seem friendly enough and so I pitch my tent in not a bad spot.
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.
How can I refuse. This is how I imagine my campfire cooking to be…
…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.
This night, however, after my own meal, this awaits 🙂
The views that evening and the following morning were astounding, with constantly changing skies and light. What a place.
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.
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…
…and eventually leave it behind the horizon.
What an unique place, and all seen from a viewpoint that I never would have experienced by coach or rail. Thanks Ogre :-).