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Camino Catalán from Montserrat through Huesca

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I have finished my description of the first 9 days of my Camino 2015, which you can find here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/my-cami-st-jaume-from-llançà-to-montserrat.36051/ I started at Llanca, north of Barcelona, on the coast and almost at the French border. The walk from Llanca to Montserrat is 5*****, absolutely wonderful.

I know that many people start their Camino in Montserrat (as the guide books often do, too), so I thought I'd separate the parts. And besides, Montserrat was not only the beginning of a new Camino, but the place where LTfit and I joined up and started walking together. I'm hoping she will add comments, too. Especially about the two days she took from Barcelona to Montserrat, which were really really tough. And if LT says something is really really tough, for most of us mere mortals it is going to be nearly impossible!

Anyway, however you get to Montserrat, you are likely to be overwhelmed by the huge crowds, the high level of commercialization and the lack of peace and serenity. BUT... just wait a while. By 8 or 9 pm, the restaurants close, the crowds are gone, and you can contemplate the majesty of this amazing setting.

Montserrat5.jpg Montserrat6.jpg

LT showed up soon after my busload of Cervera friends had left. We had never met in person, just on the forum. I have to say, I highly recommend the forum as a way to meet new friends. Without LT, my Camino Catalán would just not have been as fun, as filling, as interesting, etc, etc. True, you may have to adjust your walking a bit if you plan to stick together. LT is a faster walker than I, so we walked together for the first week or so, and then decided that each one would go at her own speed, and we would meet up at designated resting points (usually involving a bar or café). That still requires some accommodation, because of course it meant LT had a whole lot longer to rest than I did and I'm sure that on many occasions she was already itching to go by the time I got my boots off for a rest, since she had already been there for a half hour. So I was the lowest common denominator, and my speed wound up determining when we would arrive. I felt kind of guilty about that sometimes, but LT was flexible and un-bothered. It just meant that sometimes she got a head start on her favorite post-Camino refreshment, a clara (or two). Anyway, we were a great walking pair, at least that's the opinion of one half (the slow half) of the pair. :)

The albergue in Montserrat is free for pilgrims for the first night. If you plan to spend a second night, or if you are not a pilgrim, they will ask for 10€. The albergue is clean, convenient, well maintained. It has several "pods," which consist of a common area, a small kitchen, and a few bedrooms off the common area. LT and I each had our own room and there were also some French pilgrims in the other rooms (but we never saw them again). After getting sticker shock from the prices of the available eateries, we went to the "tienda" and bought a few things to eat back in the albergue for our dinner.

The next day we were up early and on our way. I will start posting a day by day and hope that LT will chime in to correct me where my memory is failing or my impressions wrong.

I have had a few messages from people planning this route, so I will try to be as specific about the details as possible.

Some general comments before I plunge into the day by day. I would not put the Camino Catalán from Montserrat through Huesca on the top of my Camino list. The last part after Huesca is amazing. The facilities throughout are also incredibly good. But, I don't know, there was just something about it that didn't grab me as much as others have. Maybe it's because many of the small towns are really very uninteresting; maybe it's because the landscape is at times punishing. I don't know what it was, but it did not have that "Camino feeling" for me as much as other solitary caminos have. I had a wonderful time, but that was more because of LT than anything else. To be continued, buen camino, Laurie
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Just for an overview, here are our stages and the kms:

Day 1 -- Montserrat to Jorba (36)
Day 2 -- to Cervera (35)
Day 3 -- to Linyola (36)
Day 4 -- to Algerri (30)
Day 5 -- to Tamarite (21)
Day 6 -- Berbegal (40-42)
Day 7 -- Pueyo de Fañanás (30)
Day 8 -- Huesca (17) (we decided that since it was such a short day we would get lost and add on about 4-5 kms :))
Day 9 -- Sarsamarcuello (40)
Day 10 -- Botaya (30)
Day 11 -- Santa Cilia de Jaca (where the Camino Catalán ends and intersects with the Aragonés) -- car up to Somport pass -- walk down to Canfranc Estación (24 more or less)

That's a total of about 330 km.
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
Great Laurie that you started this thread - you are a few steps ahead of me!

Now that I have finished the updated version of Jirit's Vía de la Plata/Sanabrés guide I will finally sit down and help Laurie out with this thread. Maybe it will also push me to transfer all my 1,500 fotos from my phone to my computer!

The Barcelona - Monserrat part I will add to my original thread which I started back in June before we left.

Take Laurie's comments about my walking style/ability with a grain of salt - she is a tough lady and stayed with me till the last few days when she had to slow down because she encountered some knee pain. She was wonderful company and was also a great sport to sleep in a few accommodations which she, for sure, would not have stayed in if it were not for me (and my limited budget).

Just a general comment: I agree with Laurie at least about the first 4 etapas which were uninteresting. As of Sarsamarcuello the landscape was breathtaking! All in all the Aragón section was more inspiring than the Catalunya part. If you have limited time do Huesca to Santa Cilia de Jaca then the Aragonés from Somport to Puente la Reina.

Details follow as the thread progresses. Enjoy and hope it will be of use to others.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 1 -- Montserrat to Jorba (36 km)

On the advice of the group from Cervera, we decided to push beyond our initial destination of Igualada. 6 km beyond Igualada, there is an albergue run by the parish priest in the small town of Jorba. It made for a long day, the most unpleasant memory being a LONG slog through Igualada's industrial outskirts, that was kind of brutal.

Even though I had already been walking for 9 or 10 days, I started the day with the same anticipation of someone starting out on Day 1. In no small part that was because I was now walking with LT, and it seemed like a totally new endeavor. The first 20 km or so were essentially on the side of a very lightly travelled road, but asphalt nonetheless. At the beginning the views were amazing, as we wove around the Montserrat escarpments. Then when the Camino took a turn to the right, we headed towards the small town of Castellolí and the Montserrat mountains faded into the background.

Jorba1.jpg

Castellolí has a very popular bar. It was a Sunday morning, and at 10 am a huge outdoor seating area was filled with groups of cyclists and groups of motorcyclists (two very different types!) and then two peregrinas. Not sure why we resisted the urge to order some of the delicious looking food we saw -- mainly sandwiches on big chunks of bread stuffed with good looking stuff. But we had a coffee or a Kas, had a good rest and then moved on. (Bar's name is Cal Betes, Av. La Unió, right on the camino). We went though several small hamlets with large-ish churches, a trend that continued across Catalunya and Aragón.

Jorba2.jpg

I've already mentioned the long slog into Igualada, but let me repeat that it was a very long slog. All asphalt, very hot, very sunny, no shade, no natural beauty. But finally we got to the historic core and found a few plazas and cafés. We sat for a fairly long restorative rest, and then began the last 6 km or so into Jorba, but I can't jog my memory for any distinguishing features of those 6 kms. There is an albergue in Igualada and it looked like a nice place, right on the Camino and in decent condition. Igualada itself is a big town, plenty of commerce, so I assume it is a more popular first day stop.

We arrived in Jorba around 3 pm and headed to the parish albergue, next door to the little church. It's a nice well-kept building.


The priest was there, cooking up a storm, but unfortunately the fruits of his labor were not to be for us. He had two large groups eating lunch and was, understandably, devoting his attention to them. He let us check in, somewhat grudgingly (and only after telling us that the albergue's opening time is 6 pm). We showered quickly and made our way to the restaurant in town for our meal, which was a very good ensalada mixta if I recall. There is a supermarket attached to a gas station about a km out of town, LT had been tempted to go there but turned back after realizing that it wasn't just around the corner. There wasn't much to do in town, so we did spend a fair amount of time in a horizontal position in the albergue. The albergue itself is not isolated from the rest of the priest's operation. The kitchen, albergue bedroom, bathrooms, and dining rooms are all in close proximity. It was a lively atmosphere till everyone cleared out after their long lunch and then we were all alone. The bunks in the bedroom were squeezed into a fairly small space (I think there were 5 or 6 bunks) but since there were only two of us we weren't crowded at all. It would be tight with a full house.

All in all a good day, buen camino, Laurie
 

MichaelSG

Retired member
Camino(s) past & future
Not enough
Perspective, Perspective, Perspective! I loved that slog from Igualada to Montserrat! Then again, the walk the opposite direction from yours meant the part through the industrial area was in the cool dawn's early light, it was mostly down hill and we always had the crags of Montserrat in our view, growing larger and more beautiful with every step.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Perspective, Perspective, Perspective! I loved that slog from Igualada to Montserrat! Then again, the walk the opposite direction from yours meant the part through the industrial area was in the cool dawn's early light, it was mostly down hill and we always had the crags of Montserrat in our view, growing larger and more beautiful with every step.
Hi, Michael, I should be more precise -- the term "slog" was meant only to refer to the several kms through the industrial outskirts. And I agree, those early morning kms, wherever they take you, are never a slog. I thought those first 20 km to Castiglioli (or for you, the last 20 km to Montserrat) were very nice. Did you sleep in the albergue in Igualada?

And another thing -- did you notice that the km distances to the next towns posted on the signs were the same at both the entrance to Igualada and the exit? Meaning, I suppose that whoever was doing the calculations didn't count the in-town kms when they came up with their totals. But we were very much aware of those in-town kms and kind of dispirited to see when we left Igualada that we we were no closer to Jorba than when we had entered it an hour earlier. :confused:
 

MichaelSG

Retired member
Camino(s) past & future
Not enough
Hi, Michael, I should be more precise -- the term "slog" was meant only to refer to the several kms through the industrial outskirts. And I agree, those early morning kms, wherever they take you, are never a slog. I thought those first 20 km to Castiglioli (or for you, the last 20 km to Montserrat) were very nice. Did you sleep in the albergue in Igualada?

And another thing -- did you notice that the km distances to the next towns posted on the signs were the same at both the entrance to Igualada and the exit? Meaning, I suppose that whoever was doing the calculations didn't count the in-town kms when they came up with their totals. But we were very much aware of those in-town kms and kind of dispirited to see when we left Igualada that we we were no closer to Jorba than when we had entered it an hour earlier. :confused:
Oops. I did realize that you meant just the industrial outskirts of Igualada. It was me that was not precise. On our last Camino, we mostly stayed in pensions whenever possible, with casa rurals and hotels filling in most of the balance. That was the bribe to get my wife to go on this rather "last minute" walk. Regarding the distances, we followed GPS tracks so we usually didn't get surprised but I did notice a few of the signs that got us to city limits. Igualada is a BIG town from end to end too. I probably would have collapsed at the exit.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
So, for anyone (like maybe Eze if he is continuing with his Catalán plans for the fall) looking for places to stay in Igualada or nearby, here is what I found in addition to the albergue:

Canaletas http://restaurantcanaletes.com/ (has a pensión in addition to the restaurant, but looks to be on the outskirts)
Casa Ramón -- not too much info: http://www.infohostal.com/guia/barcelona/igualada/alojamiento/13992/pension-casa-ramon.html
Casa Gonzalez -- 15 Carrer de Sebastiá Artés (though its google streetview does not look at all inviting)

In any event, Igualada has options for those who don't want to carry on to Jorba! Buen camino, Laurie

p.s. The albergue is right across the street from this rather unusual looking place, which should make it easy to find:

Igualada.jpg
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 2 -- Jorba to Cervera (35 km)

The first 8 or 10 kms were along the road, but then it got nice. After a total of about 18 kms, we arrived in La Panadella, which actually is not a town but just a crossroads on a highway with hostal, two bars, and gas stations. We stopped at what we thought was the nicer looking of the two places, and soon after a busload full of young kids came tramping in. They had just flown in from Mallorca and were on their way to spend a few days in the Pyrenees. It was a lot of fun to talk with these sweet kids who were full of questions and couldn't even begin to imagine what a Camino must be like.

Cervera10.jpg

The next 15-18 kms to Cervera were extremely nice, through a few towns with very nice restored churches, plazas and fountains, nice wooded areas, some of the time on agricultural paths. As we could see the town of Cervera in the distance up on the hill, we lost the arrows. My GPS tracks took us around the edge of a wheat field with not much of a path at all. But it took us where we wanted to go in the end, and we did once again find the arrows to take us into town.
Cervera1.jpg Cervera6.jpg
Getting into Cervera requires heading up a pretty steep bunch of steps to the old fortified town, and finding the streets that are hidden and somewhat tunnel-like. The mysterious atmosphere added to the tradition of witches and witchcraft in the town, which has been exploited by the town for touristic purposes. This town does have some tourism potential; there is a nice old square, some streets of houses that date from centuries ago, a big 18th century university built in Cervera because of the town's support of the King during the War of Spanish Succession, involving some sort of conflict between the dying out Hapsburg dynasty and the Bourbons (I should stay away from history).
Cervera7.jpg Cervera8.jpg

Cervera4.jpg
The albergue in Cervera is very nice. It is in the Residencia de la Sagrada Familia, where some nuns still live. Pilgrims have a huge section of one floor, which consists of a long hallway with private curtained off individual rooms, and bathrooms and showers at the end. This was the place where the novitiates used to live, but my bet is there have been no novitiates here for decades. The sisters remaining are extremely gracious and kind, some must be well into their 90s. 10€

Cervera2.jpg Cervera3.jpg

We spent some time in different cafés, writing, reading and enjoying the town, when all of a sudden we ran into one of the Spanish women I had met walking into Montserrat. She was a bundle of enthusiasm, took us all over town, and we ended with a trip to the Bonpreu grocery story (a cooperative) with good prices and quality. That's where I had my first ever "gazpacho in a box." She told us that the walk between Cervera and the next day's destination of Linyola would be unremarkable (she was definitely right!) but not difficult. It was fun to hear how this young French woman from had fallen in love and moved to Cervera, where she was now a busy mother of 4 and very happy in her adopted home. All in all a good day.
 

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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 3 -- Cervera to Linyola (40 km)

Started out with ponchos on, and it was the first (and only) rain we had, and this lasted almost the whole way to Tarrega, which is about 11 km.

Linyola1.jpg

This was not a terribly inspiring walk, but it was almost all off road. Km after km of harvested fields of brown stubble. First part to Tarrega, where there is a new albergue, supposedly very nice, in an old home donated by its now deceased owner for use as an albergue. Plenty of services and commerce in this big and bustling town (we had a nice café stop here), and another friend from the day I walked to Montserrat honked and waved at us excitedly. It felt like we had friends here! This is also where the Camino Catalán splits -- left to Lleida/Lérida, then Zaragoza and Logroño, and to the right, Huesca, San Juan de la Peña and onto the Aragonés at Santa Cilia de Jaca.

Linyola2.jpg Linyola.jpg

Several small towns, none of which really held a lot of appeal, but thankfully all were connected by off-road trails. It was a great day in terms of the surface we walked on, at least. In A Fuliola, we had a nice stop for a cold drink, and then had 11 more long flat (and pretty boring) boring kms into Linyola.

Linyola1A.jpg Cervera5.jpg

In Linyola, there is no albergue and no private accommodation, but Josep Caba offers acogida (shelter) to pilgrims in his old complex of farming buildings (the farm seems to have been eaten up by modern development but the little set of buildings and unused farm implements are still there). He is an extremely nice man, offers this as a favor, wants no money, and we were very grateful. Having said that, you should know that the standards reflect the price. On the ground floor is the bathroom and an adjacent "hideaway" for Mr. Caba's teenaged grandson, who seemed to while away the afternoon hours smoking in his little room. The sleeping room is upstairs, with an adjacent kitchen of sorts, though it didn't look like any of the many appliances were actually functional. The stairway is open and could be very dangerous at night, so make sure to have a lantern. Calle Anselmo Clave 11 (Tel. 973-57-50-30 or 626-66-35-45) Daughter’s phone (apparently the one to call): 696725326. The daughter lives next store in a beautiful home; don't get your hopes up that you're headed that way when you enter the complex!

Linyola6.jpg Linyola7.jpg

Eating options were few, and we wound up at the Casino restaurant, which gave us the caloric intake we needed but without much pleasure.

LT uttered one of this Camino's memorable lines in Linyola, and I still chuckle when I think of it. When I asked her if she was going to wash her clothes, she said no because the sink looked dirtier than her clothes. :D

Buen camino, Laurie
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
What a wonderful trip down memory lane! Thanks soooo much Laurie for writing this all up. I must say that I don't have anything to add (how could I?).

Thanks also for the laugh - did I actually say that?!? :). Any excuse not to wash my clothes ;).

It must be said: Laurie was a real good sport. I know that she would have never stayed in the refugio in Linyola if it weren't for me :).
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
What a wonderful trip down memory lane! Thanks soooo much Laurie for writing this all up. I must say that I don't have anything to add (how could I?).

Thanks also for the laugh - did I actually say that?!? :). Any excuse not to wash my clothes ;).

It must be said: Laurie was a real good sport. I know that she would have never stayed in the refugio in Linyola if it weren't for me :).
It's funny, I started this thread by saying that this Camino wasn't one of my favorites, but as I'm writing up the day by days I have so many good memories that I am starting to change that overall slightly negative assessment. For me a big part of it may have been the endless fields of post-harvest brown stubble (and the lack of interesting towns, perhaps). It just wore on me. But the endless fields of green on the Levante inspired me-- presumably those fields become brown after harvest as well, so maybe I need an attitude adjustment to recognize that the harvest cycle is just an inevitable part of a camino.
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
Only now am I transferring my pictures from phone to computer. In this way I am also reliving our Camino together. Boy did we see a multitude of landscapes and colors! Having done the Plata and Levante in the summer prepared me for the brown hues encountered during the initial days on the Camí - the endless fields are just one part of the whole.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Only now am I transferring my pictures from phone to computer. In this way I am also reliving our Camino together. Boy did we see a multitude of landscapes and colors! Having done the Plata and Levante in the summer prepared me for the brown hues encountered during the initial days on the Camí - the endless fields are just one part of the whole.
So, LT, are you also thinking that we may have been too harsh in saying more or less "ehhh" when it came to the Montserrat to Huesca part? We really did see a lot of "deep Spain" and had a lot of good experiences with people. I know things get more rosy with hindsight but looking at my pictures and notes is making me say, hey, we had a lot of real solid and enjoyable camino experience there.

To put a finer point on it -- there was a forum member who posted recently that he had done the Camino Catalán through Lleida and then decided to go back and do it again, this time through Huesca (or vice versa, I don't remember). My initial reaction was -- why in the world would you do that? Now I'm thinking -- well, I would consider the route through Lleida/Lérida for a future camino! Buen camino, Laurie
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
Looking back (sitting at home puts a lot in perspective right?) the first 4 days or so I still think were less than inspirational but I believe that it had quite a bit to do with the towns we stayed in don't you think? It seemed that it all changed when we entered Aragón. I remember arriving into Tamarite thinking: finally a bit of atmosphere and it is there that you found your snazzy shades at the chino!

The fact that we were alone might taint our view too. Luckily the locals were all wonderfully helpful.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Looking back (sitting at home puts a lot in perspective right?) the first 4 days or so I still think were less than inspirational but I believe that it had quite a bit to do with the towns we stayed in don't you think? It seemed that it all changed when we entered Aragón. I remember arriving into Tamarite thinking: finally a bit of atmosphere and it is there that you found your snazzy shades at the chino!

The fact that we were alone might taint our view too. Luckily the locals were all wonderfully helpful.
Yes it would be hard to put "Linyola" and "inspirational" in the same sentence. :)
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 4 -- Linyola - Algerri (33 km)

We walked through a lot of fields with a lot of irrigation channels (this would be the theme for several of our days before Huesca). Things picked up when we got to Balaguer, a city that had been, we were told, some sort of dividing line between Fascists (north) and Republicans (south) in the Spanish Civil War. It is pretty, interesting little old core, has a big church up on the hill with castle walls, and a riverwalk.

algerri1.jpg algerri2.jpg

After Balaguer, we had what seemed to be another pretty endless stretch of walking through fields, with the occasional little town, but this day was for the most part one of those "get on auto-pilot and walk" kind of days.

Linyola4.jpg Linyola5.jpg

I would describe Algerri as a dusty town on the side of the highway, sort of like Torremegía on the Vdlp. The albergue is quite nice, it is an apartment in a municipally-owned building. The bottom floor is the "hogar de los jubilados" (gathering place for retirees), and the albergue is on the top floor. They asked for 5 €. 10 beds in bunks. Clean bathroom, full kitchen, clothes can hang to dry out on a patio.

There is not much going on in Algerri. Its church is surprisingly huge and ornate for such a small place. We walked the streets but saw few people.

algerri.jpg

There is a restaurant and a small shop in town. The restaurant was closed, but we were sent a little further up the highway, still in town really, to a restaurant/pensión attached to a gas station. The menú del día was respectable, but what I remember most were the re-fillable bowls of cool refreshing gazpacho. These days were very hot, hitting 40 at some points, and 40 C is 104 F. That's pretty hot for walking. That meant we were usually on the road around 6, never in the dark, and got to our destination well before the hottest time of the day.

We knew that tomorrow, we would pass from Catalunya to Aragón, but had been alerted to the fact that Catalán would still be spoken in towns close to, but on the other side of, the dividing line. This isn't intended to suggest that Catalán was a problem in any way for us, because we always found that people were quite OK with speaking to us in Castellano once we told them we didn't speak Catalán.

Buen camino, Laurie
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 5 -- Algerri to Tamarite (22 km)

For whatever reason, my GPS didn't have the data recorded, so I'm reporting the kms from Eroski. It seems right, it was a very short day, we were in town by 11 am.

This was a flat day, with our first coffee after 6 km in the last town in Catalunya, Alfarrás. We have gotten spoiled by clear cool early morning sunrises, such a pleasure to walk.
tamarite.jpg Tamarite4.jpg

Not many highlights except for the famed aqueduct at the dividing line between Catalunya and Aragón. I know there is some underlying huge water battle involving this aqueduct but I didn't get (or maybe I forget) the details.

tamarite1.jpg tamarite2.jpg

Tamarite was a pleasant surprise, a much bigger place than Algerri. It has an old core that isn't terribly well preserved, but it is clearly a commercial center of sorts for the surrounding area. Not a big city, but all the commerce the average pilgrim would want. We visited the farmacia, the Chino (where I replaced my sunglasses for 2.5 € and got an all cotton pillow case for about the same amount -- GREAT investment), and had a decent meal in a place recommended by the woman we chatted with on our way into town.

Tamarite3.jpg tamarite5.jpg

Sign-in for the albergue is at the Policía Local, and though the townspeople were almost uniformly kind and chatty, this guy was taciturn and grumpy. Oh well. Maybe he didn't like the fact that he had to walk us all of 300 m from the police station up to the albergue.

The albergue is in an old Escuela Taller. There are three bedrooms, each one, I think, with 4 bunks (though we didn't see the other rooms). Separate male and female bathrooms, whose cleanliness was appreciated. Though we were the only pilgrims, the other two rooms were occupied by a bunch of college students majoring in Archaeology on their first "dig." They were working up in the hills looking for pre-Roman settlements. Some things had been found, leading to this larger effort. It was fun to talk to them -- all young, enthusiastic, passionate about their subject matter, but fairly pessimistic about the hope they would ever be able to earn a living doing it.

I knew that the next day was going to be a biggie, 42 km by some calculations, but I knew it was flat and knew I had done that distance on the St. Jaume, so I wasn't freaking out. Buen camino, Laurie
 
J

Julio Santiago

Guest
Day 5 -- Algerri to Tamarite (22 km)

For whatever reason, my GPS didn't have the data recorded, so I'm reporting the kms from Eroski. It seems right, it was a very short day, we were in town by 11 am.

This was a flat day, with our first coffee after 6 km in the last town in Catalunya, Alfarrás. We have gotten spoiled by clear cool early morning sunrises, such a pleasure to walk.
View attachment 21357 View attachment 21361

Not many highlights except for the famed aqueduct at the dividing line between Catalunya and Aragón. I know there is some underlying huge water battle involving this aqueduct but I didn't get (or maybe I forget) the details.

View attachment 21358 View attachment 21359

Tamarite was a pleasant surprise, a much bigger place than Algerri. It has an old core that isn't terribly well preserved, but it is clearly a commercial center of sorts for the surrounding area. Not a big city, but all the commerce the average pilgrim would want. We visited the farmacia, the Chino (where I replaced my sunglasses for 2.5 € and got an all cotton pillow case for about the same amount -- GREAT investment), and had a decent meal in a place recommended by the woman we chatted with on our way into town.

View attachment 21360 View attachment 21362

Sign-in for the albergue is at the Policía Local, and though the townspeople were almost uniformly kind and chatty, this guy was taciturn and grumpy. Oh well. Maybe he didn't like the fact that he had to walk us all of 300 m from the police station up to the albergue.

The albergue is in an old Escuela Taller. There are three bedrooms, each one, I think, with 4 bunks (though we didn't see the other rooms). Separate male and female bathrooms, whose cleanliness was appreciated. Though we were the only pilgrims, the other two rooms were occupied by a bunch of college students majoring in Archaeology on their first "dig." They were working up in the hills looking for pre-Roman settlements. Some things had been found, leading to this larger effort. It was fun to talk to them -- all young, enthusiastic, passionate about their subject matter, but fairly pessimistic about the hope they would ever be able to earn a living doing it.

I knew that the next day was going to be a biggie, 42 km by some calculations, but I knew it was flat and knew I had done that distance on the St. Jaume, so I wasn't freaking out. Buen camino, Laurie
Amiga del Camino, I think I will do this Camino one day, soon I hope. 2016 or 2017... I will keep all these good notes. Chapeau. Julio
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
Balaguer has an interesting local museum, with relics of its old Juderia (although I had to tell them that they had placed their Hebrew Old Testament upside down!)-- the church of Nuestra Senora del Meracle is a former synagogue, although you'll see no sign of its initial function. I had a dinner in the Placa Mercanal one evening and was puzzled by a brass band setting up in the middle of nowhere, but it was to play music for the Catalan popular dance -- the Sardana-- Youtube provides lots of examples.

Water has to be carefully managed as there are few fuentes on this stretch-- doubtless farmhouses will supply you if asked. The stretch into Tamarite was where the Guardia Civil picked me up for walking in extreme heat in September. They made it very clear that if a foreigner (and a pilgrim, to boot!) expired on their turf, there would be no end of paperwork. My Spanish friends love to hear about orange juice being hand-squeezed for me at the Guardia cuartel.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Balaguer has an interesting local museum, with relics of its old Juderia (although I had to tell them that they had placed their Hebrew Old Testament upside down!)-- the church of Nuestra Senora del Meracle is a former synagogue, although you'll see no sign of its initial function. I had a dinner in the Placa Mercanal one evening and was puzzled by a brass band setting up in the middle of nowhere, but it was to play music for the Catalan popular dance -- the Sardana-- Youtube provides lots of examples.

Water has to be carefully managed as there are few fuentes on this stretch-- doubtless farmhouses will supply you if asked. The stretch into Tamarite was where the Guardia Civil picked me up for walking in extreme heat in September. They made it very clear that if a foreigner (and a pilgrim, to boot!) expired on their turf, there would be no end of paperwork. My Spanish friends love to hear about orange juice being hand-squeezed for me at the Guardia cuartel.
Hi oursonpolaire, Where did you stay in Balaguer? It seemed like it would have been a nice little town to spend some time in, I had no idea about the former synagogue.

How lucky you got to see a sardana -- did they make you get up and try it? I lived in Barcelona for a year in the late 70s and frequently went down to the Cathedral on Sunday mornings to try to learn the sardana, but I have absolutely no rhythm and it was a failure. But still a lot of fun, I wonder if they still have those gatherings.

And did you stay in the Escuela Taller in Tamarite? We thought it was pretty nice, but it was pretty hot in June as well.

Buen camino, Laurie
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I stayed at the Hotel Balaguer on the riverbank, just five minutes from the Placa. It is a plain country town hotel and in 2007 and 2009, I think I paid about 25-30. The menu de dia was acceptable, but the restaurants on the Placa were better and more agreeable.

Tamarite was where the Guardia Civil picked me up, but it was at the time of the local fiesta and nowhere was available. However, one of the Guards found me a staff room at a finca /casa rural nearby where they were holding a wedding (it was suggested to me that people are generally happy to take the occasion of being helpful to the Guardia Civil)-- the celebrations did not keep me awake, but that might have been the cava which was sent over to my little terrace by the wedding party (while there was no room for me in the restaurant, my serving of the 6 courses of the menu de boda was courtesy of the bridal couple). They were still celebrating when I left at 7 am, but the staff gave me breakfast at 6.00 and made a little packed lunch for me. I have long thought that this set a standard for hospitality for pilgrims.
 
C

Castilian

Guest
I lived in Barcelona for a year in the late 70s and frequently went down to the Cathedral on Sunday mornings to try to learn the sardana, but I have absolutely no rhythm and it was a failure. But still a lot of fun, I wonder if they still have those gatherings.
Yes, they still have them.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 6 -- Tamarite to Berbegal (42 km)

Long day, but nothing too strenuous, just that frustrating sharp little ascent at the very end to get up to Berbegal, a town on a hill.

The first 20 km were all off-road, lots of the kms went by a canal. This was one major canal, and its waters cooled the already cool morning air, so it was a very pleasant if not terribly interesting part of the day.

Berbegal.jpg Berbegal2.jpg

Monzón is a nice little town, has a castle on the hill, but we didn't stop to visit it. We got a sello in the Ayuntamiento, had a drink and nice rest in a lively little café in the Plaza Mayor, and then pushed on 6.5 kms in the hot sun to Selgua.
Berbegal4.jpg Berbegal7.jpg

Selgua has a bar/restaurante and ahostal. We had planned to stay here, but had the choice made for us when the owner of the Hostal called to say that the room that we had reserved the day before was still occupied by the previous night's occupant, who had decided not to leave. Well, that's one way of dealing with reservations. I did get the sense on the phone that if we had pushed, she would have found somewhere to put us up, but since we were feeling ok and knew that Berbegal was not that much further, I just said ok and goodbye.

Place to stay in Selgua if you don't want to go all the way to Berbegal: HOSTAL CASA FORNIES: Calle Romero,2. Tel.
974-417-169

In Selgua, we met a resident who was very interested in showing us the church, and some interesting stones around the back of it, and engaging us in conversation about how badly Selgua was doing.

After Selgua, there appeared to be some re-routing of the Camino, which no longer passes through the little town of Ilche. But it was almost all off-road, so very nice on the feet. Getting close to Berbegal, the Romanesque ermita Santa Águeda stands alone in the middle of a field. It must be the site of an annual romería.

Berbegal5.jpg

As you climb up the hill to enter Berbegal, you will come to the municipal swimming pool, which has a public bar. The woman at the pool called her brother Manu, the hospitalero and he came to take us to the albergue and give us the keys. The albergue is very nice, in an apartment with all facilities, fully equipped kitchen and washing machine. Manu also will give you laundry detergent to wash your clothes. The town wants no money from pilgrims.

There is one restaurant-bar in town, recently taken over by an out of town couple and the brother-in-law. They are giving it a go but say they are having trouble making ends meet. This little town of Berbegal must know someone important somewhere, because we were told they have a health clinic open all week, not just one day or two like other places of its size. There is also evidence of a huge (and I would say disproportionate, given the population) amount of public infrastructure spending to create a very nice promenade around what used to be the castle walls with views out over the plains below. There is a very pretty Romanesque Colegiata, Santa María la Blanca, but it was closed whenever we went by.
Berbegal6.jpg
We had a late lunch in the restaurant, about 3:30, so we didn't need another meal but spent some nice time sitting in the plaza with a drink in the early evening. We have come to so appreciate the towns where there is life on the streets, even as small a place as Berbegal had a fairly lively group congregating after work in the square.

Off-road trail, good café along the way for a break, albergue with washing machine and good beds, town with decent restaurant and café, all adds up to another very good day on the Camino. Buen camino, Laurie
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 7 Berbegal to Pueyo de Fañanás (30 km)

Here, our views of the distant Pyrenees began -- way off in the haze, sometimes clear, sometimes fuzzy, we could see some mountains and some of them still had snow. It was a lovely thing to be able to see mountains out there after so many days of flat.

pueyo1.jpg

The first 12 km were all pleasant and off road to the town of Pergusa. This little town has two bars, one in off the road by the church, and one at the exit of town and one the Camino. The second one was supposed to open at 9 am, but we left around 9:15 without seeing any evidence that it would in fact be opening. The next 5 km to Antillón were all on the side of the road. The social club is likely to be open and ready to sell you a café or other drink. When we arrived in the square where the social club building is located, we assumed it was closed because there was no movement, nothing open -- but luckily LT gave the door a push and it opened! We had a nice long rest, and then the trail took a turn and we lost the Pyrenees from sight.

Pueyo2.jpg pueyo3.jpg

The last km from Antillón to Pueyo were all through agricultural fields, on nice unpaved roads, great for the feet. Lots of harvesting action going on.

The municipal albergue in Pueyo de Fañanás is a small apt. above what used to be the social club. The hospitalera told us that the social club, where meals were previously made for pilgrims, had closed a couple of days before our arrival. I don't know if it has reopened, but would recommend bringing food just in case. The albergue kitchen has cooking utensils, but as luck would have it, we had virtually nothing with us. The very kind hospitalera gave us bread and eggs so we made a sandwich. And we bought a couple of beers from her at the un-gouged price of .50 € each. There were also cookies and coffee in the pantry for the morning, so we knew we wouldn't go hungry. But we were running very low on food supplies.

Luckily, the next day's walk to Huesca was the shortest day of all, a mere 17 km, at least until we decided to get lost and add more kms to the total.

Pueyo is not a place where much is going on. Nor is it a very attractive place. But like many of these small dying places, the people are kind and generous.


pueyo4.jpg
It is so close to Huesca that I'm sure the residents who are working all go there during the week. The main attraction the afternoon we were there were the newborn twins. They received far more than their fair share of attention, because after all, the arrival of newborn residents is a big and very rare occasion in an aging shrinking town like Pueyo. LT and I sat outside just writing and reading and watching the small group of residents enjoy the babies, and watching a few other children play ball and run around the square. We slept very well, no noise, no distractions.

Buen camino, Laurie
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 8 -- Pueyo de Fañanás to Huesca (17 km)

We expected a no-brainer easy walk into Huesca, and the day started out fine on off-road tracks past a couple of small towns. We had a view of the mountains in the distance for the entire walk.

Huesca5.jpg

Then at some point we saw ourselves crossing over the Autovía, seeing a slightly touristy looking town over to the right (we are pretty sure it was Siétamo), and wondering if we had gone wrong somehow. Sure enough, when we flagged down the next car, he told us how to get back to the little town of Ola and from there we would see the arrows and the Camino straight into Huesca. This was one of my many frustrating days with the GPS. I couldn't for the life of me find the tracks I had downloaded for this stage, but I knew I had them. So in some sense our getting lost was entirely unnecessary and all my fault. I have downloaded my tracks for this stage, and if you look at them, you can see very clearly where we went wrong. The GPS says our walk that day was 22 km, so it looks like a 5 km mistake. :eek: You can see the GPS tracks here

We got back onto the side of a paved road, the A-1218 my notes say, and then found the arrow with a turnoff into Ola. From there on, there was no getting lost. The camino was virtually all off road and very well marked. We went by a stone shephard hut and found that during the Spanish Civil War, the Trotskyist group POUM had occupied it and carved its name above the doorway. That past is not that distant, and the debate is still raging about whether the official actions have properly confronted its brutality. We had some of those discussions on the Aragonés with a Spanish couple, days after passing this.

Huesca1.jpg Huesca7.jpg

When we got closer to Huesca, we found that many local people were out using the trails and it took us through some areas of natural vegetation, along a river at points, and finally to a church designated as an "ermita", but looking too big to meet my mind's definition of ermita.

From there the walk on asphalt into the city began, and it wasn´t long before we found our way to the albergue, purpose-built for pilgrims in 2011. It is located very close to one of the city's municipal pools, which has a café bar open to the public, but the pools themselves are not.

We called the number on the door and had to wait about 45 minutes for the hospitalera. The posted opening time is 1:30 pm, so we weren't complaining. The woman who came to open up was clearly a last minute fill-in for someone else and had trouble navigating the process. But finally we were checked in. The albergue has two bedrooms with about 16 beds, kitchen with washing machine (soap provided in the albergue). 10 € includes use of washing machine. This albergue could use some cleaning, I have seen many others in what I would describe as its state of benign neglect, but mold and crud are starting to appear and lack of regular cleaning is going to take its toll.

Huesca6.jpg

As it was Sunday, we knew the tourist attractions (mainly a Romanesque cloister I had read about) would be closed for the afternoon. It was early enough for us to have our main meal at a restaurant in the center, and after showering and washing, we headed downtown. Huesca is a bigger city than I had imagined and we found a pretty lively historical core with outdoor restaurants, etc. We had a decent lunch as I remember sitting outside in the shade (it was HOT!).

After eating, we wandered around a bit, joined up with a group of tourists heading into the Ayuntamiento for a look at the hallway, stairway, and several paintings but left when it became clear that we were not supposed to do that. We visited the Cathedral, had another cold drink but then headed back to the old town to check out the ambiente.
Huesca3.jpg Huesca4.jpg

We wound up sitting in a café outdoors and enjoyed a very lovely conversation with a newly retired Guardia Civil and her husband/partner and their child. She told us many stories of having been a member of the Guardia's international competitive "shoot while skiing" team (is that some kind of official sport?) and also from years as a Guardia at the Somport pass, which was at that time a highly patrolled border with France. They left to pack for her upcoming trip home to Andalucía for the summer, and when we went to pay our bill, learned that they had treated us. That is such a typical Spanish gesture that I always find so incredibly nice. Just a "detalle," some may say, how much do two cañas cost, but the impression of generosity that it creates is worth so much more than that.

Little did we know it at the time, but the next (and final) three days till we reached the Aragonés were going to be showstoppers! All we knew was that the next day to Sarsamarcuello was going to be long long long, and in fact it turned out to be around 40 kms. But we would be heading towards and finally getting into the mountains!

Buen camino, Laurie
 
C

Castilian

Guest
As it was Sunday, we knew the tourist attractions (mainly a Romanesque cloister I had read about) would be closed for the afternoon.
Just in case anyone is interested, I think she's talking about San Pedro el Viejo www.sanpedroelviejo.com

It's a pity you didn't visit the church-basilica of San Lorenzo. Take a look at www.parroquia-sanlorenzo.org for info and pictures (put the mouse over la basílica on the left menu and select visita a la carta from the new menu that will drop). Note: San Lorenzo is the patrón of Huesca.

A curiosity: the bishop of Huesca is also bishop of Jaca but Huesca belongs to the archdiocese of Zaragoza while Jaca belongs to the archdiocese of Pamplona and Tudela.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Yes!!! That's it. She was injured on a race and got to retire well before 40.

Just in case anyone is interested, I think she's talking about San Pedro el Viejo www.sanpedroelviejo.com
Yes, Castilian, that's exactly the cloister I had hoped to see. But, truth be told, I had seen so many romanesque cloisters by then, probably almost a dozen, that I was ok with leaving it for my next Camino Catalán. ;)
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 9 -- Huesca to Sarsamarcuello (40 km)

NOW, finally, we're getting into some serious pre-Pyrenees landscape. It was a long day, a lot of through what I would describe as pretty punishing landscape, but we saw the Castle of Loarre and had some nice mountain views beckoning us. But it was hot, high 30s, so we left early and made good time.

Sarsamarcuello.jpg



Almost all of this day was spent off-road, which is generally great for the feet, but there were lots of stretches of paths covered with small rocks, which is less of a pleasure. In Bolea, after about 26 km, we had our first break (there is virtually nothing between Huesca and Bolea) and learned we were entering a part of Aragón where lots of fruit is grown. It was cherry harvest time, and we saw tons of cherries, of all sizes and colors, from bright red to light red to yellow. We were invited to taste and enjoyed a few handfuls very much.

Sarsamarcuello2.jpg Sarsamarcuello3.jpg

Sarsamarcuello4.jpg Sarsamarcuello7.jpg


From Bolea to Loarre it was again pretty unpopulated, mainly agricultural, but the fruit trees added patches of green to what otherwise would have been the brown harvested fields. In the town of Loarre we stocked up on food to bring up to Sarsamarcuello, because we knew we would not have many food options in the tiny town ahead. Loarre is a slightly touristy place, with several accommodation options, but we chose to go on to Sarsamarcuello because it has an albergue.


sarsamarcuello6.jpg

The albergue in Sarsamarcuello has a kitchen-eating area on the first floor, with bedroom (7 bunk beds?) and a bathroom. Fairly well maintained. We met our first peregrino in this place, an Andaluz who walks short distances to accommodate his habits, which include drinking 4L of beer a day and smoking almost as many packs of cigarettes. We didn't have a whole lot in common with him but it was nice to have company in the albergue.

The hospitalero was a wonderful guy. He has very little in the way of formal education, but loves to read and is knowledgeable on a wide range of historical and contemporary subjects. It was really a treat to get to talk to him. One of the first dreadlock Spaniards I have met. He lived in a bigger city, but came out to this tiny place to buy a house and renovate it. His wife and young son are also there, and I met them that evening as they sat outside in the shade. I can't for the life of me remember the hospitalero's name, but he told me a lot of his life story. He feels lucky to have a permanent job at the sanitary sewer service provider, even though in a perfect world he would be more of a self-sufficient dreamer/thinker. The social club was open that evening and I would encourage all peregrinos to mosey over to sit and chat with the people who drop by, though it was all men and no women. People were very friendly. And if you are hungry, though the bar doesn't serve food, they do have an ice cream freezer, so you can get one of those ridiculously rich concoctions on a stick for 1 or 2 €. It was my treat to myself that day!

This was the only day I can remember during which we were tormented by flies in the albergue. There were millions and millions of them, and I'm not sure why. But they didn't interfere with our sleeping, so no real complaints from these peregrinas. Buen camino, Laurie
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Day 10 -- Sarsamarcuello to Botaya (34 km)

A SPECTACULAR day, just gorgeous. Right up there with the mountain days of the Salvador, Vadiniense, Olvidado, etc. We were past the wildflower season, but it was green and mountainous and just so beautiful.

Leaving Sarsamarcuello, there is a rocky path up almost all the way to the castle ruins at Marscuello.

botaya1.jpg Botaya2.jpg

Then the wonderful views began. Mountains all the way to Santa María Estación. There is a train station here, and it is possible to get a train to Canfranc, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to bail out at this most beautiful point, especially since the monastery at San Juan de la Peña was in our future. Santa María has a bar with about the most apathetic and uninterested owner I have ever encountered. She really couldn't have cared less if we got anything or not. And at this point, we had become a little group of peregrinos -- the andaluz (whom we never saw again after this), and a pair of Catalán pilgrims who had slept in Loarre the previous night. There is also a panadería in the town but the day we passed through they were not selling even though we could smell the bread. Not sure exactly what was going on.

botaya3.jpg botaya4.jpg

After Santa María, there is a km or two alongside the road, but then the trail goes through beautiful woods, very pleasant off-road walking. At some point, you move onto a logging road in the forest, but that is pretty as well. About 11 km from Santa María is the little village of Ena. It is extremely pretty, all renovated and restored. There is an albergue there, and the woman with the key also does meals for pilgrims. If we had known of this possibility, we might have stayed here, but we had already called ahead to the owner of the albergue turístico in Botaya and had convinced her to open up for the two of us. This albergue is mainly dedicated to youth groups in the summer, but the woman will open up for pilgrims. The walk into Botaya is not difficult, but I was dragging by the time I got there and I think I arrived nearly an hour after LT, around 2:30. Botaya has a club social that serves drinks but not much else, certainly no grocery store. It is a pretty place, many of the homes have been restored.

botaya5.jpg

The owner of the albergue made us lunch, nothing spectacular, not a great price-quality ratio but it was edible and filling. After lunch we were asking the owner for her suggestions about how we should structure our day the next day in order to be able to visit San Juan de la Peña on our walk. Out of the blue, she said, well, I could drive you up there now and you can walk back after your visit. That was a great idea! It meant we could have a leisurely visit in the afternoon, and then the next morning we would be able to keep on walking.

She took us by road to San Juan de la Peña (7 km on the road, compared to about 3 on the Camino) and we had a great visit. Very few people, lovely weather, late afternoon light. We did not visit the new monastery but of course had to pass it on our way to and from the old one. The old monastery is truly a wonder, it was a really special visit.

botaya6.jpg botaya7.jpg botaya9.jpg
On the way back to Botaya, shortly after passing the new monastery, we looked for the turnoff the owner had recommended to us -- to make sure to visit the mirador at the Balcón de los Pirineos. It was about 500 m off the road but wow, what amazing views.

botaya8.jpg

On the way back to Botaya we hoped to find the Camino route (which we knew was only about 3 km) but never found the cut-off and wound up walking another 7 km on the side of the road back down to town. It wasn't hard walking but it was another 7 km, making our day's total 41 (but these last 7 were all downhill and done without packs so we were fine).

All in all, I would heartily recommend this way of doing the visit to San Juan. You absolutely cannot walk this way and not visit this site. But if you pass by early in the morning you will have to wait several hours till it opens. Taking a ride up and walking back down the day before you walk on by was a perfect way to go, IMO. We knew that the next day we would join up with the Aragonés, so the Camino Catalán was coming to an end, what a spectacular way to end it! Buen camino, Laurie
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I am very pleased to read the recent entries-- I had done a great deal of research and could not find anything at all about Ena, so took the train from Estacion to Jaca. Knowing that one can eat and stay somewhere makes it a possible for me for next time. The restaurant owner in Estacion was indeed .... singular.... I had a long talk with her in French (she was happy to speak with me as I was not from France) and I do not think that she is happy there. Still, I had a good meal there.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi, Oursonpolaire,
I think the albergue is quite new. It is extremely nice, I got a little tour from the hospitalera. If I remember correctly, it's on two floors with some nice open rooms. Ena is a pretty little town, as well, lots of renovated houses, and I particularly liked this one with its very cool chimneys, which remind me of a part of the Alentejo in Portugal where you see the same construction.

ena.jpg ena2.jpg

I'm not sure if there is some way to contact the señora by phone, because if my memory is correct, she only lives there half the year and I suppose there is also a chance that if she doesn't know you're coming she won't have anything to cook for you. Buen camino, Laurie
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
...which include drinking 4L of beer a day and smoking almost as many packs of cigarettes. We didn't have a whole lot in common with him but it was nice to have company in the albergue...
I thought that was only me doing that (except the number of cigarettes packs) :oops:
;)
 
J

Julio Santiago

Guest
Day 10 -- Sarsamarcuello to Botaya (34 km)

A SPECTACULAR day, just gorgeous. Right up there with the mountain days of the Salvador, Vadiniense, Olvidado, etc. We were past the wildflower season, but it was green and mountainous and just so beautiful.

Leaving Sarsamarcuello, there is a rocky path up almost all the way to the castle ruins at Marscuello.

View attachment 21670 View attachment 21671

Then the wonderful views began. Mountains all the way to Santa María Estación. There is a train station here, and it is possible to get a train to Canfranc, but I can't imagine why anyone would want to bail out at this most beautiful point, especially since the monastery at San Juan de la Peña was in our future. Santa María has a bar with about the most apathetic and uninterested owner I have ever encountered. She really couldn't have cared less if we got anything or not. And at this point, we had become a little group of peregrinos -- the andaluz (whom we never saw again after this), and a pair of Catalán pilgrims who had slept in Loarre the previous night. There is also a panadería in the town but the day we passed through they were not selling even though we could smell the bread. Not sure exactly what was going on.

View attachment 21672 View attachment 21673

After Santa María, there is a km or two alongside the road, but then the trail goes through beautiful woods, very pleasant off-road walking. At some point, you move onto a logging road in the forest, but that is pretty as well. About 11 km from Santa María is the little village of Ena. It is extremely pretty, all renovated and restored. There is an albergue there, and the woman with the key also does meals for pilgrims. If we had known of this possibility, we might have stayed here, but we had already called ahead to the owner of the albergue turístico in Botaya and had convinced her to open up for the two of us. This albergue is mainly dedicated to youth groups in the summer, but the woman will open up for pilgrims. The walk into Botaya is not difficult, but I was dragging by the time I got there and I think I arrived nearly an hour after LT, around 2:30. Botaya has a club social that serves drinks but not much else, certainly no grocery store. It is a pretty place, many of the homes have been restored.

View attachment 21674

The owner of the albergue made us lunch, nothing spectacular, not a great price-quality ratio but it was edible and filling. After lunch we were asking the owner for her suggestions about how we should structure our day the next day in order to be able to visit San Juan de la Peña on our walk. Out of the blue, she said, well, I could drive you up there now and you can walk back after your visit. That was a great idea! It meant we could have a leisurely visit in the afternoon, and then the next morning we would be able to keep on walking.

She took us by road to San Juan de la Peña (7 km on the road, compared to about 3 on the Camino) and we had a great visit. Very few people, lovely weather, late afternoon light. We did not visit the new monastery but of course had to pass it on our way to and from the old one. The old monastery is truly a wonder, it was a really special visit.

View attachment 21675 View attachment 21676 View attachment 21678
On the way back to Botaya, shortly after passing the new monastery, we looked for the turnoff the owner had recommended to us -- to make sure to visit the mirador at the Balcón de los Pirineos. It was about 500 m off the road but wow, what amazing views.

View attachment 21677

On the way back to Botaya we hoped to find the Camino route (which we knew was only about 3 km) but never found the cut-off and wound up walking another 7 km on the side of the road back down to town. It wasn't hard walking but it was another 7 km, making our day's total 41 (but these last 7 were all downhill and done without packs so we were fine).

All in all, I would heartily recommend this way of doing the visit to San Juan. You absolutely cannot walk this way and not visit this site. But if you pass by early in the morning you will have to wait several hours till it opens. Taking a ride up and walking back down the day before you walk on by was a perfect way to go, IMO. We knew that the next day we would join up with the Aragonés, so the Camino Catalán was coming to an end, what a spectacular way to end it! Buen camino, Laurie
Who could escape to the irresistible beauty of the images you posted and the tenderness blossoming in your words when story telling your Camino.
I am progressively visited by the stubborn temptation to follow your steps from the very beginning of Cap de Creus / Sant Pere de Rodes and further heading to Santiago on the Olvidado and Invierno, been extremely grateful for your developments on the aforementioned.
Long life Amiga del Camino...
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi, Julio,
Writing up my experiences on these sort of obscure caminos is both fun for me and hopefully helpful for the few other odd ducks out there like me who are tempted by these routes! :p

If I had had several more weeks, I would have continued from Puente la Reina to Ponferrada on the Frances so as to have an uninterrupted camino, but I just couldn't swing the extra weeks. But it sounds like you are planning something even more adventuresome. Are you planning to walk from Puente la Reina to Bilbao and there start the Olvidado to Ponferrada, and the Invierno from there? That would be one truly amazing walk. Can you find pieces of a Camino to take you from Puente la Reina to Bilbao -- like the Baztan backwards from Pamplona???? That would be a WOW. Laurie
 
C

Castilian

Guest
Are you planning to walk from Puente la Reina to Bilbao and there start the Olvidado to Ponferrada, and the Invierno from there?
I recall I provided him some info about the Viejo Camino from Pamplona to Aguilar de Campoo from where you continue on the Olvidado... That would be an even better walk.

P.S.: To join the Aragonés with the Viejo Camino out of Pamplona, take a look at this track: http://es.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=9282633 You leave the Aragonés in Otano to walk to Pamlona. If you prefer to make all the Aragonés till Puente la Reina you have 3 main options to join with the Viejo Camino:
  • To walk to Pamplona following the Francés backwards.
  • To take a bus from Puente la Reina to Pamplona.
  • To continue on the Francés till Logroño, walking from Logroño to Miranda de Ebro following the GR-99 (aka Camino Natural del Ebro). Once in Miranda de Ebro, you would continue on the Viejo Camino that roughly follows the GR-99 route till Villanueva de la Nía... The downside of this last option is that you miss part of the Viejo Camino (all the route from Pamplona to Miranda de Ebro).
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
Day 5 -- Algerri to Tamarite (22 km)

I knew that the next day was going to be a biggie, 42 km by some calculations, but I knew it was flat and knew I had done that distance on the St. Jaume, so I wasn't freaking out. Buen camino, Laurie

FORTY TWO KILOMETERS????
I'd be freaking out.
Laurie, you are a machine!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
I'd love to do this route, but there is no way in heaven or hell I could manage 40 kilometers.
I'm sad now, but I sure enjoyed this thread!
 

MichaelSG

Retired member
Camino(s) past & future
Not enough
I'd love to do this route, but there is no way in heaven or hell I could manage 40 kilometers.
I'm sad now, but I sure enjoyed this thread!
But there is no need to walk 40+km if you don't want to. If there isn't someplace to stay in the middle, it is almost always possible to use taxis to ferry you to a bed and ferry you back the next morning.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I'd love to do this route, but there is no way in heaven or hell I could manage 40 kilometers.
I'm sad now, but I sure enjoyed this thread!
Annie, Michael's absolutely right. Take a look at Eroski, gronze, and mundicamino. There are many ways this can be done in shorter stages, and I'd be happy to help you sort things out for shorter days. I had two constraints -- the deal was that we would sleep only in albergues, and our time was not unlimited. I wouldn't let the longer distances we walked rule this one out -- we met some French pilgrims in Montserrat who were starting out the next day and had maped out stages in the 20s, so I know it can be done (but you would have to be willing to spend some nights in pensiones, etc.) Buen camino, Laurie
 
J

Julio Santiago

Guest
Hi, Julio,
Writing up my experiences on these sort of obscure caminos is both fun for me and hopefully helpful for the few other odd ducks out there like me who are tempted by these routes! :p

If I had had several more weeks, I would have continued from Puente la Reina to Ponferrada on the Frances so as to have an uninterrupted camino, but I just couldn't swing the extra weeks. But it sounds like you are planning something even more adventuresome. Are you planning to walk from Puente la Reina to Bilbao and there start the Olvidado to Ponferrada, and the Invierno from there? That would be one truly amazing walk. Can you find pieces of a Camino to take you from Puente la Reina to Bilbao -- like the Baztan backwards from Pamplona???? That would be a WOW. Laurie
Good evening Amiga del Camino,
I have been lucky as Caminka has posted a possible itinerary from Pamplona to Aguilar de Campoo in the Olvidado. I will follow this route after following your route in Cataluña and Aragon to Monreal or Puente la Reina (back in time: where I started my very first Camino in 2003). Then short off track to Pamplona... Then Olvidado, then Invierno.
I really want to do this long route (I am used to long routes in one month) while I can!
On the technical side: I am using since a number of Camino's (2013 La Plata/Sanabres, 2014 Bayona/Frances/Salvador/Primitivo, 2015 Levante/Sanabres) a North Face Terra 60 litres extraordinary solid and practical rucksack and am l thinking in downsizing to a 45 litres. What capacity are you using? In some of the pictures you posted, I can see an Osprey, what size is it?
Thank again for the lovely writing you are offering to all of us, Apostol lovers. I will compile your posts to have a sort of paper story, I am old school I love paper books...
Long life, Amiga del Camino.
Julio Santiago
 

oursonpolaire

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
I'd love to do this route, but there is no way in heaven or hell I could manage 40 kilometers.
I'm sad now, but I sure enjoyed this thread!
I've done the route twice and never went more than 28km in any one day, and averaged 23k-24k.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Thought I would add a document that we found very helpful this summer -- all the information on services and accommodation on the Camino from Montserrat through Huesca and on to San Juan de la Peña. It's very easy to see by looking at these pages how you can break things up into much shorter stages. Please don't avoid this camino because of supposed long distances; as several of us have said, you can find lots of shorter alternatives. Buen camino, Laurie
 

Attachments

Thankyou it is a great recount. We are walking in early April and we're feeling apprehensive as not finding any info in english about the route. This is packed with experience and practicalities. Phew! We are thinking a circuitous route to Santiago. From Montserrat via Huesca over Somport Pass head toward Puenta la Reina and onward to St James. We want to do about 20k daily so much thanks to those following conversations
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Thankyou it is a great recount. We are walking in early April and we're feeling apprehensive as not finding any info in english about the route. This is packed with experience and practicalities. Phew! We are thinking a circuitous route to Santiago. From Montserrat via Huesca over Somport Pass head toward Puenta la Reina and onward to St James. We want to do about 20k daily so much thanks to those following conversations
Hi, journeywomen,
Welcome to the forum.
You've got a great, long camino ahead of you! I would be very interested in learning how you find the Camino Catalan in April. I found that there were parts before Huesca that were not so inspiring, and long stretches without really much of interest, but I wonder if springtime green would change the overall impression. The accommodations are fine and the people very nice.

When you finish up with the Camino Catalan and arrive in Santa Cilia de Jaca, my strong advice would be to do whatever it takes to get yourselves back up those 50-odd kms to Somport Pass. There are buses (Santa Cilia to Jaca and then Jaca to Somport), but they are late in the day. The scenery between the border and Jaca is absolutely beautiful and the path, if it's not slushy in April, is off-road and beautiful. I'm sure I've recounted this already but standing at the side of the road and sticking out your thumb to hitch hike is not likely to be successful. What worked like a charm for us was going to the place where the main road of Santa Cilia enters the national highway. We just stood at the stop sign and waved at the first car to come by. When he stopped, he rolled down his window and took us all the way to Somport even though his destination was Jaca!

Happy to help with any doubts you may have, but that document I posted from the "friends of the camino" is the best compilation I've seen of all accommodations.

Buen camino, Laurie

P.s. Aren't you tempted to start back even further, like in Port de la Selva or Llanca? That's a very very beautiful walk to Montserrat. :p
 
Hi, journeywomen,
Welcome to the forum.
You've got a great, long camino ahead of you! I would be very interested in learning how you find the Camino Catalan in April. I found that there were parts before Huesca that were not so inspiring, and long stretches without really much of interest, but I wonder if springtime green would change the overall impression. The accommodations are fine and the people very nice.

When you finish up with the Camino Catalan and arrive in Santa Cilia de Jaca, my strong advice would be to do whatever it takes to get yourselves back up those 50-odd kms to Somport Pass. There are buses (Santa Cilia to Jaca and then Jaca to Somport), but they are late in the day. The scenery between the border and Jaca is absolutely beautiful and the path, if it's not slushy in April, is off-road and beautiful. I'm sure I've recounted this already but standing at the side of the road and sticking out your thumb to hitch hike is not likely to be successful. What worked like a charm for us was going to the place where the main road of Santa Cilia enters the national highway. We just stood at the stop sign and waved at the first car to come by. When he stopped, he rolled down his window and took us all the way to Somport even though his destination was Jaca!

Happy to help with any doubts you may have, but that document I posted from the "friends of the camino" is the best compilation I've seen of all accommodations.

Buen camino, Laurie

P.s. Aren't you tempted to start back even further, like in Port de la Selva or Llanca? That's a very very beautiful walk to Montserrat. :p
Yes Laurie very tempted to start further back it looks glorious but we only have about 100 walking days and I see no point in rushing for a deadline. It seems to defeat the spaciousness of walking. It's earmarked in my future I don't think I have yet seen the compilation of accomodation where might I find it ? Getting excited only 6 weeks to go before we leave home X Jill
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Yes Laurie very tempted to start further back it looks glorious but we only have about 100 walking days and I see no point in rushing for a deadline. It seems to defeat the spaciousness of walking. It's earmarked in my future I don't think I have yet seen the compilation of accomodation where might I find it ? Getting excited only 6 weeks to go before we leave home X Jill
Do you know how many people you just sent into fits of jealousy by telling us you only have 100 walking days?! :)That's amazing and you are very lucky.

By my calculations the route you are proposing is less than 1200 kms:
Montserrat - Santa Cilia de Jaca (about 315)
Santa Cilia - Puente la Reina (about 120)
Puente la Reina - Santiago (700, at least according to godesalco's very generous calculation, that's much higher than many other sources).

I know you said you were shooting for about 20 km a day, so that seems to leave you with 40 extra walking days, give or take a few. You may find you decide to walk back to your starting point once you arrive in Santiago!

The accommodation and services sheet is an attachment earlier in this thread, it is really all you need to walk from Montserrat to Santa Cilia.

Buen camino to you both, Laurie
 
C

Castilian

Guest
we only have about 100 walking days
Just a warning for people from Non-EU and/or Non-Schengen countries planning pilgrimages involving stays in the Schengen Area longer than 90 days:

I don't know what's your nationality but if you are traveling, for example, on an Australian or on an American Passport, as a general rule, you are entitled to stay in the Schegen area (in all the Schengen area; not in each Schengen area country) visa free (as a tourist) just 90 days in any 180 calendar days period (rolling period).

Some countries (e.g.: New Zealand) may have bilateral agreements with some (just some) Schengen area countries allowing you a longer stay in those Schegen area countries (just in the countries with bilateral agreement; not in the rest of the Schengen Area) but check carefully rules and requirements with the relevant embassy (or embassies) of the Schengen country (or countries) involved... If you plan to use a bilateral agreement to stay longer, I would suggest to keep proof about where you are each day (I mean the country) and to know the name and date of the bilateral agreement so you could prove you were within the rules just in case problems arised when exiting the Schengen Area (what may happen; specially if you used a bilateral agreement to stay longer and you exit the Schengen Area out of a country without a bilateral agreement with your home country).
 

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