Each season in Catalunya brings us something quite different, but it has to be said that I look forward to this season the most.
From mid-October until the end of November, the leaves on the trees are in full display and after a long and hot summer, there’s an absolute riot of colour in the mountains. You can generally expect temperatures in the mid 20’s, the air is fresh and clear and there is not a breath of wind rustling the leaves. The sky has that particular shade of dark (winter) blue that we only get between the Autumn and Spring equinoxes when the sun hangs low in the sky all day and makes for long shadows and dramatic contrasts. For photographers, the late afternoon with these long shadows is called the magic hour and there is a window of opportunity to take some stunning pictures. Here in Catalunya between October and March, magic hour lasts all day long….
There is an added bonus in Autumn; the whole place feels blissfully empty. The vast majority of our tourist visitors are here over the summer months and come for the beach scene, but in the Autumn, this part of Spain is a mecca for hikers, bikers and golfers. The big open spaces, plentiful national parks and hundreds of kms of trails mean that there is plenty of space for everyone without feeling crowded.
Les Roques Encadenades or Les Roques Encantades – The Chained or Enchanted Rocks are located on the cliffs of the Collsacabra mountains just to the north of Girona.
To get there, you have to drive through the stunningly beautiful d’en Bas Valley and then head back south to get to the Collsacabra. All in all, the drive is approximately 2 hours which is sufficiently far enough away to deter the casual day tripper, and yet close enough to get there and back comfortably in a day.
Incidentally, the d’en Bas valley hosts the famous via verde; an obsolete narrow gauge railway-line which was decommissioned in the 1960’s. It has now been renovated for the use of hikers and trail bikers and winds its way from the Pyrenean town of Olot all the way down to Sant Feliu de Guixols on the coast some 100km away. Near to the little village of Les Planes d’Hostoles and close to the via verde you will find the gorg dels Murris and the Salt de Magarida (two waterfalls and picnic spots) and some small restaurants / bars where you can stop off for a coffee.
At the village of Sant Esteve d’en Bas, take the C153 towards Rupit and after a few kilometres of steady climbing, you’ll reach the summit at the Coll de Condreu where there is a little restaurant. We normally park there and as we generally return to the restaurant for lunch or drinks after the walk, we don’t feel too guilty about parking in their carpark…..
Opposite the carpark, on the other side of the C153, there is a small sign indicating the start of the walk to Les Roques Encadenades. Along the way, you’ll find some information stands that explain a little about the area that you’ll be walking through. This is what they say….
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The Collsacabra Mountains.
The beech forests attract the rains of summer. They are moist and shady places. They share their space with oak, despite living in different parts. Whilst the oaks like sunny spots, beech prefers more shady slopes.
One can walk through a beech forest on a soft carpet of leaves. Become intoxicated by the silence and calmness of the forest. The proportions are deceiving for when you enter, you become almost insignificant next to the true giants of the forest. Light rays penetrate the darkness from the canopy above and the forest becomes a magical and silent cathedral.
Legend says it was Jesus, who walking through the Pyrenees, found a man cursing. As punishment, he turned the man into a bear and gave him the power to climb all types of tree in the forest with the exception of the beech, and so this is why to this day bears try to knock down the Beech without success. Beech forests are the favourite places of fairies and goblins. They live in holes in the trunks and they bathe in the small pools of water that form in the cavities of old trees.
The oak trees were considered sacred to many ancient people. For the ancient Greeks, the oak tree was dedicated to Zeus and for the Romans the tree was sacred to Jupiter. These were the gods of rain, lightning and thunder and therefore worshiped the oaks to pray for rain. The priests of Zeus submerged oak branches in a sacred spring to attract rain and the Romans threw acorns instead of rice at brides and grooms because it was a symbol of fertility.
The Oak tree which Belongs to the genus “Quercus” (from the Greek “Kratos”), means power and strength and with reference to its wood, is the most resistant in the world and up to five times harder than the pine. Legend has it that Noah’s Ark was built with oak.
The Druids (the name means “the oak men”), used to listen to the whispering of the leaves of the oaks in order to interpret the messages of the gods. In Finish mythology they say that the oaks were created by the god Väinämöinen to protect the birds and to be protectors of the human race. Oak, in Guernica, in the Basque Country, which represents traditional freedoms and is a universal symbol of Basque poor.
The enchanted rocks or chained rocks.
They say that many years ago, a demon lived in the area. He had a bed of mulch under one of these big rocks. Occasionally, when bored or when there was an evil moon, he entertained himself by rolling the stones downhill to see them crash into the houses of Sant Feliu de Pallerols.
The people of the village, fed up with having to endure these whims of the demon, prayed to God for help. Then one day, an angel came down from heaven and tied the rocks together with chains so strong that the demon could no longer move them. Defeated, the demon went to look for somewhere else to cause trouble.
But the geologists say ….
These rocks are between 22 and 65 million years old. They originated in the sea, near the coast and are made of cemented sands transported and deposited in a quiet shallow sea. They formed underwater rolling dunes. Exceptionally, you can find sharks teeth and other fish in the rock. The water that has trickled through the cracks later, would, over time have carved the rock into the individual blocks that exist today which every now and then fall down the cliffs. Interestingly, during the XIV and XV centuries, there were earthquakes, some notably intense (years 1373, 1427 and 1448) which coincide with the time of the legends.
At the end of the day, make your way to the Santuari of El Far a few kms away and situated high on the Cingles (cliffs) overlooking Girona, Les Gavarres Natural Reserve and the Costa Brava in the distance. There is a restaurant and bar there with good parking and outstanding views. What better place to end a fantastic day in the low Pyrenees.
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