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Day 3 (May 10) ~ Walking the local hills
When a place is called "The Rectory of Saint Michael of Pineda", one is unlikely to be surprised to find a church nearby. It's slightly more surprising to find that the church is right in the back garden!
Roy and Goretti don't own the church itself, which is still consecrated and in occasional use.
We can look inside, though.
The church itself dates back to the 12th Century, but clearly the maker of the door was a Tchaikovsky fan. Altogether now: da-dada-dada-dada-dum-dum-dum!
Pope John Paul II visited Spain five times, but I don't think he came to Sant Miquel. This commemorative tile will have to do.
I vaguely remember his one and only visit to the UK, back in 1982, which was the same year he first visited Spain. It was actually quite a big thing, him coming to Britain, because it was the first ever visit by a reigning Pope. Did it really take the best part of half a millennium for everyone to forgive and forget the little contretemps between Henry VIII and Clement VII?
But the main thing I remember is his bulletproof Popemobile! There had been an assassination attempt the year before, so they were taking no chances now.
But I digress. We've been looking at the local walking routes and have made a plan. We're not quite sure how it'll work out, knowing nothing of the terrain or what constitutes a 'path' after our earlier experience with the somewhat flexible definition of 'road', but we can improvise if need be.
Running right past La Rectoria is a walking/cycling trail that was once a railway line. We're heading to the right of this picture, to Sant Feliu (de Pallerols, 2.1km away, not de Guíxols, 82 km away!), where we will then take to the hills.
As you might expect for a former train line, it's dead straight and flat. Mind, it still looks very narrow. It was probably single-track in its day, so that would be more reasonable, but to me it's a bit reminiscent of the Devil's Punchbowl since the tunnel was opened: You look at a simple walking track and you are literally flabbergasted to think it was once the A3 main road, despite having driven it yourself many times.
Just before the village, a little strip of wildflower meadow.
The village itself is nothing particularly exciting as far as we can see. We only skirt through the edge of it, though, so it may have more interesting bits we miss, but so be it if so.
We're still following the road, not the trail, but it's pretty quiet and rural nevertheless.
Before too long, though, we're into the wilder areas of the national park. The route is officially labelled as 'easy', which it is to start with, but it's not that long before it becomes quite steep and rocky. There are also parts where it's not immediately obvious which is the right way to go. Don't get me wrong, we're not having any real trouble, but we certainly know people who would be, and most of the other trails in the area seem to have higher difficulty ratings than this one.
Stepping stones! Amanda's favourite!
Not like Box Hill, though: a much narrower river flowing much more slowly and she's fine.
Unlike me, though, she doesn't stop halfway to take pictures.
The aforementioned picture. It's a lovely little spot.
One thing we should perhaps mention, is that there are electric fences all over the place. We haven't seen any livestock wandering the woods, but presumably there must be some somewhere, at least some of the time.
You see this everywhere. It's not a barrier to humans, though.
Grab the insulated handle, unhook the wire, then replace it after you have passed through.
There are some less formal obstacles too...
A tree has fallen across the path. Amanda climbs through it while I take the modified track around it.
"Font del Moli Nou", the sign says, and it's been a destination on a number of signposts. It means "New Mill Spring", but it's a singularly unimpressive little trickle, hard to imagine it driving a water mill.
For curiosity, compare the picture below, to be found on a local tourist information website (https://inventaripatrimoni.garrotxa.cat/3407/ - in Catalan, but Google Translate is your friend; that said, it doesn't tell you much.)
We've lost a tree but gained plenty of shrubbery since this picture was taken.
This is nearly the turnaround point for our walk. We do go a bit further but there's nothing of sufficient interest to write about here.
Not a bee, but a strange little beetle in this thistle. Thanks to Google Image Search, I can tell you that that is a Mediterranean spotted chafer. You might be interested to know that (according to Wikipedia) "Oxythyrea funesta is a phytophagous beetle species belonging to the family Cetoniidae, subfamily Cetoniinae."
And lest we get too carried away by the natural world...
There is method in this apparent madness. The wires sticking up don't quite touch, and under normal circumstances they might as well not be there. However, if lightning hits the cables, the excess voltage is strong enough to cause an arc across the gap (think 1950s Frankenstein B-movie!) and the current will be short-circuited before it can cause damage. (That's the theory anyway. Lightning doesn't always obey human rules.)
Ok, back to the natural world.
Ripple patterns on the river.
What causes them? Little insects: water boatmen or whatever. Out of curiosity, I tried to zoom in on this picture to see what made the ripples.
Arty, certainly, but farty too. Not a hint of anything recognisable. I quite like it, though.
Ok, let's get a bit more conventionally touristy again.
The chapel of Santa Cecilia. It seems to be plopped pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and there's very little to explain what make it a tourist attraction. Then again, we're tourists and we're here... Truth is, we just saw a sign saying "Capella de Santa Cecília ⇨" and followed it. Again, there's some basic information at the Garrotxa Patrimony web site.
There are a lot of butterflies. Not particulary big and showy ones, but good to see. We try to keep a wildlife-friendly garden at home, but it's tough in our near-London surburb compared to this much more sparsely populated part of Spain.
So it's been a lovely day for a walk, although as the afternoon draws to a close, it starts clouding over again.
Looking out at dinner time, it's getting quite misty.
Dinner is chicken Caesar salad. Amanda is sceptical at first - she's quite particular about her salads - but declares this to be an unqualified success!
Tomorrow we're off to Girona. Let's hope for better weather than our first day's ride!
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