Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 17 - Malniu to Planoles

41km, 1100 metres of ascent
This was one of the more unpleasant starts to the day. All my kit was sopping wet. The air outside was thick with mosquitoes. And the tent was sodden with condensation.

I got 100% ready inside the tent, with everything packed and shoes on, à la jumping off the boat in the Island Peaks Race, then leapt out and packed the tent as fast as humanly possible, whilst being chewed to bits by mosquitoes.

My wildcamp was above 2,000 metres, so it was quite cold first thing, and the ground was wet with early morning dew. The first few kilometres crossed open meadows on indistinct trails past grazing horses. I had to repeatedly double and triple check I was going the right way.

Lower down eventually the trail became more obvious and I dropped into the village of Guils de Cerdanya. One of many strange-looking, purpose-built clusters of holiday homes, with nobody around and no facilities.

I continued down the road past Saneja through cultivated farmland with colourful fields of crops and poppies. When I reached the campground just past Saneja I stopped for about 20 minutes to spread out all my kit on the ground to dry it out in the sun, before continuing to Puigcerda.

It wasn't obvious from a distance, but the town of Puigcerda is perched on a steep hill which forms a natural fortress. It was a steep slog to get up into the town centre, and not easy to find a supermercado, and I was getting a bit panicky that there was still a huge stage to do in the afternoon and it was almost mid-day.

I took a compass bearing to find my way out of the confusing town of Puigcerda and then found the continuation of the GR11 in the direction of Age, another strange holiday-home village. The weather was looking a little unsettled as I climbed to Coll Marcer. I stopped for a while to speak with an American guy near Coll de la Creu de Meians before promptly missing the trail and ending up trashing cross country for a while to re-gain the pista.

The final section past Dorria to Camping Can Fosses looks like nothing on the map, but turned out to be heavily overgrown with brambles and thorn bushes, making for slow progress and much cursing.

It was a major relief to arrive at Camping Can Fosses and relax with ice cream, cold drinks and a beer or two. Of course there was no proper food to eat, but I hadn't really expected any.

View GR11 - Day 17 in a larger map

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