The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica

In the couple of weeks since my last post, we’ve been performing a bit of a touring circuit of the far north east corner of Spain, bottoming out at Barcelona. Much walking was done in Barcelona (around 30 miles in three days), but only incidental to our sightseeing activities (and some of that was only because I got confused between two Metro stops, adding a couple of miles to the start of our second day in the city).

A desire for a night with mains power, coupled with the lack of campsites open at this time of year, led us to a place just to the SE of the town of Olot yesterday afternoon, and as that landed us within the Parc Natural de la Zona Volcanica (which I’m sure I don’t need to translate), where there is a good selection of signed walking trails, this morning out we went for a 10km circuit taking in the crater of Volcan de Margarida.

Considering the scenery around here, I was a tiny bit disappointed by the route, in that so much of it was fully enclosed in woods, with no views to be had. There were plenty of smells in the first mile or so, but not good ones. I’m sure at one point we must have passed a pig farm. That said, the walk did most definitely have some redeeming features.

After we finally started climbing, initially up a rather eroded path:


Straight into the sunlight. A lot of the first third of the walk was into the the bright, low sunlight, robbing us of vision to see what lay before us)

We came out at the church of Sant Miguel, where our arrival was impeccably timed. The church, which is only used half a dozen times per year, is kept locked, but there are a couple of grids on the doors, so that you can see inside. Next to the one grid is a coin slot and, if you feed in a €1 coin, the lights come on inside and an audio-guide starts speaking, first in Catalan, then in Spanish, then English. Having not seen a single other person in the previous half an hour, we managed to arrive just a minute or so after a couple had fed the meter and listened to the Catalan spiel. They had just walked off when we arrived, and after listening to the second half of the Spanish guide, we got the English version for free.


And, as the lights stayed on through the whole thing, we got to see inside. It’s a very well maintained place considering it’s used so seldom:


Onwards and downwards we went, before our final ascent to the rim of the volcano, from where no view was to be had at all. At that point, I didn’t realise that the path dropped down into the crater, and was feeling a bit fleeced that a route advertised as having this volcano as its main point of interest didn’t even give a vantage point of that main feature. All was soon forgiven, as we dropped down, on heavily frozen soil (steaming gently in the sunshine, as you can make out behind us in the snap below), right into the crater, where sits another chapel.

Finally being out in the open, and in the sunshine, a pause for elevenses was called, whereupon I realised that it was actually 12.30. That explained the level of my hunger and also told me that the small chunk of bread I’d brought along, slathered in marmalade, was nowhere near enough. Carelessly, when our start time got put back an hour, so that we could extend our stay at Camping La Fageda, I’d failed to think about the need to extra food.


Making our way back out of the crater, we finally found a viewpoint to where we had just been:


Our return leg could have included a detour onto route 15, for a close look at the half-collapsed cone of another nearby volcano, but aside from my hunger pushing me towards a more direct route back, we reached the turn-off just as a couple of coachloads of school kids made their way noisily up there, which was even more offputting.

If we had made that detour, then it almost certainly wouldn’t have been us that, only a couple of minutes later, a stray dog adopted as its new owners of choice. It was a lovely, very friendly thing, but: a) we’re not in the market for a dog; and b) it kept jumping up everyone it met, and I’m sure they all thought it was our dog and that we were failing to control it. We tried all sorts of things (speeding up, slowing down, stopping for a few minutes) to try to shake it off, and a few times we thought we had succeeded as it apparently went along with other people. But no, just as we thought we’d lost it, it would come bounding up from behind, wagging at us. With visions of arriving back at Colin with it still in tow, along came a dog walker and, whilst the stray was busy playing with her dog, we made good our final escape.

All that was left for us then was the couple of hundred metres down the road with a good view of the snowy Pyrenees, and back up to the campsite.


7.6 miles had been walked, with around 1200’ of ascent. The extra distance versus the advertised 10km was in part because we took in the optional extra of the visit to the crater, in part because we walked to the start from the campsite and in further part because (as we often find to be the case) the advertised 10km was an undermeasurement.