GR 11 Update – Highest Point for my birthday

Hiya! I’m back on writing, so let’s continue with my journey on the GR 11. Only 10 days and about 200km left until we made it to the Mediterranean Sea. In this post you’ll read about my birthday and what comes with it. Happy Reading!

Nero to Planoles

DAY 30

We left camp at about 7.15 am and started to hike up the dirt road to the pass. It was a gentle walk in the shade. The last bit up the pass was hardly marked and Sara was ahead of me. It wasn’t the pass and so the trail continued along the road right at the French border. There were even border rocks – how cool! An older guy passed us and we chatted a while. We saw him a few times that day. Upon the (real) pass we had a short snack break and enjoyed the view over the valley. From then on it went only downhill to Planoles. The trail went first through the cows and it was hardly any trail. We lost it a couple of times. Soon we descended to a dirt road and followed that to Dorria, a small village.

It was a very small hamlet with only a couple of houses and a big church. Among our new friends, the three cats, and a dog, we had lunch – rice crackers with avocado! While having lunch the sky started covering with black clouds. Therefore we packed up and made our way to the campground to Planoles. It took us about 1.5 hours. On the way there, we came across two other thru-hikers – a German girl and a Spanish guy. They were hiking fast, so I couldn’t keep up with them for long. The camping was closed due to Siesta as we arrived there. Gladly the showers were open and we could wash our clothes while showering. It started to drizzle right when we arrived there. At the campground, we met another german couple who hiked to the Atlantic. We gave our tips and ask for their recommendations.

resupply, chips, and rain

It’s always nice to get tips from people who hike the other direction as we do! When the campground opened at 5 pm we sat inside and had some chips. Then we walked down to the village to resupply. The shop was tiny and the selection was very limited. But they had surprisingly rice milk. We also bought some fresh peaches to eat right away while we walked back up. Only a bit later, it started to storm and rain harder and harder. The road was flooded with all the water… I was glad we haven’t pitched our tents then. What a nice feeling sitting inside and watching it without being wet and miserable.

Time passed very quickly and it was already dinner time. We cooked our pasta outside but ate inside. Due to the rain, the temperature dropped quite a bit, and eating inside was bliss. As always I got myself a beer ๐Ÿ™‚ Later in the evening, I phoned my sister and a friend of mine. Nice to talk to the family! Although we “only” hiked a half-day, we also did 20 km and were tired in the evening.

Off to a monastery

DAY 31

It was a calm night at the campground. When we woke up around 5.30 am it was still dark outside. Getting up while it’s still dark isn’t my favorite, but hey that’s part of it. Keep in mind, we do these things to challenge ourselves and of course, it’s not always as fun as it looks. That day, the plan was to hike to the Monastery of Nuria. We heard already quite some things of that place and were unsure what to think of it. The GR 11 went first uphill over a col/pass. We came across another Refugio which was closed though. On top, we could see already the green hills /mountains. It looked like what I imagine Scotland could look like. The trail descended into the back of a valley and out on the other side to the cute town of Queralbs.

In Queralbs it was lunchtime, so we bought some tomato sauce and frozen peas. It was hot in the sun, the only shady place we found was on a staircase beside a lot of dog poop. Not the greatest places to have lunch, but I guess that makes us hikertrash haha. Queralbs was quite a touristy place with narrow streets and the start point of the train to Nuria, the monastery we would walk to. After lunch, we decided to start in the blazing heat at 1 pm. Perfect timing, as every time… The trail went first in the sun along the side of the valley with great views back. Then the scenery changed quite quickly as we trail turned left and led into the Gorge of Nuria. Big stonewalls next to us made it a lot cooler, which was a release as we still climbed uphill.

what a weird place

Many people came down the trail even a group of canyoning guys. Then, after 2.5 hours we finally saw the monastery. It’s located beautifully in between the mountains. We were nervous about this place because we heard from other hikers, that it’s a strange place. When we stood there and watched down to the monastery, an elderly couple was walking by and saying something mean in Spanish. We didn’t completely understand it, but Sara recognized some words and said it was very racist. I mean, what a welcome! We headed down and looked for the campground to set up our tents. When we did, it just started to drizzle. We had to go inside to pay a little fee for the campsite and used their free wifi. In the shop, we bought some chips and sat outside.

Happy Birthday to me!

DAY 32

We woke up early and set down our tents to have breakfast over at the buildings, where it was a little warmer and more wind protected. Sara surprised me with a huge chocolate bar that we saw the day before in the shop. I still don’t know how she got it without me noticing. The best gift you can give me is chocolate or skittles! But you gotta know, I have high chocolate standards as a Swiss, hehe. We started hiking around 7 am. It was very quiet when we made our way uphill into a new valley. The trail went constantly quite steep uphill, but the views got better and better. Almost at the top, we saw some deer, and then, after three hours we made it to the pass and to an actual mountain peak. Then I had to make the swiss taste check on the chocolate.

We had a 360 Panorama on the peak and didn’t want to leave. We did anyway and hiked along the ridge, knife’s edge in goat rocks (PCT) was immediately in my head! After another pass, we went down into another beautiful valley and climbed out of it again. Before the big descent, we stooped for lunch and spread our tents out. That day on the menu was bread with olive oil and salt. Believe me, it’s actually really good! We dropped down into the little village of Setcases, where we first went groceries shopping. The shop was tiny but stuffed with so many things. We decided to have an appetizer here before we head out up the hill to find a spot to camp. As usual, we bought half of a watermelon, some olives, gazpacho, and many more things I don’t remember and ate on a field in the shade.

Full of food up a hill, not the best idea…

But what I remember exactly, how full we were then we packed our things and walked out of town. We dragged ourselves up that dirt road and the more steep trail afterward. Finding a good campsite wasn’t easy here. There were some meadows but it was in cow country and we didn’t want that. So we walked further until we hit a dirt road, which was fully overgrown with grass. It wasn’t ideal, but a good thing it was super flat. The funniest thing was though when cows walked towards us and as soon they saw us, they turned around. I guess, they were scared of us. We made dinner, although we were still full from all the food we had in Setcases and had some wine we bought in the shop. What a great birthday it was!!!

Hottest day on the trail (38ยฐC)

DAY 33

We packed up and made our way up to the pass, crossing horses and cows on the way. It was another beautiful day with no clouds in the sky. On the pass, we could see so many hill layers and in our back the mountains. We said goodbye to them and dropped for the first time since we left the Atlantic below a thousand meters above sea level. It was the sign, that the Med wasn’t far away anymore. As we dropped lower and lower the temperature rise with every meter. We came across Mollo and I bought some cherries, yum! It was only 9.30 am and it was already so warm. I don’t remember much on the stretch that was to come, only that it was super hot. The trail was very sun-exposed and we invented to rate the quality of shade along the way.

We were looking desperately for a Siesta spot but the shade wasn’t good enough, so we walked on. Funnily we found right after a banana on trail, that’s a sign I guess. Then there were finally some houses coming with a big tree in front. That was our place! Only short after we sat down an older lady came towards us and spoke something in Spanish while she made with her arms swimming moves. We needed a moment until we understood her. She invited us to the pool! Yes, a fricking swimming pool!! So we spent our whole Siesta at the pool and had a swim or two. It was the best first Siesta we could have ever imagined. The trail provides, as he always does!

village to meadow

As the time flew by and the time said 5 pm, we hit the trail again very refreshed. It was still warm, but way cooler than at lunchtime. We made our way to Beget first on a small trail and then along the road. In Beget there was a public Wifi, so I could finally see and reply to all the birthday messages. Beget was a really pretty village! As it was so nice and cool in the evening, we decided to go over another col and then look for a tent spot. We walked at about 7.30 pm out of Beget and reached our camp just when it was getting dark.

First things first, we set up our tents and then cooked dinner. On the meadow we stayed, there were also lots of cows, so Sara chased them away before we went to bed. Of course, they came back but first, good night for us!

What a night…

DAY 34

The cows came back in the middle of the night and kept us awake the rest of the night. We went out of the tent a couple of times and chased them off, but nothing helped. The bells were so loud, it was impossible to close an eye. I was also scared they would fall over my tent and then I’m a mashed potato. At one point we were close to packing up and starting to hike. We eventually got up and started hiking by 6 am. It was the day we hiked out without having breakfast. Normally I hate to do this, but then it was fine. The air was still cool and it was nice to get already some k’s in before the heat came.

We had breakfast about 1.5 hours later just before the climb up the pass. Good thing, as we are lower in elevation also the climbs are getting smaller. It’s also crazy, how fast the whole landscape and the climate changed in only 1.5 days. It was so humid there, I was constantly wet from all the sweat. Upon the pass, there was a small hut and we filled up our water bottles at the drizzling source. The next bit of trail was quite exposed, which I loved! The views were great. At the bottom of the valley, we made a break. There were lots of people because there was supposed to be a super beautiful swimming hole. We didn’t even want to see it and hiked on (the temptation to stay was too big).

hot and wet up that col

It was getting so warm and he hiked uphill to the Col de Bassegoda. This one will be always remembered! It was so hot, but the humidity was even worse. Gladly the trail went mostly in the shade, so I hiked only in my bra. I sweated so much, my eyebrows couldn’t hold it anymore… Finally, on the top, we had earned our lunch and a Siesta nap! God, was that good ๐Ÿ˜€ The descent was steep in the first bits and then a never-ending road walk to the campground. Just as we hit the road, we saw for the first time the MEDITERRANEAN SEA!!! OMG, it was still far but it was in sight. What a moment!

DAY 35

It was busy at the campground and we were happy to leave in the morning. We walked through the little town of Albanya and then the trail went up the first hill. It was mostly road walking but we both didn’t mind it. It was easy going and on top, we stopped for breakfast. We met another guy there and chatted for a while. From what I remember was the bit until the next town Macanet de Cabrenys lots on dirt roads and not super exciting. We walked by a few ruins and took a shortcut on the road. There was a nice swimming hole and of course, we had a dip! In town, we went as always first shopping. I must say from all the supermarkets we had been to, that one had the best selection and it was quite small.

We looked for a nice and shady spot in town and had a feast. Our electronics we charged in a restaurant nearby. Macanet was a cute town with a pretty old town! Around 4 pm we headed out and hiked for two more hours until La Vajol. It got harder and harder as we got closer to the sea with finding a good campspot. So that night we set up the tents just by the main road to the village, next to a viewpoint. There were some people coming by around sunset but nobody said anything.

And that was it for today, now there are only 5 days left of the trail! See you in the next and actually last one ๐Ÿ™‚

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