Kilometres walked: 19km / Total distance: 657km / Elevation gain: 1398m / Elevation loss: 768m / Time walked: 5h43min
Paul, Maria and I leave the camping together. It’s nice to hike with other people again!
On the first climb we see lots of middle-aged and older men (only men, weirdly enough) with little woven baskets. They’re looking for mushrooms, and there’s loads in these woods! Too bad I don’t know my mushrooms very well, they would make for a nice addition to my couscous, but I don’t really feel like risking another bout of food poisoning so I’ll leave them for the experts.
The first col descends all the way to Queralbs, a cute little town with a small shop where we buy pastries for breakfast and a huge peach as a snack, and a bar where we order coffee and -why not- a bocadillo. Early lunch!
The next climb goes to Núria. There is a train station in Queralbs from where a little mountain train goes to Núria, and Paul and Maria choose that option. I’m in doubt. I like trains, and this is supposed to be a beautiful ride. But it’s only 15 minutes or so, and costs 20 euro which I find ridiculous. Apparently I don’t like trains that much. And besides, it’s supposed to be a beautiful walk through a gorge, so I set off with high expectations and a spring in my step.
That spring in my step quickly takes me uphill, but the sun is relentless and the path offers no shade. The scenery is nice, I can see why this is a popular trail for dayhikes (hike up, take the train down, or the other way around) but honestly, nearing the end of the GR11, it’s not that impressive. I guess I’m officially spoiled.
In well under 3 hours I arrive in Núria. It’s a weird place. It’s high up in the mountains, at around 2000m, and has a church, a gigantic hotel, a lake where you can row boats, ponyrides, a minigolf, several restaurants (of which only one is open for dinner), a museum of vintage skis, a cowbell exhibit, and a designated camping zone, which is where we pitch our tents.
The place feels weird. Not bad, but it has both the vibe of a ski resort that’s desperately trying to draw visitors in summer (which is what it is) as well as a religious site with some relic of some sorts (which it also is). Most of it is desolate.
Tonight is our last night of camping ‘up high’. Tomorrow is the last proper mountain stage, and also the highest point of the entire trail! Stay tuned.