Cuckoo!

I’ll start by issuing a clarication: all 4 Ozzies are still here: one couple booked the way I did with Macs Adventures, the others just did their own thing when they heard their friends were coming. I’m glad I sorted that out…

My four cobbers and I went in search of somewhere to eat, but virtually everywhere was closed – even places that had been doing a roaring trade mid afternoon. We ended up at Le CouCout (The Cuckoo), an unpretentious – verging on seedy and uninspiring – bar opposite the Camprodon Hotel who, despite being only a third full, turned us away as they only serve residents. The Cuckoo was OK, though basic: I had a sort of panino thing with anchovies but kept making envious glances at someone else’ s plate of cold meats and goats cheese. The 5 of us ordered a bottle of red and one of rose: the wine came in already open unlabelled bottles – obviously ‘tap wine’ – and the red one was only three quarters full. We tend not to drink our reds chilled in the UK, so that was a pleasant change!

Today’s walk was a long one and fairly demanding, so the option of being dropped off a bit along the way was offered, which both shortened the walk by about an hour and avoided having to return the way I did yesterday: the hotel move luggage on and were geared up to this option.

The two Aussie ladies and I availed ourselves of this option, whilst the men did it the hard way. Once dropped off, I left the ladies behind and strode out. Today’s route was just updated by Catalan Adventures last week, so the notes weren’t perhaps quite as comprehensive as usual. We also had to leave the normal yellow markers today and follow a different route.

About 6km out of the village of Pardines – an intermediate stop on the walk – the yellow markers reappeared after several kilometres of absence, due to the change in route, and I had the option of following them across some fields or going past the yellow ‘wrong way’ crosses: I chose to follow the yellow brick road, but 20 minutes later was getting bogged down in electric fences without gates, deep in the woods and with no indication these yellow markers were going anywhere particular, let alone Pardines. I retraced my steps to the turning and was just deciding to take the other route when the 4 Ozzies hove into view. We all agreed on the route and I stepped out again: I don’t suppose they specifically requested a grumpy old misanthropic Scot to accompany them when they booked.

Pardines was a beautiful little village: very quiet, possibly because I suspect there are a lot of holiday homes. I stopped at a cafe for a cold drink, headed off congratulating myself on having a Coke when I turned a corner and there was another bar, so I felt obliged to have a beer. It was a lovely spot: all old buildings with flowery window boxes, ancient twisty streets, an audible collection of church bells and an endearingly small Plaza Mayor.

The remaining walk to Ribes de Freser continued to be hot and tiring, but very pleasant nevertheless. Hotel Els Caçadors (‘The Hunters’ in Catalan) is several notches up from Hotel Sant Roc and stylishly swanky, with sections of glass ceiling / floor in some of the public areas. Trip Advisor rates the restaurant highly, the rooms are very comfortable, the spa-bath and shower excellent and all is ticketty-boo. The top floor of the hotel is an open air jacuzzi with spectacular views into the first gorge I’ve seen here. Tomorrow is a rest day – the final day of the trip – but Catalan Adventures strongly recommend the rack railway etc., so that’s my plan.

I’ll try to append some pretty pictures, but it’s a slow process…

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