This week, we crossed the Pyrenees and arrived back in Spain for our final 3 weeks. We spent the week exploring and soaking up the beautiful region of El Berguedá and home of the impressive and spiritual El Massís de Pedraforca. It was all about mushrooms and mountains and adventure parks this week!
Here’s what we got up to in Week 11…
Where We Went…
What a spot. Our house this week overlooked the gorgeous Parc Natural del Cadí-Moixeró and the house was surrounded by luscious green grass, lovely trees and came with hammocks for relaxing. Our hosts of Joan and Pepi and their dogs were super-friendly giving us fresh vegies from their garden and teaching us all about the local mushrooms. This is an area with insane amounts of mushrooms in the surrounding forests. Unfortunately the ones we bought on the way here from a street vendor may have been tainted with a bad one, as Brigit spent most the week sick and I got struck down on our last night. Anyway, still loved this place, so relaxing and easy to see myself living here…although it was already getting cold in September!
Mirador de Gresolet
We celebrated Australian father’s day with a visit to this mirador at the base of Pedraforca. The views were stunning back over our town and the surrounding valley. We planned to go for a little hike with the girls, but only made it 200m up a very steep trail. It was nice to let go of the need to walk and just experience the beauty as a family. The girls enjoyed throwing rocks down the endless cliff.
We continued father’s day with a visit to this little village. We took a drive and walk up to the ruined castle above the village and enjoyed climbing the tower, but Brigit was a little scared with all the holes in the staircase. We took lunch at a nice little restaurant and enjoyed one of the sweetest and richest desserts ever. It was basically a pure chocolate fudge cake…yummo (although it took the rest of the day to digest).
Back country hike
I finished father’s day off, by sneaking out the back door and taking a random hike up the mountain directly behind our house. It was great and a little scary to just hike without a map and work how to get to the top without a trail. I headed through the steep, damp, mushroom covered forest with my heart beating a little uneasy as I heard shot guns go off. I was pretty sure that I was on private property. Then as I finally made it to the top, there was a family of deer on the steep cliffs below and it was like I was seeing my spirit animal. I seem to see them everytime I go out hiking. It was a perfect finish to father’s day for me.
Climbing Pedraforca (2505m)
I have been thinking about this place every since we booked this place. It just looked so beautiful and powerful and I knew I had to try and get up to the top. Boy, what a fantastic hike, full of stunning scenery and very challenging terrain.
This was a relatively short hike, just over 8km but was steep and a little intimidating. I left early in the morning and got to witness the sun turning the peaks orange. There was a lot of low-grade rock climbing at the top that was heaps of fun. There was even a few sections where they had permanent ropes set-up. When I saw red spots all over the rocks…it was a bit of a worry. It took about 3 hours to cover 4ks, but I made it to the top, only to witness two guys virtually running up. The hardest part was to come. These two guys practically sprinted down the slope that was basically covered in little pebbles and so steep it would have been easiest to just slide all the way down. Anyway, tiptoed instead. It help confirm to me that I much prefer the uphill part.
We took a family trip to the local adventure park. It is a park with rope bridges and obstacles in the trees. Zara was kicking and screaming but once she realised what it was she was in heaven. But just to tease them, we pretended we were going on one of nearby trails instead. We got the whinging we expected!
Zara who sometimes struggles to walk down stairs without holding our hand, was straight into the tightrope. Chloe smashed through the park and even did a time trial she was so confidant and started demanding to go on the big girls course (more on that below). The course finished with a flying fox that both the girls absolutely loved, flying down into the net. After the tenth or twentieth time…
Santuari de Santa Maria de Queralt
After possibly our best menu del dia in Spain at La Cabana in Berga, I saw a building high up above the town and thought we should try and get to that. So we drove up to Santuari de Santa Maria de Queralt and what a great find. The views and peace were wonderful. The girls got the little lift up the hill to the sanctuary and were joined by two nuns. And we even managed a short walk up a hill to a seemingly Gaudi inspired structure…where our greatest family photo ever was taken…four sets of eyes open, four sets of eyes looking at the camera, four mouths with a happy expression and no undies showing.
And here is one taken by Zara.
And one taken by Chloe.
And a final one from me. I love them all.
Climbing Pico Comabona (2546m)
This was a completely different challenge to Pedraforca. It was a very long hike (20kms) and up a steep hill of a continual gradient for 2 hours, with no steps, so the calves were constantly stretched. I started out in the dark with a flashlight with the wolves in the hills howling (or that is what I imagined), headed down a very steep track to the river and then back up the other side into a new valley. Once at the top, of course I scared a herd of deer. The top was beautiful alpine grassland. With so many different experiences and landscapes, it felt like more of an overland trip and it proved to me how much you can achieve in a very short space of time.
What We Did…
Random outings with the kids
With Brigit sick quite a lot this week, I took the opportunity to take the girls out on two separate outings one day and it was just a reminder of the importance of one on one time with your kids. There is no fighting and they just want to soak up the time with you.
In the morning, I took Zara for a drive to a nearby town of Vallcebre. We stopped on the way in the rain at a Mirador and Zara loved trying to touch the clouds. ‘Why can’t I feel anything?’ We grabbed some groceries and a little treat for Zara and Chloe (a ‘Frozen’ egg of course). Then it was coffee time and Zara and I enjoyed one of the best chocolate croissants…maybe even beating France…and then just as we were leaving the clouds parted way and Zara of course saw the park. The wet seat didn’t deter her enthusiasm and she had a great time trying to kick the bunches of the tree above the swing. It was a gorgeous time.
In the afternoon, it was Chloe’s turn and she wanted desperately to return to the adventure park with the sun now shining. Of course, when we got there, the park was closed, and I became the worst daddy. ‘You promised.’ I said my apologies and we headed towards home and then Chloe suggested a spot of mushroom picking (the Catalonian national sport). What a beautiful time. Walking through the damp forest with smell of pine, holding hands and searching for the one in ten that maybe edible. I could really see the attraction. Such a special experience. And then to finish it off, we stopped at a little lake and tried skim rocks across the surface. These simple moments of randomness, I really do cherish.
Family hike, Volta al Grauet
On a sunny morning, Brigit and I crossed our fingers and decided to try a little hike with the girls. The distance was 2.8km, so it promised to be okay. We headed off into the woods with every after Catalonian who were looking for mushrooms. We took the ‘Dora’ bucket just in case we had a little luck. We trudged up through the beautiful pine forest mostly avoiding the mud and with the girls carrying sticks they walked without bribes. Just before the halfway point, I saw an opportunity to do a little bit of rock climbing. With Zara and Brigit ahead, I told Chloe to go ahead and catch them, but she insisted on joining me. So up we went and of course it was fun and a little scary going up and then we traversed a little bit and I was expecting an easy way down. Oh boy, I was wrong [why does this always happen? ;o)].
With Brigit shaking her head, I literally had to slide down a very steep slope through the bushes and dragging Chloe along with me. She wasn’t even scared but my heart was beating fast with Brigit’s evil eyes on me. Our next issue was the very steep descent along quite a muddy path. With Zara on my shoulders, she was so excited everytime I slipped and slid. Chloe again, just knuckled down and accepted the challenge. An hour later and we had moved about 1 km. It was a surprisely enjoyable family hike in the end.
Be careful when you tell you Dad how to do things…
After our early visit to the adventure park, Chloe continually insisted that she wanted to return and do the big kids course which was really for 7 year olds and up. We tried to visit again on Thursday and it was closed, the evil stare I got from Chloe meant we would have to try again on the day we left town. With whole family in tow, Chloe chose her mum to go with her, while I got stuck with Zara and her tantrum because she was not with mummy. Finally Zara decided to get off the ground and enjoy the young kids adventure park, while Chloe took off with Brigit. We finished up pretty quickly and went off to watch the two big girls do their thing. Chloe was super confident whipping along the swing bridges, tightropes and swings while Brigit was shaking. Luckily, they both made it to the end of the first section unscathed.
Brigit decided that she had enough of the adrenaline but Chloe wanted to go on and finish the course. So I volunteered my body. Up we went and we got through the first few obstacles without incident but I was a little slow and Chloe was speeding through. I was so proud of my little girl and her confidence was brimming! We got to a two-wire tightrope obstacle that I crossed first, but I only used one wire and side stepped across. I could hear some chatter behind me. “Silly Dad that is not how you do it!” Famous last words! Then Chloe starts flying along with one foot on either wire (which is probably how you are supposed to do it). Then I hear this big wow! And I turn round and Chloe is hanging upside down. I will let the video explain it.
After a little bit of crying, she calmed down and we convinced her to give the next obstacle a go, which she did perfectly, but all the emotion had got to her and wanted down. After about 10 minutes of set-up and the instructors being extra careful she we safely winced to the ground and into her mum’s arms. Her beautiful smile returned soon afterwards. We are really proud of her determination to give it a go and think she is ready again to have another go another day.
Next week, we head back to the beach and our final two-week stay just north of Barcelona. It will be a relaxing end to the holiday and it will be interesting to see how long I can stay still for!