Spain, Parc De Garraf, 2-4 November 2018

This half-term was spent exploring Parc De Garraf near Barcelona. We got very lucky with the weather: all three days were sunny and warm but not hot; the temperatre was around 20 °C. We stayed in an amazing old Spanish house in the middle of the nature park, surrounded by the woods. We went for a walk every day and then had a swim in the sea.

The blue, red and pink lines show our tracks in the first, second and third days, respectively.

Day one

Sandy beaches near Barcelona were nearly empty this time of the year.

An unexpected wave: the kids have only just managed to jump back to stay dry.

The sea was not warm (sea temperature was around 18 °C), but once you get used to it, you can swim comfortably for a long time.

Warming up before going swimming...

...and enjoying the views.

We spent all second day walking, and the sea seemed to have become a bit warmer.

In the first day, we stopped by a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It was already closed but the gardens were open. We overheard some singing from behind the closed doors.

The monastery is on top of a hill and can be seen from a long distance. It was very quiet and peaceful, particularly as we were on our own in the gardens.

Yasha is using his new camera.

The gates of the monastery.

We parked the car and walked along the Jafra valley. The flora was quite different from England: pine trees, thorny bushes, rosemary.

Cova Negra. This is a very small cave. We had a quick look and went back. It got dark, and we made good use of the torches which we carried to explore the caves. The drive to the house was quite dramatic. The roads in the Garraf park are not tarmacked, and the road leading to the house was an overgrown dirt track with some bumps and steep climbs. Driving on this road at night was a short but interesting experience.

This is the house in the morning. It is very old: the main building is ca. 300 years old, and the newer part is about 200 years old. This was probably a family home which over time got used very little. The owner lives in Barcelona and uses it as a country house or rents it out to tourists.

There were a few chickens behind the house, Sonya was allowed to feed them. The landlady also had two cats: one was quite happy to sit on stranger's laps, while the other one would only come home to eat. The grounds around the house were all dug up. The landlady explained that there are a few wild boars in the park.

Our house from a nearby road. It is a pretty big building.

Day two

This was the only full walking day of our trip. We first explored the area around the house, then drove to Vallirana and went for a walk. This is Monserrat (a famous mountain range with a monastery) as viewed from Puig Vicenç. The mountains of Andorra are already covered with snow.

The view towards the sea from the same hill.

A pomegranate fruit from the monastery gardens.

Sonya is enjoying the view.

This is a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo). The fruits are edible which we proved experimentally. This plant blooms in the Autumn, but the fruits take 12 months to ripen, so we got there just in time. The colour of ripening fruit changes from yellow to orange to red, so the trees sometimes resemble traffic lights! The strawberry tree is on Madrid's coat of arms.

We came across some dwarf oak trees with big acorns.

The first part of our walk was around some less-known rocks and caves - and we saw no people. The erosion of red sandstone resulted in interesting patterns.

The steeper sections of the path were equipped with ropes but we had no technical issues. The paths are not always clearly visible, we lost our path a few times - and it's often very hard to fight through the wood without the paths. The GPS navigator is an essential auxilliary for walking in the Garraf park.

The rocks are porous like sponges.

We came across some caves. They were small but with naturally-decorated walls and roofs.

This rock is Penya del Cucut. It is quite tall, around 10 m, and is covered with yellow and red waves.

The red rocks are peppered among the pine trees.

This is probably a vineyard. We also saw it earlier but then got closer.

A lunch break in the shade.

We lost the path a few times but eventually found one that goes to the famous caves, Cova Puig Vicenç.

There are three caves here on different levels. There are lots of visitors and the place is noisy.

There were lots of cacti, but they were covered with some white fluid. This is probably some kind of illness.

The caves are not very deep but the patterns created by erosion are amazing.

This is the most picturesque cave. The patterns here are very smooth. There were lots of people, so many pictures had strangers in the background.

The natural beauty is fascinating! There are similar gorges somewhere in America.

The sunset was breathtaking.

The old part of our house had a huge open fireplace. The logs burn on the floor and the smoke escapes through a hole in the roof on the first floor. The firewood that the landlady had was too wet for burning so we found some large dry branches and cut them.

Time to relax.

Day three

This day's route included some ruins, caves and a stone arch called Rocco Foradada.

A little red cave right next to the path.

Looking towards Barcelona and the sea.

This cactus resembles a stick insect.

We met quite a few people: cyclists, walkers and one hunter with a gun and a dog. It was quite hot - particularly as we walked quite fast to have enough time for swimming in the sea before catching a flight home.

The Puig de Les Agulles summit, the furtherst point of our trip.

There is a little path near the summit leading to the Сassimanya cave. The cave itself is hidden from the summit. It is only a small cave but very nice, with lots of stalactites and even some stalagmites. And we had it all to ourselves.

The cave was well-lit so we did not need the torches.

On the way back we descended into a deep, remote gorge Fond de Macanet.

Lots of strawberry trees, they did not escape our attention.

The Rocco Foradada arch turned out to be very close to the parking lot, this is not where it was marked on the map. We had enough time to get to the seaside, go for a swim, return the rented car and catch a flight back.

This was a rather intense little trip. We got very lucky with the weather, with the lodging, with the sea, with everything. Even though we only spent three incomplete days here, we made many memories. The landscape was so fresh and bright green that it looked like early Spring rather than late Autumn.

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