Had a lovely rest day in Morella, visiting the main sites of the Basilica de Santa Maria Major, the city wall, Convento de Sant Francesc, and the castle. It had been a long time since seeing any tourists that were not from Spain. There were not a lot of tourists, but a few small groups could be seen from time to time. Really enjoyed my time in Morella.
Leaving Morella the next day, I ran into a bus full of Dutch tourists that had stopped on the side of the road to take photos of Morella. One guy had Camino pins on his hat, and was interested in my journey. He had done the Camino de Santiago several times, and it was good to chat about our experiences.
After a brief road walk, the path exited onto some dirt farm roads, but those quickly changed to an open trail that steadily rose up to open hilltops framed with stone walls. After reaching the top, the trail descended through nice forests before eventually intersecting the main road into Vallibona, a beautiful village stuck between the mountain passes. I was planning to do a short day and stay here, but the accommodation was fully booked. I thought about camping nearby, but I had no food and the lone shop in town was only open two days per week (and that day was not one of those two days). The hostal owner was very friendly and helpful, and offered to call ahead to see if there was accommodation available in Boixar, but he could only find a place in Fredes, which would make the day very long. I decided to give it a go, but I needed to hustle to make it before dark. After a seemingly long stretch of trail and unmaintained dirt roads, I finally decended into Boixar late in the afternoon. Boixar was very picturesque, but was largely deserted. I only saw one car that was parked, and I didn’t see a single person the entire time that I was exploring the town. There were casas rural, but there were no other businesses at all in town.
After another hour or so of nice, forested trails, I arrived in the very small village of Fredes, which is the last community in Valencia. The owner of the casa rural was sitting on a bench waiting for me. Usually you have to chase people down, so that was a very nice gesture. I found that they had a restaurant in the village, and while it was not open that night, it would be open for breakfast in the morning.
The next morning, I had breakfast and the restaurant was nice enough to prepare some sandwiches for me to take on the journey to Caro. I crossed from Valencia to Catalonia, and Catalonia did not disappoint. The trails and roads entered the Parc Natural del Ports and went through fantastic pine forests and passed by several huts before turning into one of the most technical and challenging trails that I have ever hiked. It was tough and extremely dramatic, with the trail clinging to the edge of a rock wall, and there were saw-tooth rock walls and columns all around. It was hard to believe the scenery, and I kept stopping to take photos. At one point you could actually see the flat farmland in the distance as it ran off into the horizon. The path even ran up the side of a boulder, with the trail continuing at the top. It was amazing, but it wore me out.
Arriving in the small mountain community of Caro, I came across a pub that was open. Stopped for a coffee and some food before finishing the last kilometer, where I camped near a hut that had a restaurant. While the restaurant was closed that evening, I was told that it would be open in the morning for breakfast. However, that turned out to be incorrect, and I had to go back to the pub in the morning for breakfast, which delayed my start that next day.
The second day in the Parc Natural del Ports from Caro to Pauls was almost as dramatic as the first, but slightly less technical. After some rocky trails and beautiful paths through the pine forests, the trail emerged on the Alpine mountain ridges. With no trees, there were amazing views in 360 degrees, while the trail slithered off into the distance along the ridges.
While I enjoyed this section thoroughly, I knew there was the inevitable steep drop out of the mountains. The decent was a tough end to the day, and it was hard on my feet given that my shoes are screaming to be disposed of. I arrived in Pauls, and found the casa rural/restaurant where I was to stay. At dinner I met two other hikers that were doing a 5-day trip around the Parc Natural del Ports, and we traded stories. The cherries in Catalonia are being harvested now, so I opted for the pork cutlets in cherry sauce dinner, which was terrific.
The day from Pauls to Rasquera was mediocre. The first half of the day was decent, with farm roads leading out of the foothills. Those roads eventually ran into the Erbe river, which looked amazing on approach. I was excited about the river landmark, but that was tempered by a significant stretch of walking along the main highway. There was a lot of traffic, and it was a poor place to be walking. I was looking forward to getting off the highway and back onto the dirt roads leading into Rasquera. Since these roads (and a few short trail sections) followed the river, they offered some views of the river, but also went through some unused industrial and farming spots. It was a warm day, and the people were out in Rasquera enjoying the sunshine when I arrived. It was a good opportunity to get some groceries, and a refill of sunscreen at the pharmacy. I also stopped at a bakery for a coffee and cherry tart. The cherry tart was so good that I got a big piece for take-away.
Walking days: 55
Total distance walked: 1551km (964mi)