Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes: the encore

Appropriately, the end of our run was as ignominious as the start.  We packed our things up from the hotel in L'Hospitalet, decided one more time that we didn't really want to run any further down the trail, and slumped off to the train station.  We ran into Titeuf and his owner and had one more nice chat with them, then thoroughly embarrassed ourselves by getting onto one train and then changing our minds and running off at the last second in order to get on a different train.  With that plus our appearances and running gear, the train conductor thought we were absolutely insane.

We ended up having a nice little addition to our adventure, though.  We went to a village near Ussat-les-Bains to visit my friends John and Anne, two climbers whose house I lived in when I lived in Sheffield.  They moved to the Ariège region a few years ago and bought an old farmhouse, which they renovated extensively into a beautiful guesthouse called Chez Arran.  At the time I was unconvinced that their move was a good plan, because of course there's no gritstone in the Ariège, and as far as I knew it rained all the time there.  But after seeing the local crags and scenery and discovering that the weather is indeed better than in Sheffield, I was much more convinced (although they do still have the problem of a lack of gritstone!).

John took us to see a really nice-looking crag with some hard routes, called Grotte de Sabart, and then for a nice walk up to some castle ruins and back to the house for a visit with Anne.  It was really good to see both of them.  When Maria and I got on the train that evening to head back to Spain, we thought our adventure was over.  In fact, the outline of this run report, which we wrote on the train after we left the Arrans' house, ends with the visit to the Arrans.  But either fortunately or unfortunately, the run still had more in store for us.

The public transport situation from France back to Berga (in Spain, where our car was) was complicated.  We had to take a train to the French town of Latour de Carol, then change to a Spanish train to cross the border.  At Puigcerdà, we'd have to change from a train to a bus.  The problem was that we got to Latour after the last train to Spain left.  And there was nothing, truly nothing, in Latour--the entire town was shut up, black, and silent.  We saw one sign for a hotel but it was closed indefinitely.  We even ran into a woman at a house with a sign saying it was a gite, but even though we talked to her, she didn't give any indication that we could stay there.

We knew that it was only a 6-minute train ride from Latour to Puigcerdà, so we figured it couldn't be too far.  We decided to run to Puigcerdà and then hopefully find at least a hotel, if not a bus, there.  The run was pretty unnerving, with lots of getting lost trying to find out way out of Latour, barking dogs, and dark, sketchy-looking parts of town.  In one of the most bizarre moments of the trip, we actually saw the first and only runner of the entire route, running next to some train tracks in the middle of the night (okay, maybe more like 9pm, but it felt like the middle of the night to us).  If Maria hadn't confirmed that we'd seen and talked to him, I would have thought it was a hallucination. To be fair I think he was just as confused to run into two lost American girls as we were to have run into him.

We finally made it to Puigcerdà and successfully found a hotel and food, and made our way back to Berga the next day.  After a short wander around Barcelona, we had very welcome showers and changes of clothes at Carles's house and then an amazing "return to civilization" dinner with Carles and his girlfriend Elena at a very good seafood restaurant in Arenys del Mar.  The adventure was finally over.  Fortunately, we had several more days of Catalan running, food, and climbing to come...

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