Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes: Part 4

Running the Camí dels Bons Homes (a.k.a. La Ruta de los Cátaros / Le Chemin des Bonshommes / GR 107):

A joint run report by Alicia and Maria

Part 4:  Porta to L'Hospitalet, approx. 7 miles

The start of day 4 fully confirmed our feelings about the French side of the trail.  There was no food to be found in Porta, so we set off without any breakfast (we could have had breakfast at the hotel, but we had turned it down as it was expensive and we were thinking we'd find a cafe instead).

                                Porta.  Looks nice, right?  Looks can be deceiving.

The part of the trail out of Porta was, for lack of a better description, boring.  There wasn't much in the way of scenery, since the trail mostly followed near a main road and went through cowfields and random grassy slopes.  We saw lots of mud, train tracks, and ski hill equipment.

At one point we came to a fork in the trail where both paths of the fork were marked with our trail's marking.  A quick Catalan learning session allowed us to figure out that we were supposed to take the left one, but considering what happened next, perhaps we should have taken the right fork...  Less than half a km after the fork, we got to an extremely sturdy gate.  Most of the cattle gates we'd seen so far had consisted of just a thin line of wire, sometimes with a bit of electrical current.  This one was practically bulletproof compared to the others.  We thought briefly about why that might be but then pressed onwards.

And then...cow attack.  We had been running at the edge of a cow field for a while when I suddenly heard Maria yell from behind me, "Um--Alicia!"  Considering that Maria is calm in the face of pretty much everything, you know it's a bad sign when she sounds worried.  I turned around to see a face-off between Maria and a large cow with significant-sized horns.  When it started running towards Maria, she got ready to throw her water bottle at it and I, less industriously, tried yelling "Hey!" at it in what I hoped was a menacing sort of way.  Luckily the cow decided to run away from Maria to join some of the other attack-cows in the field on our other side.  We ran away quickly but straight away had to cross between several more clumps of the same kinds of cow.  We armed ourselves with big sticks but didn't feel particularly safe even then, and from what we could tell all of the cows in this area had murder in their eyes.

After we finally made it out of the last cow field, we headed up a long, strenuous, and thoroughly pointless climb that was essentially in a gap between curves in a highway.  At the top we were rewarded with a scenic view of a burned out truck and a boarded up hotel. 

Nice one, France.  Maria suggested we go back to Spain, which would have been a far better idea than pressing onwards, but we were stubborn enough to keep going.

There was a long, barren stretch of dirt road to finish off this climb.  While it was frustrating not to be on a trail, we did have good views:

After this climb, there was a really nice descent on good singletrack.  The singletrack moved into position as France's sole redeeming feature at this point.

We descended into L'Hospitalet, a little village close to the border with Andorra.  Our guidebook had made it sound like this would be a large-ish town with plenty of places to stay and things to eat, so we had decided that we would end our day's run early here and do touristy things and relax the rest of the day.  Sadly, things were not quite as they had sounded like they'd be.  There was a hotel, fortunately, but that was about it.  It had heat, which we now considered a bonus.  The owners were very friendly and we got to talk to them for a while, which was probably the best part about the stay.  The hotel restaurant was very good but extremely expensive; I think we spent double the money here that we spent in any other town.  We made friends with the couple sitting next to us at dinner, as well as their dog Titeuf.  The hotel also continued our run's trend of good TV by showing a program about a long distance horse race, which everyone in the bar was completely entranced by.

By the end of the night, we had decided that we were going to wrap up the run early.  We still had another 40 miles to the end, but neither of us was feeling particularly inspired by the French part of the trail, and Maria's knee was currently swollen to about triple size.  We went to bed without a particularly clear plan of what we were going to do but with the knowledge that at least we didn't have to get up and start running.

1 comment:

  1. The attack cow must not have taken kindly to a pony running with *the* vaca fuerte..