Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Les Roques Encadenades or Les Roques Encantades

Each season in Catalunya brings us something different. The summer - warm weather, BBQ's and the beach scene, spring - Calçots and the blossom on the trees and winter - frozen waterfalls, nights in front of the log fire, Christmas markets and of course skiing. But it has to be said that it is at this time of year, during the autumn, that I look forward to the most and that this is my favourite time of year.....

It's almost mid November, the leaves on the trees are in full display and after a long and hot summer, there's an absolute riot of colour in the mountains. Today it's 23ºC outside, the air is fresh and clear and there is not a breath of wind rustling the leaves. The sky has that particular shade of dark (winter) blue that we only seem to get between the Autumn and Spring equinoxes, when the sun hangs low in the sky all day and makes for long shadows and dramatic contrasts. In the late afternoon, there is a window of opportunity to take stunning pictures. Photographers like myself, call this the "magic hour" and magic hour in Catalunya lasts all day long.

Today, I'm out and about with friends on a short hike in the low Pyrenees and we are off to visit Les Roques Encadenades or Les Roques Encantades - The Chained or Enchanted Rocks located on the cliffs of the Collsacabra mountains just to the north of Girona.

The Vall d'en Bas, just to the north of Girona from the Falgars de Collsacabra.
First things first though, we had to get there.... Easier said than done as although geographically the hike was just a few kilometres to the north of Girona, we had to pass all the way up through the d'en Bas Valley and then turn back on ourselves climbing all the way as there are no direct roads to the Collsacabra mountains from the Costa Brava. This, I have to say, I consider a bonus.... Sufficiently far enough away to deter the casual day tripper, and yet close enough to get there and back comfortably in a morning. Today, we elected to have a lie-in, a lazy start and to spend the whole day out in the low Pyrenees.

On the way to Les Roques, we passed the small village of Les Planes d'Hostoles and stopped off at one of the best little picnic spots I know. A waterfall based at the gorg del moli dels Murris which is situated on the river Cogolls.

The Salt de Cogolls

Incidentally, d'en Bas valley hosts the famous via verde; an obsolete narrow gauge railway-line which was decommissioned in the 1960's and has now been renovated for the use of hikers and trail bikers and winds its way from the Pyrenean town of Olot 100 kms or so down to Sant Feliu de Guixols on the coast. Near to Les Planes d'Hostoles and close to the via verde you will find the gorg dels Murris, the Salt de Magarida (another waterfall and picnic spot) and some outstanding small, local restaurants where you can stop of for a menu del dia or a coffee.

After s short stop off to see the waterfall, we continued north along the valley towards Sant Esteve d'en Bas and the entrance to the Collsacabra mountains.

At Sant Esteve d'en Bas, take the C153 towards Rupit and after a few kilometres of steady climbing, you'll reach the summit at the Coll de Condreu where there is a little bar and restaurant. We normally park there and as we generally return to the restaurant for lunch of drinks after the walk, don't feel too guilty about parking in their carpark.....

Opposite the carpark, on the other side of the C153 and next to the donkey :), there is a small sign indicating the start of the walk to Les Roques Encadenades.

The start of the hike.
Donkey. "Ruc" in Catalan
 and the symbol of Catalunya 

This walk is not really suitable for anyone with mobility issues as it has a short climb and can be a little steep in places, but this hike is perfect for families and children being just 2 or 3 kilometres long. Along the way, you'll find route markers, so there is no need for a map or GPS and typical of Catalunya, there are information stops along the way giving you some background information to the local legends and geology. I have tried to translate these signs and although my Catalan is not that good, believe that I've done them justice.... the following script comes from the info spots that we encountered along the way.

Les Roques Encadenades or Encantades and a self portrait.

A natural cathedral of calmness and magic.
The Collsacabra Mountains.

"The beech forests attract the rains of summer. They are moist and shady places. They share their space with oak, despite living in different parts. Whilst the oaks like sunny spots, beech prefers more shady slopes.

One can walk through a beech forest on a soft carpet of leaves. Become intoxicated by the silence and calmness of the forest. The proportions are deceiving for when you enter, you become almost insignificant next to the true giants of the forest. Light rays penetrate the darkness from the canopy above and the forest becomes a magical and silent cathedral. 
Our Golden Retriever Casi having a fantastic day out in the leaves.
Legend says it was Jesus, who walking through the Pyrenees, found a man cursing. As punishment, he turned the man into a  bear and gave him the power to climb all types of tree in the forest with the exception of the beech, and so this is why to this day bears try to knock down the Beech without success.

Beech forests are the favourite places of fairies and goblins. They live in holes in the trunks, in the canopy and they bathe in the small pools of water that form in the cavities of old trees.

The Oak.

The oak trees were considered sacred to many ancient people. For the ancient Greeks, the oak tree was dedicated to Zeus and for the Romans the tree was sacred to Jupiter. These were the gods of rain, lightning and thunder and therefore worshiped the oaks to pray for rain. The priests of Zeus submerged oak branches in a sacred spring to attract rain and the Romans threw acorns instead of rice at brides and grooms because it was a symbol of fertility. 
The Oak tree which Belongs to the genus “Quercus” (from the Greek “Kratos”),  means power and strength and with reference to its wood, is the most resistant in the world and up to five times harder than the pine. Legend has it that Noah's Ark was built with oak.

The Druids (the name means “the oak men”), used to listen to the whispering of the leaves of the oaks in order to interpret the messages of the gods. In Finish mythology they say that the oaks were created by the god Väinämöinen to protect the birds and to be protectors of the human race. Oak, in  Guernica, in the Basque Country, which represents traditional freedoms and is a universal symbol of Basque poor.

The enchanted rocks or chained rocks.

They say that many years ago, a demon lived in the area. He had a bed of mulch under one of these big rocks. Occasionally, when bored or when there was evil moon, he entertained himself by rolling them downhill to see them crash into the houses of Sant Feliu de Pallerols.

The people of the village, fed up with having to endure these whims of the demon, prayed to God for help. Then one day, an angel came down from heaven and tied the rocks together with chains so strong that the demon could no longer move them. Defeated, the demon went to look for somewhere else to cause trouble.

But the geologists say ....

These rocks are between 22 and 65 million years old. They originated in the sea, near the coast and are made of cemented sands transported and deposited in a quiet shallow sea. They formed underwater rolling dunes. Exceptionally, you can find sharks teeth and other fish in the rock. The water that has trickled  through the cracks later, would, over time have carved the rock into the individual blocks that exist today which every now and then fall down the cliffs. Interestingly, during the XIV and XV centuries there were earthquakes, some notably intense (years 1373, 1427 and 1448) which coincide with the time of the legends."

Finally, we made our way to the Santuari of El Far situated high on the Cingles (cliffs) overlooking Girona,  Les Gavarres Natural Reserve and the Costa Brava in the distance. There is a restaurant and bar there with good parking and outstanding views. What better place to end a fantastic day.

Late afternoon from the cliffs of El Far overlooking the d'en Bas Valley and Les Gaverres hills.
Sunset from El Far.

If you wish to learn more about hiking, biking and adventures on the Costa Brava throughout the year, please contact me through our Facebook page, our website below or our email address caldomino@gmail.com
About me… I have lived in Calonge (province of Girona) on the Costa Brava since 2003 after retiring as a pilot from the british Royal Air Force. My passions are hiking, biking, skiing, photography and discovering and sharing the hidden cultural treasures of this beautiful country. My day job entails managing a luxury self-catering rental Villa, Casa Cal Domino, and in my search for new and interesting things to do for my clients whilst they are here on holiday, I have been genuinely overawed by the beauty and diversity of this land. I’m not leaving any time soon. I love it here and I hope to inspire you to come and discover this wonderful country for yourself.

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