Impressions of a Very Hot Day in the Spanish Wilds
(…or, How To Get Completely Lost and Find Exactly What You Were Looking For)
Apparently we set out today with the purpose of getting lost. Well, not quite. But getting lost did end up serving a very nice purpose.
Today we set out from El Port de la Selva from our campsite overlooked by the looming monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes on a bus which delivered us 6 km North to the small coastal town of Llança. We had a pretty good idea of what our path should look like from there: a gravel road that travelled approximately West, and that doubled as a hiking trail.
It turns out that there are two such roads. We took the wrong one.
The road led us to a dead end close to an orchard with a rather alluring sign: DOLMENS ->. Well, if you have already read the posts (“Day of the Dolmens” I/II), you might understand that we just couldn’t resist! Scrambling up a rather steep, dry slope with rocks and brambles and the occasional blaze posted for reassurance, we sighted an impressive sight at the top of a hill. It certainly was not a dolmen, but was it perhaps an apse of a Romanesque church? And so it happened that we stumbled haphazardly upon the 10th century ruins of the Església Sant Genis del Terrer. Completely undocumented by Wikipedia (Catalane), Romanicocatalan.com, and our Catalogne Romane (Zodiaque) book, the ruins stood hermited away in the slopes. (We would later come across a book written in French about Romanesque architecture: “Eglises Romanes Oubliées du Roussillon” for the region in Northern Catalunya. It seems there are just too many Romanesque churches to keep track of!)
After adequately exploring our treasure, we pondered what to do next. With her super navigational skills, Mom conjectured that we should be returning to Llança and taking a similar path that led through the foothills and that could be seen from the top of the hill near Sant Genis del Terrer. The cycling along this path was slow-going and hot. The near midday sun beat down and reflected off the gravel road, which was hot and steep—sometimes so steep that it was impossible to cycle up without the back tires of our bikes slipping. After an hour or so of hard cycling, it felt as though we were in the middle of the Spanish wilds. The foothills, populated with small trees, bushes, and cacti, was mostly grassy, and the terrain was rough. It actually reminded me of the desert in Bolivia, which I had visited on a four-day off-roading trip with three of my close friends. Mom discovered the first of what would turn out to be a series of cattle guards, and she smiled as she recalled her previous misadventure with the cattle guard near Cranbrook.
In the middle of the Spanish wilds, we came across the Església de Sant Salvador. Surprisingly, there was a man with his dog on the well-groomed grass enjoying the sunshine by the Església. We followed a blazed hiking trail down the hill to the Església.
Along the way to our destination, the Església de Sant Quirze, we were running low on water. Luckily, we knew that we would reach a small settlement, Vilaminiscles, after about one hour of cycling on the gravel road past the Església de Sant Salvador. We have always been very lucky finding fountains in Spanish cities, and even in small settlements. It is no surprise perhaps that the Spanish people recognize the value of water on a very hot day.
Between Vilaminiscles and Sant Quirze, we found an elegant menhir: the Menhir del Mas Roqué. Not sure what I mean by elegant? I suppose the picture doesn’t quite communicate the idea, much like a picture does not quite capture the beauty of a sunset, but one finds the same thing with dolmens: one might find a friendly or suave or grandiose dolmen, and similarly menhirs can make an impression of having any myriad of human characteristics, whether they are tall and imposing, short and neat, or, in is case, slim and elegant. (I don’t think Obelix ever realized this, since he preferred his dolmens to be uniformly squat and pointy, much like his own character.)
Within “spitting distance” of the Monestir de Sant Quirze was the earlier Església de Santa Maria de Colera. The facade of the Església de Sant Quirze was large and impressive, with several broken slots near the top where the church bells used to ring. Dad explored the exterior of the church and made a panorama of the landscape and the two churches, while Mom sketched a little window present on the facade.