Friday, October 18, 2019

Remembering the Carros de Foc, 2009

Ten years ago this summer Wil and I went on a month-long trip to the Spanish Pyrenees, Morocco, and Egypt. Though we wrote up notes during our trip and published them on an early blog, we never went back and added images to the posts -- even though I always meant to. So as part of my Blogtober project this year, I want to write up the trip, add a bunch of photos, and fix the typos.

The first part of our trip was spent completing a trek that I had wanted to do since the day I read about it in the New York Times in 2003: the Carros de Foc. It's a 39-mile loop through Aiguestortes National Park in the Spanish Pyrenees. The great thing is that you spend every night in a mountain refuge. It's not fancy, but it's a bed and a blanket and 3 meals per day. So essentially, you can complete a multi-day trek with a day pack. Heaven!

At your first refuge you pick up your "forfait", which you have stamped at each of the 9 refuges you pass by. The warden will list the time and date you arrived at the refuge. When you complete the loop by having your forfait stamped again at your first refuge, you get a t-shirt. Having read some people's description of the hikes, a lot of them, at one point or another, are motivated simply by getting the shirt. Well, probably that and a warm meal.

We completed the circuit at a leisurely, 7-day pace. At that rate, our longest predicted day was supposed to be up to 8 hours of hiking. But one day will be as little as 4 hours of walking. It's hard to know. We would cross mountain passes almost every day, and there was always the possibility that we would get lost. But every afternoon, we arrived at a beautiful hut in the mountains and were fed a nice hot meal complete with red wine. After a potentially less-than-perfect sleep in a big dormitory, we would wake up to breakfast, and be sent on our way with a packed lunch. Very sweet. And did I mention the t-shirt at the end?

We started by taking a bus from Barcelona to Vielha, spending the night there, and then setting off in the morning. We passed the Restanca refuge, picked up our forfait and other goodies, and then went in a counter-clockwise direction, spending our first night in the Ventosa i Calvell refuge. The next day's trek to Estany Llong was the toughest stretch -- good to get that behind us. The third day took us to Colomina -- the longest stretch, but easier than the previous day's. Then on the fourth day we took it very easy -- a 2-4 hour trip to the beautiful Josep Maria Blanc refuge.

Things got a little tougher -- or at least a little longer -- on day 5. We hiked the 3-5 hour trek to Ernest Mallafre... and then continued on to the nicer Amitges refuge. Day 6 was another 2-refuge day, where we hiked 2-3 hours to Saboredo, and another 2-3 on to Colomers, where spent our last night in the mountains.

On the 7th day we got up early and headed back out past Restanca again... FOR THE T-SHIRT ... and then back to Vielha. Several times during the week we were scared, and we found ourselves partnering up with our fellow trekkers. And more than a few times we looked at each other and said that we would be SO PROUD of ourselves when we finished the circuit. And we are.

I'll be taking my notes from each day of the trip and adding in photos from our trek.

Day 1: to Ventosa i Calvell
Day 2: to Estany Llong
Day 3: to Colomina
Day 4: to J.M. Blanc
Day 5: to Amitges
Day 6: to Colomers
Day 7: back to Vielha

Lots more info -- and some spectacular pictures -- from the official Carros de Foc website.

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