Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Barracas of Montroig del Camp

Do you remember that a few weeks ago Dave and I visited
Barraca del Tutu
the Joan Miro museum in Montroig del Camp? Part of the museum had been turned over to an interesting photographic exhibition documenting the building of a number of barraques / barracas in the nearby countryside. Yesterday we finally got around to doing a walk which would allow us to see some of these structures in situ. We drove to the barraca named Barraca del Tutu which is numbered 1 on our map - Senderisme Mont Roig i Miami Platja - and parked up before setting out on foot, complete with picnic lunch, to explore. Several of the barracas are signposted from the T-310, but we didn't initially realise this as we drove along that road. If you're looking for them too, watch out for handmade signs with a capital letter B and a number pointing off down dirt tracks!

Barraca doble de Cal Rabosa 

A barraca is essentially a small rural shelter and I have
Inside Barraca del Tutu 
seen the word translated into English as meaning anything from a workmen's hut to an Eskimo igloo. The Montroig barracas use ancient building techniques to create domed stone structures with a simple arched doorway. There aren't any windows although we saw several that had small alcoves inside, presumably for candles or lanterns. Stones high up inside the roof were often blackened by smoke and there is no chimney hole. I guess fire smoke dissipates through gaps between the stones. Generally no fixing substance - such as mortar - is used so it's a bit like dry stone walling in the UK. Looking inside, I was also reminded of the one of the dolmen we saw at Antequera almost exactly two years ago (although not the one pictured in this post). These barracas feel timeless!

Seeing the fields and orchards in this part of Catalonia
explains immediately where all the building stone comes from and I wondered which came first - the need to have small shelters or the need to do something with all this rock! Hill slopes are terraced, again with immense volumes of rock, and there must have been incredible work needed to actually create viable agricultural land here. What is sad to see is where formerly worked land has been abandoned and allowed to revert to scrubland again. The effort required to get it usable again may never make economic sense.

The barracas are all slightly different shapes and designs,
and vary in size. The smallest were tiny huts where we had to crouch to get through the door and probably no more than a couple of people could be seated together. The largest we saw, I think, was this one for which I got Dave to stand in the photo to really give you an idea of its scale. As most of the barracas didn't have name plaques beside them and weren't always where they appeared to be on the map, we did have trouble not only finding them, but also identifying the ones we did see! I think the large barraca pictured here is Barraca dels Communs del Pellicer, but it could be Barraca de l'Aiguader.

Perhaps the most spectacular, and certainly the easiest to
Barraca 'en espiral' 
identify(!), is Barraca 'en espiral' meaning, obviously, in a spiral. This one looks fabulous from the outside, but has no sign of its spiral construction on the inside.

It was very close to another barraca that we probably wouldn't have been able to name had we not seen them almost as a pair. Pictured below, Barraca dels Lliris was the only one we saw which had plants growing on it. I didn't know what the plant was, but it looked to have been deliberately planted all across the roof. Maybe this helps with waterproofing? Maybe it is just for decoration?

Barraca dels Lliris 
There are dozens of barracas across the Montroig area and we only saw a fraction of them. Most aren't directly alongside the camis (agricultural tracks) or footpaths so require shortish detours to find them. Plus, being made of the same stone as much of their surroundings, they blend in remarkably well!