Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Walking the Coll de Balaguer from l'Hospitalet

Footpaths Of The Mediterranean 4 
We thought our Saturday walk was just going to be an easy 6km legstretcher, but it ended up being considerably longer and lasting just over three hours! The route was another from our new Footpaths Of The Mediterranean folder and the first half was along another section of the GR92 coastal path. L'Hospitalet de l'Infant, our starting point, is named for its original purpose, a 14th century hospital for travellers traversing the Coll de Balaguer pass on their way from the Ebro delta to Tarragona. The hills here look very different now to how they did then because tons of earth were moved to create two motorways, the railway line and the N340 road, but in medieval times this area was particularly dangerous. With no towns to speak of for over seventy kilometres, travellers were at risk of frequent attack from bandits in the hills and corsair pirates from the coast. Fortunately these are no longer a problem and the only evidence of violence we saw were the remnants of wartime gun emplacements and a sign warning of the start of a hunting area.

View from Coll de Balaguer 
We parked up on the outskirts of l'Hospitalet, past the Arenal beach, and followed the GR92 south-west along sandy beaches as far as the Cala d'Ocques campsite which has pitches practically on the beach. We were a little envious until we got back home and looked up their prices online. I think we'll stay at Camping Ametlla for now! The GR92 turns inland up the Barranc de Cala d'Ocques and briefly follows a road until it turns off again and becomes a proper narrow stony footpath leading upwards to the ridgeline. The views up here got more and more stunning the higher we climbed until we almost had a panoramic 360o view. We could see for miles towards Miami Platja and Cambrils!

View to Platja de les Rojales 
The GR92 did have one short but scarily steep scramble at this point, but otherwise wasn't too challenging. The mapped route finished at a high point, Punta de les Rojales, with us then having the option to make our own way on a circular route or to retrace our steps. We prefer circular routes anyway and I certainly didn't fancy trying to get back down the steep bit! Continuing along the ridge until the GR92 descends to a beach-bound road looked hardly any distance on the map, but was probably the best part of an hour's more walking. Good walking certainly and with more fabulous views!

We were all the way up there! 
We descended by way of a winding road to Platja de les Rojales, a long sandy beach with gently lapping waves and beautiful colours from the setting sun. Two cyclists zoomed downhill past us which looked great fun, but we were less encouraged to emulate them when they turned around in the car park at the base and started back upwards again! From that car park, we walked through a short tunnel under the railway to reach the sand and, beforehand, could look back up over trees to the ridge from which we previously gazed down. Steps lead up from the other end of the beach so we had a short section along a wooded footpath passing El Templo del Sol nudist colony. It looked pretty closed up at this time of year! Then we rejoined our outward route to get back to the car and were both proud of our three hours non-stop hiking.


2 comments:

  1. You two really know how to get around and make the most out of a trip while camping and all of that sort of thing! I'm not a huge fan of walking and hikes, because I get frustrated with how slow I'm moving xD I'm used to cycling places. But it sounds like you enjoyed it!

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    1. Some places can only be reached on foot, but we go slow too. Well, Dave is slower on the uphill stretches and I am incredibly slow going downhill

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