Friday, 26 July 2013

The Pyrenees – Ordesa Valley, High Aragon (Faja Pelay)

BEWARE! The following blogs about the Pyrenees are extra long, full of pictures of amazing scenery and contain an extra amount of panoramas. You’ve been warned!

We left Barcelona late after work so by the time we got close to the Pyrenees it was already pitch black. After 4 hours diving we found our hotel in Torla, the closest place you can stay to the valley. As soon as we hit the bed we were asleep.

On the next day we woke up and looked outside the hotel window. Well, it’s not by accident that the hotel´s name is Bella Vista (Beautiful View).

We planned a long walk for that day and the weather forecast said that it was going to rain in the afternoon so we woke up early, packed up and went to find the bus stop. You cannot go into the Natural Park by car, only by bus which takes you to the beginning of many nice walks.

After about 20 minutes of driving we arrived to the Pradera, the parking space for the bus, bought a bacon baguette from the shop and started our first walk in the Pyrenees.

We chose the most popular trail for our first hike, the Faja Pelay, or the Hunter’s Trail. It’s a 7-8 hour long, 22km walk with moderate difficulty and it’s most famous feature is the La Cola de Caballo, the Horse’s Tail. This is a waterfall that looks like (I bet you cannot even guess) a horse’s tail. If you’re interested, check out this Wikiloc for the map of the route. The route was very well signed, clean of rubbish and in good condition.

I would say that this was the most perfect trail I’ve ever been on! The first hour or so is hard but that´s ok because you´re still full of energy. After the hard bit you´re instantly rewarded with an amazing view, then it´s just a long downhill section all the way back.

The walk started from a 1400m height with the hardest bit of the whole trail, an almost 700m ascent up, up and up. It was hard and it just didn’t want to end!

When we finally made it we were awed by an incredible view of the valley from the Calcilarruego viewpoint. The valley was far down below and the mountain in front of us was so huge that I just kept lifting my eyes up and I still couldn’t see the top of it! Everything was on a whole other scale here.

Just as we got up there Paul got a call from the UK and in the middle of the Ordesa Valley he had to do some printer trouble shooting!

(I would also add that just on this little section we met three guys wearing a red T-shirt. I don’t know why did I notice such a thing but it was curious.)

From then on it was an easy, gentle ascent all the way to the waterfall. The road was great, on the left in the depth we heard and sometimes spotted the Arazas river.

The trail is amazing, on your left it’s steep up and on your right there’s a 700m drop. Not recommended for people with vertigo!

This part of the route doesn’t feel at all like it’s high up on a mountain! Everything is lush and green around you, flowers and butterflies everywhere.

At some point I saw some movement from the corner of my eyes. We spotted a roe deer family!

(By this point I have counted 6 different men wearing a red T-shirt! I’ve mentally checked just to be on the safe side and yes, Paul does have a red T-shirt, he got it from me for Christmas. Phew! I, however, don’t have any. I hope it’s not going to be a problem later.)

Finally we had our first glimpse of the Horse’s Tail waterfall. It was still a long way to go but we were definitely getting closer.

(It happened on this part that we saw many people ahead of us, all of them heading towards the waterfall and many of them were wearing… a RED T-SHIRT? What is going on with the Spanish and their red hiking tops?! I could pick out the route easily just by connecting the red dots ahead of me. I started to feel under enormous social pressure to run to the closest outdoor shop and buy one for myself.)

Finally we saw the La Cola de Caballo.

We saw the meadow that leads to the waterfall full of cows. Somehow hills, forests, trails, waterfalls, rivers and cows work very well in my mind.

The way back was very easy and this is why it’s a very popular family trail. The path is wide and descents gently and it runs along the river almost all the way to the end. It has a beautiful blue colour, and it’s very clear.

Here and there along the way you get a surprise waterfall and after a while you stop counting them, there are so many of them.

When we were halfway down this second half we saw that the sky suddenly became grey. We started walking faster a bit and were hoping that we can outrun the rain. We couldn’t but it was ok as we had our rain jackets with us. It started raining a bit heavier when we finally got to the bus parking area. A bus was just about to leave, we were the last one to get on. By the time we got back to Torla it was raining really hard but the lady at the hotel allowed us to hang out our wet clothes in the drying room.

We did the walk in 7 hours. We were extremely tired by the end, especially Paul who had to drive four hours the night before. We had one more thing left to do though, to choose the next day’s walk. We decided that we’re going to take it easy tomorrow and chose a shorter, 3.5 hour long trail, the Faja Racón. If only we had known!

To be continued.

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