We woke up to find that we hadn’t been murdered in our bags. Good news to start the day! Anna was severely lacking in sleep though; luckily we are now so well versed in breaking camp that we can do it without talking! We had a quick brekkie before hitting the road. The first bit was downhill and I soaked up the cold morning air, knowing that it would be more than hot enough in a couple of hours. We crossed the river and climbed the valley on the other side, and the view opened up in front of us, revealing the “pre-pyrenees” that we were about to tackle.
As we got nearer the ridges, we started climbing the road beside the river, just below a dam. It was pretty busy, with lorries swerving around us, but Anna risked life and limb to document the dam, so you’d better enjoy it.
We stopped for lunch at the top of the dam and enjoyed two-day matured hummus with bread, followed by choccie digestives topped with raspberry jam. Mmmmm! We were then faced with our first tunnel of the day. We went through it, escaping into daylight just before a lorry trundled past. We decided that for all future tunnels we would take the longer but hopefully quieter and safer detours around the side of the lake. This soon paid off as we found ourselves the kings of the road with epic views opening before us, while the rest of those poor schmucks enjoyed fluorescent lighting and carbon monoxide. As we got to the entrance of the biggest tunnel on our route we found to our dismay that the road around was closed off with barriers. However we decided that falling rocks and landslides were less hazardous than speeding lorries so we squeezed through the barriers and made our way around. We were rewarded with a lovely long quiet ride past some stunning scenery. There were a few rocks on the road, but we escaped unharmed.
Once we turned east away from the river the road started to climb really steeply. It was narrow, quiet, beautiful and hot! The tunnels (with no convenient alternative roads this time) were small and a little disquieting, given the occasional motorbike convoys that sped past.
After an hour’s climbing we reached the edge of the Muntanya d’Alinya Reserve, marked with this rather unobtrusive sign. Hurrah!
As we continued up the road a car pulled over and the lady inside asked “Anna and Dave?”. Er, yes….
Silvia works at the project and she had been told by her colleague Susanna who we’ve been emailing that we would arrive tomorrow. She was unperturbed by the early arrival however, and we stood in the road introducing ourselves and hearing a little about the reserve. She said she was heading off for the afternoon, but gave us directions to the Project’s Education Centre and said we could just chill out there for the rest of the day. Sweet! So off we went, musing on how everything just seems to work out in Spain!
A little further on we stopped to eat, finding ourselves sitting on the steps of an 11th century church. As you do!
A few more grinding uphill miles and we arrived at the village of Alinya, where the Project has its Visitor Centre. The Education Centre where we were staying was only another 500 m or so as the crow flies, but most of it was upwards so it too us another half hour to get there. On the way we found a bag of potatoes in the road and snaffled a few for dinner. Beggars can’t be choosers!
We also went past some wild cherry trees pregnant with red delicious fruit. This made Anna happy!
The Education Centre is totally sweet, two floors with crystal clear mountain water piped inside, a space age composting toilet with a poo conveyor belt (I can’t get over that), a FRIDGE (WOOHOO) and two comfy sofa beds.
We had a wash and did laundry and soon afterwards Silvia came back. She said we could stay at the centre for the whole week if we liked (yes please) and then took us down to introduce us to Lluis, the owner of the restaurant, and part-time village taxi service. She said that Xavier, the Project’s Co-ordinator would come by the restaurant later on to introduce himself and let us know what we might be able to help with.
We decided to have dinner at the restaurant as well, and we were just finishing when Xavier arrived. He was eating too, so we stayed on and chatted about the Reserve, his own conservation experience, what we hoped to get from being here, and what we could do. It turns out that there is a group of students here this week from the University of Lleida, so we can attend some of the lectures and field trips they are doing, as well as doing some planting and maintenance in the forests, and helping out with a photography day for the vultures next week. Can’t wait!