Monday, December 26, 2011

Bovine encounters

It is  St. Stephen's Day in Catalunya, a holiday for everyone. There were a number of visitors in the village today both Spanish and French. We decided to try another of the many trails that criss-cross the hills behind us. A ten-minute drive brought us to the Santa Helena's parking lot (see earlier post), and from here we set out on an old farm track.

This stony but well defined track took us north along a ridgeline towards our neighboring town of Llanca. We stopped first at a ruined farmhouse, one of many dotting the hillsides, and admired the view. As we walked along the path we could see either cow pats or horse droppings and loads of them. This was unusual for us as we hadn't seen signs of either on previous trips up here. Very mysterious.

In the distance we could see the beautiful snow-covered peaks of the far Pyrenees, while nearby rosemary was in bloom. The only sounds were of birds and our own foot steps. As we clambered over the solid remains of yet another stone wall, we could see Llanca, which looked like a toy town to us. Turning around we could see the outlines of the huge vineyards that used to be in the area, and we wondered about the generations of farmers who created and tended these terraces. When did they leave, and why? We resolved to find someone to help us unravel the fascinating history of this area. 

We moved on, and soon heard the clang of bells. Sure enough, as we rounded the next bend we came face to face with a large steer. To us city folks his unblinking stare seemed impolite, if not downright menacing. Twenty feet behind a second steer moved into position covering the other side of the track - these were obviously pros. Having devised an exit strategy, we moved cautiously forward, playing it cool, avoiding eye contact. Finally, the brown one gave a snort and lumbered off the track. He joined 6 or 7 others, mostly a beautiful white colour, all munching away on the thorny brush. We sensed that the moment of threat had passed and took a moment to admire these sure footed beasts.

On our return trip we took a detour to see two old ruined farmhouses. One looked more modern, probably early twentieth century. It looked like the kind of place that some idiot couple on a TV show might attempt to renovate into a lovely beamed farmhouse. The other was considerably older with low arched ceilings. The stone walls on both houses were in reasonably good shape.

Finally, we made our way up the long slope back to the car. After more than two hours I thanked goodness for good walking shoes. By now the sun was losing its strength and we were glad to see our little red car. 
Our ridgeline ramble brought us to this view of the town of Llanca.

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