Saturday, 30 November 2013

A hike through Southern Europe: Morella

Morella castle
 Morella was an important stop for me: I had had my second and last resupply package from Germany sent here which also meant that by now I am almost 2/3 done with this hike. "Only" about 1,500 km left to Tarifa! As always when expecting a package I was nervous about whether it would be there. But I arrived in the afternoon and had to wait till next morning for the post office to open. I had made a reservation in the Hostal La Muralla. During this off season time it is no problem finding a room, but you have to confirm that your desired place is actually open! Many hotels close in winter. The hostel was inside the mediaeval city walls and really very nice. 27 € got me a single en suite room including breakfast and wifi. The receptionist is originally from Romania and full of advice about town. The place had only one big drawback: the central heating got only lukewarm and I - after several freezing nights - was longing for heat. No matter how much I turned up the heating I was still cold. I ended up moving the bed right next to the heating and wearing several layers but I was still slightly cold. To make things worse the heating was completely turned off at night and around midday for cleaning. Apparently I was expected to be out sightseeing and not lying around in bed... My polite complaints to the manager did not help either...

Morella Castle
At least I received my long awaited parcel from Germany next morning. It had taken surprisingly long: Berlin to Morella in 9 work days. When I told the post mistress I was looking for parcel from Germany she already smiled and knew. Morella is a small place and there are not too many Poste Restante deliveries from other countries. The parcel contained a new pair of shoes, trekking pole tips and a new Platypus water bottle. I had lost my spare one and had prayed that the surviving one would make it to Morella. I had had to glue and tape potential holes but it had made it without leaking.

View from Morella Castle
I then went shopping in the Chinese supermarket where I bought a really warm second buff. I also tried to find long johns but could only get some sort of leggings. They were only 3 € and if they don't keep me warm I have not lost a lot of money. I even managed to do some sightseeing which was mainly cold: neither the beautiful Basilica nor the impressive castle had any heating. In the church though I was reminded a lot of Olot: Almost all the tacky figures of saints had been made there - and I remembered the fabulous Saint's museum plus manufacture there.

Ares del Mestre
I was now facing a bit of a dilemma: the weather forecast predicted very strong winds with gusts up to 80 km/h for the next day plus a bit of snow. I was definitely fed up with the wind, especially since even weather warning for the region had been issued. I would have stayed a second day in Morella but the underperforming central heating was deterring me. I don't want to spend my precious rest day with several layers of clothes on shivering in bed. Luckily there was another cheap hotel 25 km up the trail in Ares del Maestre - and it was open! I did not fancy hiking in strong wind, but 25 km would be a rather short day and I would not have to camp in the wind. Still I spent the night almost without sleeping because I was so scared of the wind. So far I had encountered gusts up to 70 km/h according to the weather forecast and that had been hell. Several times I had had serious problems to stay upright and not be blown over. And now the prediction was gusts up to 83 km/h when I would be again on an exposed plateau.

Perfect crack
I left Morella before sunrise to get it over with as soon as possible. But I was facing an additional problem: I had to change my trekking pole tips and as always the buggers would not come off. Without tools the best way to change them is to find a right-sized crack in a rock, squeeze the pole in and pull as hard as you can. But the crack has to have the perfect size: big enough for the pole, but so small that the tip gets stuck. You would think that this shouldn't be a problem with so many rocks around but nothing would work and I became more and more frustrated. I found the perfect crack only at the end of the day and it still took forever to get the to off. But I was so happy with my perfect-size crack that I changed both tips although only one had completely worn off and the other had only started to get there.

Ares del Mestre
I was even happier with the wind: Compared to what I have been through on previous days this was nothing. It was windy, but nothing frightening. I could have even camped in it. But luckily I decided to stick with the hotel. Ares is a tiny place and the hotel quickly found. It turned out to be a rather posh place, but with great prices: I paid 30 € for a lovely room plus dinner! The room even had a bathtub and I indulged in a long hot bath. Even the central heating is working perfectly and now I feel like in hiker heaven - especially after looking out of the window and seeing it snowing... But I'll deal with that tomorrow.


Juan Holgado said...

From monday on you will have suny days to enjoy and better temperatures so keep walking to the south.
You are walking on my footsteps since I walked that trail years ago so now I am imaging your adventure and following it through your blog with so much interest.

John Harwood said...

Hope you are surviving the wind. The UK has been hit by strong winds again, the weather across Europe seems to get a little more severe each year. Kepp safe, keep warm.