We slept soundly in our scruffy campsite. It was a chilly, cloudless morning as we collected our bib numbers and readied ourselves for the off. Thinking 10km should be an easy jaunt, less than a quarter of the distance I’d completed the Sunday before at Cheverny, I was a little blasé and returned to bed until ten minutes before off. We were less than 30 seconds from motorhome to start-line, so perfectly placed for the event. A quick warm-up, then we set off into the town, with no notion of the route. After many bends, streets, squares and 47 minutes and 23 seconds we arrived back, the wonderfully cool morning and number of participants allowing a fast time (for us).
Our time was enough for Nicky to finish second in her age category, and as sixth lady overall. We were informed that they had a small trophy for the top three placed in each section, so we waited around for the presentations. Unfortunately we found out that trophies were only awarded in the half marathon race, not the 10k, so it wasn’t to be. We had the consolation of having each been gifted two vacuum-packed bags of non-descript meat for finishing the race. (The half-marathon finishers each received a leg of ham). We inquired later with some locals and were told it was definitely pork, but ears, noses and tongues were mentioned, along with intestines and blood. We were to boil our prize for between one and three hours and were promised it would be the tastiest thing ever. Mmmm.
Instead of parading with our tacky plastic trophy, we instead had post-race showers at the campsite, packed up and headed off to stopover at a free aire in nearby Santa Pau ( 42.146914n, 2.568332e ) This was a peaceful, large field close to the centre that we had almost to ourselves. Later we had a mid-afternoon stroll around the beautiful medieval stone village, seeing the Castell de Santa Pau and the softly rolling hillsides it sat within from many angles.
We drove a little way back the next morning, intent on walking an advertised 10km loop of the local extinct volcanoes. We avoided a packed car-park charging €8 to enter, instead parking about 400m away in a much nicer free area, almost entirely unused, with wonderfully spacious motorhome spaces. A perfect base, and we couldn’t fathom why so many were paying in the other car-park, other than to save themselves the little extra walk.
We set off through knotty forests trails with twisted roots and cool shade. Some stretches, nearer to the car-parks, were overrun with parents and their young kids, a reminder this was the beginning of the Easter holidays and most places were likely to be busy. We first passed the crater of Volcà de Santa Margarida, named for the church built down inside the forested rim. Later we circled around the Volcà del Croscat, where we passed groups of kids on what looked like their first camping trip, all noise and chat, some carrying packs bigger than themselves. There were stretches of beautiful forest trails with jumbles of lava rocks and tree roots. It wasn’t long before we arrived back at our starting point. It took us 2hrs 30mins to walk around the 12km route at our leisurely pace, although the signboards suggested 4hrs 20mins for the loop. Perhaps we need to stop off and savour the views a little more.
From here we drove a short way on narrow, winding roads, passing loose white horses with young foals on the way. We arrived at an €19 ASCI campsite in Banyoles ( 42.120655n, 2.747245e ) set on the shores of a luminous blue lake. It had tight, cramped pitches, marked with stones on open areas with no privacy, and many scruffy and unoccupied permanent sites. The hook-up was low amp electricity that we tripped twice in the first two minutes before we learned of its secrets. But once in and settled, we sat still for a few hours and properly relaxed, glad for the restful downtime both mentally and physically. We both suffered poor sleep due to drunken chatting and dogs barking into the wee hours, not the relaxing quietness that we’d had in each of the free aires we’d stayed at to date.
We got ourselves up at 8am and headed out to run a circuit of the nearby lake. Beautiful in the low morning light, the lake was well used with casual kayakers and serious rowers being drilled by coaches in motorised craft. Plenty of others are walking or running the shore path. We ran at a slow pace, stopping frequently to take in all the miradors and enjoy the wonderful freshness of the morning air. The loop was just shy of 8km, an easy jaunt to waken us up and properly kick-start our day. We rewarded our efforts with an early brunch of butties thick with bacon and HP sauce, both brought all the way from the UK. Then, with full stomachs and content from our early exercise, it was time to head for the rugged stony coastline, the central focus of our planned Costa Brava trip.