Stage 4 - the wild red mountains of Catalonia

Tanya, aka the gecko (so named because of her ability to stick to
rock, the woman should be a climber, really) left, sadly, and Thomas
arrived at Salardu, where pizza, ice cream, hot showers and real beds
were consumed. It was nice, and expensive, and I was glad to move on.

Afterwards, my new walking companion and I move through simmering
plains and dusty paths to lake after lake, not shared with vultures or
marmots as in France, but now with deer and horses. The rock is
increasingly laden with iron and the granite is almost deco, smoothed
and rounded by glacial erosion - these are old hills. The sheer scale
and drama of the 3000m + tops around Aneto is gone, replaced with
something quieter, hotter, more ancient and more melancholy.

The paths that exist are sometimes well marked, but often the route
takes us through dense and tangled woodland on steep and stifling
contours, scrambles and brambles, old trading roads or up the sides of
mountains with no path at all. As always, the routes near trailheads
are well frequented, though it is not crowded, and it is possible to
walk for a day without seeing anyone.

Since its now August, the thunderstorms are at least more regular:
twice a day, mid afternoon on. The wind makes a terrible whooshing
sound just before a storm hits. After the storms, we find seem to
find one great wild camp after another, often cooking over wood
collected in the valleys before the rain, and pitched by still or
flowing water.

Walking and being in the open all the time is now as normal as
breathing, it's what I do each day. I have stood on the very highest
mountains in Catalonia on my own at dusk with a full heart. I am
fitter than I have ever been in my life, and grateful for it. I am a
lucky man, and these are days to be lucky.

There are around 15 days left before the med.