excursion, Pyrenees
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Darnius – Maçanet de Cabrenys – la Vajol

View from the dam wall

Mountains and more

Here on the coast in June it already feels like summer. Just the right time for an excursion to the dammed lake of Boadella and farther along the mountains to the small villages on the edge of the Pyrenees. We take our camera equipment and sufficient drinking water and drive off towards La Jonquera. At the branch Darnius, Maçanet de Cabrenys and Costoja we leave the NII and turn into the mountains.

Trip to the reservoir of BoadellaThe road leads through sun-flooded cork oak forests. The dark, gnarled limbs of the trees resemble bizarre characters drawn into the blue sky. Single straw bales are rolled up yellow in the landscape. Darnius lies ahead us in matutinal silence. Ancient trees shade an avenue. On the left a road branches off to the reservoir.The landscape at the dam differs significantly from the coastline, which is just a few miles away. Boulders form towers in the water. The jay loudly announces any intruder. Between the pines and oaks, you find many different medicinal plants and herbs. In the mountains there are wild boars, wild chickens, squirrels, hedgehogs, rabbits, hares, and badgers. Numerous species of birds inhabit the area: the kingfisher, woodpeckers, dippers and many wild ducks amuse themselves on the shore or in the waters of the dammed Muga. The Hotel Central at the end of the paved road at the barrier lake is a good place for lunch. It is also a perfect starting point for hiking. We relax on the shady terrace.

The road back to Darnius continues to Maçanet de Cabrenys. On the way there, we stop over at the Ermita “Sant Esteve del Llop”, on the left in the forest. A paradise of silence, also enjoyed by the owners of the romantic Masia located next to the church. A while after we reach Maçanet de Cabrenys. To enter the village we pass a green tunnel of plane trees. We stroll through the streets and enjoy the cool mountain air. The small town is surrounded by mountains (“Roc de Campana”: 1.438 m, “Roc de Frausa”: 1.443 m and “Puig de les Pedrisses”: 1.333 m) and nature. The old houses in the center crowd around the church St.Marti. Next to the river there are the vegetable gardens of the residents. In the restaurants fresh products of the region are served: mushrooms, trout, wild boar, and wild rabbits.

Cork oak forests and pine trees in Darnius


After some time, we finally reach La Vajol. The village lies in a sleepy forenoon silence. We park the car outside of the village and take a walk through some of the alleys, passing perfectly restored stone houses until we reach the market square and its church. This Roman church is called Església parroquial de Sant Martí and has been originally built during the 7th century. The houses surrounding the plaza have been adorned with flowers. Only a few locals are still living here. Most of the houses are mere holiday or weekend homes. A long time ago, the locals used to work in the mines of Can Canta, mining granite. The mine, however, is no longer active today. Impressive granite rocks are silent remainders of the village’s former source of income. Today, the locals make their living selling wood, operating restaurants, gathering fruits of the forests or hunting wild boars. La Vajol was the Republican government’s last place of refuge during the Spanish Civil War. In Febraury 1939, 250 refugees crossed the boarders close to la Vajol; among them were the president of the Spanish republic, Manuel Azaña, as well as the presidents of Catalonia and the Basque country, Lluís Companys and José A. Aguirre. In 1981, a memorial place was raised close tot he coll de la Manrella in their honour. During those times, the mines of Can Canta were used to hide important pieces of art, which had been brought there from the Prado in Madrid. Nice landscape in the hinterland of the Costa BravaIt is said that the republics vault, known as the «Tresor d’en Negrin» was hidden there as well. We take a chair in front of the small restaurant “Ca la Conxita”. A blackboard tells us that a breakfast including farmhouse bread and fresh sausages is available here. We are served big slices of “pan con tomate” and a platter of very tasty cold cuts. At sunset we return to the coast.

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