Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Putting our hiking shoes to good use in Montserrat

We planned a half day trip to Montserrat - a monastery built on top of a rocky cliff. We took a train to get there, and after first getting on the wrong train and then realizing it just before taking off, jumping off the train and eventually on the right train, we arrived at Montserrat. Although I haven't rock climbed for a while, it is still a great love for me. Montserrat is a climber's heaven. We took a cable car form the station up to the cliffs, and our breath was taken away by the beauty of the place itself, the view from up top, and the freezing cold!

We went into the the outside buildings of the chapel. There is a circle in the centre that apparently hosts the energy of the cliffs. I felt something in my diaphragm standing there, things like that move me quite easily, so make of it what you want. Before I go on, the story about Montserrat is that ages ago children were playing at the base of the cliffs when they heard angel song and saw shimmering lights. They told their parents who then went to seek this out and found the same occurrence. That was when they made the cliffs sacred and built various buildings in the cliffs. I think there are a couple of other stories too, but this was the first one I saw googling it.

Let me tell you, it could not have been easy to carry building materials up to where some of the houses and old monasteries were built. Most of them are built half way out of a cliff, with the initial overhang of the cliff being part of the home. Most of them aren't there anymore, but you can see some tiles still stuck to the cliff with cement or whatever they used. You can also see in some places where walls divided rooms or where water catching holes were made. From further down many of them still have the outside wall, which then makes it much clearer to see where these buildings were. There is even a church that is still in tact today against the rock. In this church there is a room where people leave momentos if something they asked for came true. In this church we found a motorbike mirror with Marco Simoncelli's number (58) with Spanish writing on it. For those reading that don't know biking - he was a 23/24 year old brilliant MotoGP racer who tragically died this year on the track. Thinking about it, this wall also had a number of helmets - it could all be for him or other people who left it there for other reasons. There were also pictures, baby shoes, jewelry and many arb and random things lft by people.

To get to the various buildings we did some proper hiking. There were routes that are all pathed, but then we found foot paths amongst the rocks and trees, and not beating around the bush we went straight into the bush. The walk was fun, not easy, and we climbed Jacobs' steps to get to the Magdalena monastery that was broken down in the Spanish war. It has been built up again, but in a different location. We were pleasantly surprised to find bolts against the rock, which means only one thing - rock climbing! We have no gear here and your hands would freeze in the current temperatures, but we have found a perfect excuse (amongst some other ones too) to return here again. At some point we walked more looking for climbing bolts than looking at the art built along the path next to the rock...

There is a hotel, hostel and restaurant as well, which we all skipped due to enjoying the hiking so much. The sights from the top, bottom and amongst the rock is beautiful, and the walk was refreshing, but on the train on the way home we also realized how tiring it was. Another memory I'll keep is the sound of the bells in Montserrat. The church bells are always beautiful, but amongst the cliffs they rebound and the sound is held much longer and much clearer.

I can't help but wonder if one can come and live in the monastery for a period of time to find yourself, hiking and climbing and performing daily monk tasks - it could be awesome...

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