Kindness of strangers and all the rain

Day 4 – Monday 19th.

Besalu to Santa Pau around 25km ish and a few ‘hills’ which took 5hrs 30 ish….you can probably guess that I’m mostly walking, going as fast as I can just there’s a heavy pack (13kgs) on me and shaving weight off just is near impossible.

I could get rid of the stove and pans, not of any use without right gas (see previous post). But I hope to find gas…somewhere!


Besalu, the campsite is located out of the village 4km to the centre I trudge, it’s cold and packing the tent that was coveted in frost has me hankering for warmth and food. I need food, though once in Besalu I am evidently not so hungry as to have a burger from a vending machine, standards perhaps haven’t lowered enough – yet!

Meander around, it’s a pretty place, so much history just I need food so my focus is that. Shop found, food bought. I then look for coffee.

An hour spent pinching electricity and enjoying coffee and croissant perks me up.

On way out a buy a Spanish tortilla, all eggy goodness – lunch will feel like a feast. For € 5 a coffee, croissant, tortilla and free WiFi. I’m impressed and happy I didn’t choose the burger.







Back to the route, it climbs up a forest Road meandering through oak woods and peaks at a chapel in Ossinya.

Then I’ve a descent to the river bed, my lunch spot. Aware of time I savour as much of the tortilla but quite frankly just shoved it in my mouth and stomach says thanks.


Another climb, which isn’t easy, even if I could run you couldn’t here. This tops out at Col Salom then gradually descends towards El Torn.

An amazingly pretty and serene spot, farming land by the looks of it, I see a ruin and dream of living the good life for a brief moment.

The time is ticking till darkness descends and I need to get to the campsite near Santa Pau. By 5:30pm I’m there just as rain starts to descend I find the campsite closed. After a mini tantrum I go into town to see if there are any hotels or something.

It’s dark and raining harder I’m in no mood to find a spot…oddly it feels less safe to try and pitch once night descends. I like light to know exactly what’s around me. Last thing I want is to pitch up in someone’s back garden or worse a field for cows (shudders).

So I find info centre open at 6pm still, but the lady isn’t massively helpful. I wander out feeling despondent and try to call a hostel but they person speaks Catalan and obviously I don’t understand which is entirely my fault I know but it doesn’t make an easy exchange so I kind give up.

Wandering back through town I spot a place open, walk through the doors and am greeted by smiles.

Three ladies stand chatting (plus 2 dogs) one of the ladies is owner of the place but the two girls are guests. I ask for a room, not available, they then go into debates about where is best and phone the person I just spoke too. It’s a bit tricky as price is higher than I can afford for this trip (€40)…

The girls mention another campsite or maybe it was me. They then proceed to phone to check it’s open enquire about price (€22) still pricey but we’re in a national park so normal from what they say.

The two girls are on holiday from Barcelona both work in a hospital, Hazel and Lorena (sorry if I got that wrong) plus their two dogs Maggie and yep I’ve forgotten.

They then take me the 3km out of town to this campsite. Slightly out of what I am doing but their kindness is part of why I’m doing this too, i know there are good people out there just not always enough said about the simple gestures.

After a chat about what I’m doing we say our goodbyes.

I sign in, then go about putting up tent half under a shelter by picnic bench in the pouring rain (the shelter is good for my stuff not the tent.

The wifi is free and I make full use of it. Connections are important at this time of year. I want people to know I’m safe.

The rain falls heavily but the tiredness hits and I get a fairly good night’s sleep.

Day 5 – 20th December.

Planning how to pack up in the morning I decide to simply put everything in the toilets. I’m the only person mad enough to be camping. Therefore I’m in there bathroom for an hour trying to dry kit whilst using electricity.


Stuffed packed, the rain is light but that annoying get everywhere light.

Waterproofs on I’m off.

Aim is Les Preses.

I need batteries for the Spot tracker as it’s not happy. Though I’ve already changed batteries once so I hope this doesn’t happen again soon. Should last 7 days with good GPS signal.

We’ll see.

The route takes me through the centre of the Zone volcanica Garrotxa national park. Easy going at first then a slippery mud fest followed by wide track then finally small Road into Les Preses.

Scenery is stunning, I pass the first walkers I’ve seen in 5 days.

The woodlands that house the craters are shrouded at their peaks in a fine mist giving an ethereal look, it feels peaceful here.

I march happily along. Today is short only 3hrs 30 and 8 miles no real notable hills just the muddy section.

Getting into Les Preses you are first greeted by an industrial estate. Don’t let this fool you, the actual town is nice, typically farming area and it’s surrounding landscape is beautiful.

Camping Natural, I’m greeted by a workman called Carlos who says pop your tent up and use the social room the owner will be here in about 1 hour (it was 2pm). So I do just that, warming myself up in the social room.

Once the owner Pere arrives, his English is perfect and we chat amiably about travels etc.

He is super kind, trying to find maps for me, telling me where everything is and says I can dry stuff in social room. Before he leaves for the day he gives me his number saying he’ll be back at 9am. He says in the meantime the owners son will be arriving to stay so I’ll probably see him around.

Shopping done at small but effective shop.

I go about planning what to do next…. I’m still planning. But getting there.

The owners son and his Girlfriend turn up, she’s from Germany and called Deike and his name is Jordà.

We chat a bit, mostly about what I’m doing but travels etc and there stay here for Christmas.

They then say they’ve a portable fire if I need it, maybe to stay in the social room as it’s raining more again. So I do just that, I de-camp to the social room.

We say good night and I thank them for their kindness.

My stuff is drying nicely…Finally managed to wash my clothes after 5 days of wearing same thing. It’s luxury.

And here I am cosy, enclosed in a room with heat, free WiFi and food. Tonight I had my first hot meal in five days too.

The kindness over last two days has made me a happy Gabby.

Night night.


All the things not to do….

My first day (Friday 16th December) was a rainy late one.

Wandered around Aquallana to figure out where exactly route started, then off I went at around midday.

A route that passed by little rivers and allotments, pretty and serene.

Once I was firmly away from Aquallana it was a case of jump under trees whenever there was a down pour.

Start at Aguallana

No need to rush so tree hiding is fine.

Only one notable section had been clearly tampered with, spent a bit of time sussing it out, no real drama but only because I have a map.

Which makes me realise I need more maps. I’ve got some on my phone but if the battery goes and powebank is dead then eekk!

On towards Boadella D’Emporda via what looked like a place that was a wood of oaks but sadly burned down and most had been cut back/down so rather barren.

After here I hiked up a winding path that cut into the hill above the village. Finally topping out near a col.

It was here I decided to pitch up at around 5pm slightly away from the col. A neat spot not too far from the trail. Weather reports had predicted rain for 6pm, by 8pm it was hammering down.

I’d forgot to buy a lighter so couldn’t light stove to eat warm food, noted that I must get one.

With that the night passed, not cold, just frustrating with the rain. I cannot express how noisy rain is on a tent.

first nights camp

2nd day (Saturday 17th) I wanted to stay in the tent, warm and cosy. I knew that packing down wasn’t going to be pretty.

Took me an hour, dry tent as much as possible then set off at 9:30 towards Terrades.

Got there remembering to buy a lighter and few bits of food, namely an oversized loaf of bread.

Onto next place, via a windy mountain Road, lots of cyclists out looking speedy.


Oversized loaf

Villarig is a tiny hamlet, I stock up on water here by the Church then march on.

I must say I’ve mostly been walking probably 98%. Why? Well my pack, with food kit and water weighs close to 13kgs.


Not sure I could cut back on weight by much. Maybe a 1kg tops. For sure I could cut tags and unnecessary strips of material from garments and kit.

Maybe once I stay at a b&b and have space to think about these things.

The thought has crossed my mind to take a lower more coastal route thus more places to eat and thus less for me to carry. But the idea of being in busy places and less wild isn’t so appealing as yet.

After Villarig it’s Llado a slighter larger place, only 1 cafe open but no food being served.

So on I trudge. At this point I decide to take a yellow route also known as PRs as opposed to the Gr2 I’ve been following, the reason was to cut out a big climb late in the day.

It begins easily enough and then gets awful after 2km. A swampy mud fest, followed by brambles, then a route that without a map I wouldn’t have a clue about has been covered with branches covered by a forest clearance of some sort….not so clear. I scramble and I curse. Next is a slippery med fest slope up.

I vow when I see a flat spot without brambles it’s mine for the night and almost at the top I do and it is mine.

Tent up, night kit on, I go about getting gas and stove for food…it is then I realise I’ve got the wrong gas.

First no lighter now wrong stove. I laugh at myself. The bread I bought earlier is eaten with some cheese squares I’ve got and I wash it down with water. Nice.

A slightly colder night, but only from the floor. Everything else toasty, I put an extra top on my down jacket and that helps a bit. Another disjointed night.

Day 3 (Sunday 18th)

Sunrise on day 3

The get dressed in the morning in my tent because it’s cold outside makes me think I’m doing some sort of weird yoga.

Contorting oneself in a tiny tent isn’t easy.

I pack up and the tent is muddy which annoys me. I don’t want to waste tissues wiping it. Into its bag slightly damp and dirty it goes.

Onto the next part,after 2 km I am greeted by some hunters preparing the dogs.

I ask directions as again the route has gone array. They send me off and I must have taken a wrong turning as I end up surround my fencing either side of the path and keep out signs ahead….so I keep going.

Eventually I find the yellow marks again but they don’t go in the way I want so I make a decision simply to head down the forest track as I can hear a road.

Hitting the road there’s a sign saying 7km to Besalu.

I know from the map that I can take a nicer way so I wander about 2 km along and dip down towards the river that is pleasant enough. Another 2 hours I’m in Besalu.

Asking at info centre where the camp site is as tonight I need a shower and to recharge phone watch that died on me yesterday.

She says 2km, great that’s alright…except more like 4km out of town up and down a hill. Get to camp site and I think he is surprised to see a hiker.

His shop isn’t stocked or restaurant open, due to time of year. I’m frustrated with myself as I should have stayed in town of Besalu before coming here. I can’t face the 4km each way today, but shall go back tomorrow via the GR2 that i shall definitely take.

So what not to do…

Not to forget lighter

Not to buy wrong gas

Not to ask hunters for directions

Not to trust someone else idea of distance

What I must do…keep buying large loafs of bread 🍞 and buy another map at Les Presses.



T minus 1 – don’t get into trouble

After going to the wrong Decathlon and trudging through daytime hectic Barcelona to purchase a couple of things from big city Decathlon, namely a Opinel knife and Camping gas.
The days biggest event occured – smuggling newly bought gas and knife on ‘fast train’ their security checks and airport style scanner first involved the ticket person saying ‘put knife in your pocket so police don’t see’…. I winged it with the gas and it went through the scanner – all innocent smiles at security and walked as fast as I could away from them without looking suspicious.
I feigned idiot tourist and damsel without a clue marvellously.
Their security is clearly pants……
Ahead of tomorrow’s start getting arrested would have been amusing 😇

Almost there……….

Tomorrow is the start of my adventure across Spain.

Well sort of, I fly to Barcelona and will get supplies then all being well I shall set off on the Friday from the head of the GR2 which is around 100 miles, starts close to Jonquera and finishes at Aiguafreda.

Then I will link up with the GR5, GR172 and finally meeting up with the GR7 all the way to the Sierra Nevadas and then onto the coast and El Morche, my final stop.

The distance is around 1100 miles in total.

I shall be using a Spot Tracker and the adventure has the aptly named Gabrielle – North to South of Spain. Catchy hey!

My kit is packed….just about squeezed it all in.

I am using a Lowe Alpine Eclipse 35 litre.

My pack weighs just shy of 10kgs without food or water, heavier than I wanted but without an unlimited supply of cash I have had to opt for cheaper and therefore bulkier/heavier items.

  • OEX Phoxx 1 man tent – 1.58 kgs (have tested it once)
  • Eurohike 4 season down sleeping bag –  1.12kgs (borrowed from a friend)
  • Quecha hike sleeping matt  – 480 grams
  • Quecha X-Light down jacket at 380 grams (amazingly warm)
  • Patagonia waterproof overtrouser 250 grams ( a present bought for me 8 years ago)
  • Montane minimus waterproof jacket 230 grams
  • Ice breaker leggings – 200 grams (bought 5 years when I worked for Snow and Rock and still ace)
  • Veho Pebble Explorer powerbank – 192 grams
  • Kovea Backpacking stove – 190 grams (bought in New Zealand in 2002 and still works!)
  • Ice breaker long sleeve -1 50 grams (bought 5 years when I worked for Snow and Rock)
  • Spot Tracker – 147 grams
  • Alpkit gamma headtorch – 118 grams (I won’t be doing much at night aside from cooking so this works just fine with it’s 88 lumens

So 5.1 kgs….the rest is  100 gram bag of nuts, 8 x bars, pan, spork, folding cup, spare batteries, spare headtorch, first aid kit, windproof jacket, 2 x long sleeve top, 2 x short sleeve top, 2 x leggings, 4 x socks, 2 sport bras……………

You get the picture I am sure, I am someone who likes to hold onto things for as long as I can or until they break. I for-see me getting rid of a few things will may make a difference, but all part of the fun is finding what works.

Aiming for Christmas in Montserrat Natural Park.



Places I (hope) to pass through in Spain

So next Wednesday I fly to Barcelona.
After stocking up with supplies I’ll hop on a bus to near the Spanish border and start my journey through Spain running (often known as fast walking for me).
I’m taking it easy for the first week (injury and illness set back my training) then crossing my fingers I’ll suddenly become some amazing athlete….failing that I’m just going to have an amazing time passing through amazing places with the aim of raising money (£1 per mile would be a bonus) for Cancer Research.
Here’s a list of where I’ll be passing through if you’re interested.

Places I pass through in Spain
If you know of anyone who lives somewhere near to these places then I’d love to meet them…maybe they can join me for a few miles or provide a place to stay, that’d be even acer.
And yes I am nervous  Doing it for a good cause though (see link to donate)


Also can be found via Spot Tracker either search for Gabrielle – North to South of Spain or click this link for (hopefully) live tracking.

Spot Tracker. Gabrielle – North to South of Spain

Cancer…’s a bit shit

My mother was told she had Breast Cancer in July of 2004, her first comment to her Dr was ‘that’s a bit shit’, and then she continued to give it the finger until her death in November 2008.

Her decline was met with resistance, sometimes she was graceful sometimes she was more like a stubborn child, always strong though even having the foresight and courage to ask if it was OK to go, accepting death.

Dads diagnosis came in September of 2008 so whilst Mum was ending her battle Dad was beginning his.  Coupled with losing his love of 40+ years the time between her passing and his in May 2011 was the worst time of all our lives.

In that time though I saw another side to my father, a softer side which I had never seen. Up until my mother’s death I had never seen him cry, rarely heard I love you.

From her death a part of him was lost but equally a part of him was set free and had Mum not passed first perhaps I would never have seen that side to him.

The cancer spread quickly in Dad and within 2 ½ years his battle ended, though he continued to think he would always pull through, even joking on his last day that he’d pay anything for some more oxygen….we couldn’t if we did have….that day we thought he had more time.

Cancer does the most fantastic job of messing up a family, breaking down people yet providing insights into how a family works and where the strengths lie.  It really does allow you to focus your attention where it is rightly needed. You cannot shy away from it. It doesn’t go away. My brother and I are healthy, Cancer has taken loved ones yet we’ve come away stronger.

As well as losing both our parents we have also lost a cousin, Dawn, (my father’s sister Jens daughter) to Skin Cancer, she was only 28, after first being diagnosed at 18.

Uncle Peter (my Mothers sister Judy’s husband)  passed away all too quickly from Asbestos related Lung Cancer. Uncle Michael (my father’s brother) from among other things, Lung Cancer.

Cousin Martins father died of Prostate Cancer.

My Mum got it right in her first diagnosis ‘that’s a bit shit’ and also in how she continued afterwards. 

As with the events I’ve done in the past I am going to be raising money for Cancer Research.

Here’s the link if you would like to donate, £1 would do nicely or more of course.

Why Spain?

The whys.

Spain’s GR7 (part of E4) all 1,100 miles (plus some diversions) thoughts and feelings 1 month after saying this is what I’ll do.

Overwhelmed at the prospect of organising and trying to make sense of why I am doing this.

This word resonates strongly with me.

Numinous –
‘Describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted – the powerful, personal experience of being overwhelmed and inspired’

As someone who likes to go with the flow of life, who has very few long term concrete plans trying to actually sit down and come up with the wherefores is actually a big ask.

Part of me wants to do my usual, get out there and see what feels right, yet this is such a big undertaking (at least for me) that I feel I would simply be an idiot if I did that.

The first ‘why?’ is emotional, and relatively easy.

I have a restless soul, it needs constant attention, my heart needs endless amounts of love and plenty of adventure.

It needs to feel free and able to explore.

I crave solace in wide open spaces, in woods that are rarely ventured to and in lakes that I can bathe naked in.

The only way is to simply go off and immerse myself in what my heart desires the most, to have a truly amazing time without the bane of modern day life bashing down on me.

I want to feel the sun on my cheeks in the morning, hear (whilst I still can) the rustling leaves as I run through them, the smell of the air after it’s rained in the mid afternoon, to wake up not knowing what the day will bring and to be excited at that prospect, to make a better me, to see how far I can go.

The solitude, I am never worried of being alone, it’s rare for me to feel lonely.

How can one feel lonely in nature, we’re part of it afterall.

Even with my parents deaths I don’t recall feeling lonely. Heartbroken, sad, lost without them for a while – yes, but lonely no.

My company is just fine. What I fear the most are the details, the how to’s.

Mum felt that in everything I do, I will do what feels the best for me, that I will always be alright.

My father worried I would never settle in one place, he is right about the latter though he need not have worried.

I continue to think this way, mostly, deep down I know life will always be just fine. Wherever I am going is right.

The other ‘why?’ is based on my parents dream which was to drive the length of Spain in a campervan to their new home in El morche on the Costa del Sol.

You may say I should just drive myself. Well, as I currently have no driving licence…..yes 38 and no licence, I thought I’d run it in their memory instead as well as for my pleasure.


I am also trying to raise money for Cancer Research, every bit counts, trust me.

Simple really.

The finer details, the logistics if you like, do need to be set down still, so with that in mind I must crack on for fear of looking like a prize plum and finding myself back on an earlier than planned flight simply because I didn’t forward plan a bit.

Next up, a few more whys? and the all important how’s?

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