Vall de Nuria II: hiking the Catalan Pyrenees in sun, fog, and hail
Vall de Nuria is a picturesque green valley 2000m above the sea where you can ski in winter and hike (or just chill) in the summer. It's one of my favourite places in Catalunya, and for good reason.
Arriving to the valley is always amazing. It takes nearly 3 hours from Barcelona, but it's worth it every time.
First I got on an early morning train to Ribes de Freser. I watched the landscape change from flat to hilly to mountainous, as we approached the Pyrenees. Everything was getting greener, mossier and rockier.
After more than 2 hours on this train, I arrived at Ribes de Freser, a small town at the base of the mountains. I walked to another train - a rack railway (cremallera in Spanish) that goes steeply up the mountain and into Vall de Nuria.
The views got better and better - vertical cliffs, tall pine trees, rivers and waterfalls. Finally the train entered a tunnel - only to emerge in the valley, right by the lake.
The first thing I did was walk all around the lake and enjoy the views. It was sunny and beautiful. There was a bit of fog coming up from below, but it was quickly disappearing under the warm sun.
I wanted to come in July for the wildflowers, and I was not disappointed. Everything was blooming. There were beautiful, colorful flowers everywhere.
After walking all around, I sat on the grass by the lake and pulled out my picnic blanket. I ate my breakfast that I had in my backpack, then got a coffee from the restaurant. Life was good.
After I spent about an hour lying on the grass under the sun, the weather started changing. Clouds came out and I had to put on my jacket. I decided it was the perfect time to start my descend down.
I was going to hike to the lower station of the rack railway, about 3 hours in total.
There was a nice spot to take one last look towards the dam and the valley before heading down.
The trail followed the river, towering cliffs on both sides, through forests and meadows. The weather constantly changed between fog and sun.
I even found one of my favorite mountain things: tiny wild strawberries!
As I continued down, the fog kept growing. I was not seeing the sun anymore. At one point it started raining softly. I had a light rain jacket on so it was ok. The sound of the raindrops was actually very soothing.
I also met Mr Frog here who had come out to enjoy the rain.
The rain intensified and soon it was pouring. I waited under a cliff for a bit, then gave up and continued walking in the rain. I was getting cold, but my shoes and jacket were still holding up, so I was relatively dry.
At least I got some pretty good, mystical foggy views of the mountains.
In the next 1-2 hours I kept walking under the rain, which kept intensifying and subduing. I was getting a bit soaked now, but I was close to the village of Queralbs and the lower station of the rack railway.
And just before I reached the village... It started hailing! It wasn't stopping so I ran to find a place to hide. It was scary. I found a shed and hid in it. I saw it was attached to a house - a hotel. I tried getting in but it was closed, no one there. So I just waited out the hail in the shed.
Finally, the hail was over! I got out and walked the remaining 5 minutes to the village. I was totally soaked now, and kinda miserable. Luckily, my train was coming soon. I took a short walk around the village of Queralbs while I waited. The medieval stone houses were very pretty, even in the rainy windy weather.
Soon I was on the train back to Ribes de Freser, and then Barcelona, completely exhausted, soaked but happy with my mountain adventure :)