Montserrat? Well, I suppose I should have guessed from the name that it was a sort of mountain. But what sort of mountain, I could never have guessed. We travelled by coach about an hour and a half across the flat Spanish landscape and suddenly there were sheer cliffs in front of us and the tour guide announced that we were close to Montserrat – my guess would be about a couple of km away, but that was in a straight line vertically! So high that the clouds obscured it. “You get to it by cable car,” she said, as the little yellow baskets came into view, swinging giddily on a near vertical cable.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” I thought to myself, “you tell them you have a zoom lens on your camera and you’ll stay on the ground, thank you very much.” But then she added that there was also a road, which we would take. All right then. So far, so good.
Until we turned on to the road.
It was carved right out of the side of the cliff and wound its way torturously via hairpin bends to the top. As we started to climb, a very helpful road sign let us know it was 10km to our destination. 10km!! At an average speed of possibly 20 km/h. You work it out. There was a concrete wall at the edge of the road, about 18 inches high, obviously there for decorative purposes only. I assure you, when you’re sitting in one of those buses that you have to climb up into, sitting with your feet higher than the driver’s head, your sense of top-heaviness and high centre of gravity has you physically leaning into the bends on every corner. “Don’t worry, your driver is fine,” said the tour guide. “Only the good drivers survive this road.” At which point the driver turned around and waved to us with a large Spanish smile, just one hand lightly on the wheel. Yes, was my unspoken retort, but even the bad drivers did this trip once, and so far I wasn’t sure of the odds for our guy.
We made it to the top, ready to explore the pathways and the Benedictine Abbey that sits there dominating the skyline. To my surprise there was actually another peak higher up, reached by a funicular railway similar to the Wellington cable car except that this one had the steepest incline I have ever seen. I didn’t see the need to take it…
The views were simply amazing. I hope I have managed to capture some of the thrill and the ruggedness of the terrain. You can see the high res photos here. (They’re much better when you can see them as a full screen slide show.)
You meet a variety of interesting people when travelling and most of those interactions don’t warrant being blogged about but there are exceptions. I sat next to an elderly chap on the bus to Montserrat – I say elderly as he was obviously older than me and walked with a stick but apart from that he was reasonably spry and active. He was a Scotsman (“call me Jock”) and told me proudly he was 93. So there’s hope for me yet. Later we talked about technology and he said he had a computer but only for his emails so that he could keep in touch with his agent. His agent? Oh yes, he was often called upon to be an extra in films and TV and his last job had been appearing in four episodes of Game of Thrones. Had to dress up and everything. OK, there’s no hope for me, really.