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My personal refuge found in Costa Daurada..

In my last post I shared some personal reflections about recent setbacks and disappointments in my own training and event 'performances'. This post reflects some positives of accepting my current position combined with a mix of some amazing trails, scenery & a huge dose of sunshine. These positives were enjoyed whilst completing the Refuges Route, Costa Daurada over the course of four days. 

In answer to your immediate questions of what?  where?

The Refuges Route was developed to showcase the Costa Daurada's mountains. It joins the mountains of Prades with the Natural Park of Serra de Montsant. The route's highlights include: Siurana village, Gorgs ravine, the old village of La Mussara, Tosques's path, Àliga's nest, Goi bridge, Abellera's ermitage, Tossal de la Baltassana, Albarca, the old Cartoixans path... It is likely that for most visitors to this blog none of these names or places will mean anything so let me provide a little more context.

The Costa Daurada is part of Catalonia, Spain. It is a short drive from Barcelona airport and its name literally means, the Golden Coast. This is taken from the colour of the sand when the sun is shining (according to Wikipedia!).

My attention had been drawn to the area due to a video clip featuring ultra runner Alicia Hudleson, filmed by Dave MaCleod called 'Miles Away'. This opens with some footage from the Alps & then switches to the mountains of Costa Daurada. I immediately knew I had to explore this area. My next step was to use Google to search for an ultra run in the area. As a result of this I found details of the Ultra Trail Montanyes, Costa Daurada. This is organised by www.naturetime.es. The total loop is c 90km with c 4,500m of climbing. Nature time also offer a support package that allows people to enjoy the route over four days with luggage being transported between accommodation. This seemed a good way to explore the area in a relatively stress free manner. This option is shown on their website as the Refuges Route

An email was therefore sent to Naturetime and at the end of July we found ourselves in Prades. The timing proved to be relevant as we enjoyed sun filled days with temperatures in mid to high 30's. Ultras in the area are typically held in spring or autumn when temperatures are more compatible with running. We started the first stage just outside Prades under blue skies on wide, easily runnable trails. The route was commenced with no time expectations or pressure, albeit the early stretches of trail suggested the 'days' running would pass relatively quickly. This early impression was flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly the scenery. It was too good to be ignored. Many vistas demanded one to stop and look, to absorb the beauty. Secondly, some of the trails were quite involving (either quite technical or passing through dense vegetation). Thirdly, the weather, it was lovely, beautifully warm. This required both pace & fluid management. Lastly because of the nature of trails it was much easier to navigate the route at a slower pace, that may sound trite but I'm sticking with it! As a result the four stages took much longer than I would ever have imagined, but this did not cause any stress or upset. They proved to be four challenging,uplifting days. It is impossible to convey the full beauty of the mountains, the colours & sounds that this trail treats you too. The route truly immerses your senses. If you like being on mountain trails & explore this trail or region. You won't be disappointed.

I would I would also strongly recommend the services of naturetime their support, advice & help was invaluable. The baggage transfer service they offered work perfectly. (Please note this uses relatively basic accommodation options, these proved a very cost effective option & everyone was friendly but don't expect 4 star facilities).

For me this was exactly what I needed, a physically & mentally engaging adventure in a beautiful area, away from the pressures (real or imagined) of competition. A great trip.

Note: Part of the reason I enjoyed the route so much was because the highs were mixed with some challenges presented by some sections of trail that I found technical, or frustrating due to the denseness of the undergrowth. I imagine the undergrowth would be much less of an issue at different times of the year.

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