Day 17. In every step. Manresa - Montserrat

I said goodbye to Manresa and left, crossed the river, stood still at the highest point of the old bridge to look back. The other walkers had decided to take a taxi to the starting point of a walking trail but I didn’t want to be in a fast vehicle on the last stretch of the walk. My digital maps would show me the way.

The outskirts of Manresa at the other side of the tracks. A giant moth in paint on a wall. Traces of la lluna in blue on my arm.

I walked to the house where we had spent a wonderful evening yesterday. Everybody was still asleep and I left a small oak tree with a note. From there the route led me into an old riverbed, stone walls rising up high on both sides. Silence, 20 kilometers to go, a hot day.

The holy mountains disappeared and appeared again, as they would keep doing throughout the day. I passed golfcourses and laughed secretly at the men sitting in the small golf cart. There were roadside figs and coffee in one of the last towns before arrival.

Something strange happened. While for days, ever since we saw Montserrat for the first time a week ago, the mountains were getting bigger every day, now they seemed to get smaller the closer I got to them.

Power pylons got in the way here and there, violating the view of the naturally constructed backdrop. Two dead shrew mice next to each other on the side of the road. And then I could actually touch the mountains.

In the garden of Santa Cecília de Montserrat, the Romanesque church on the southern slopes, I got reunited with my fellow walkers. We tried to find a fountain to get water for the last kilometers but the only available water was inside the church, in small expensive bottles in a vending machine. The Irish artist Sean Scully has turned the inside of the church into a big installaion with his paintings and stained glass. I would have loved to see it but the entrance fee was too high for a quick visit. I asked if I could use the toilet but the lady behind the counter told me I had to pay the €8,- entrance fee first. I started a small discussion about a church or convent being a place where people should receive help if they ask for simple things but I knew it was in vain and withdrew. You have to choose your battles wisely.

There were two options to get to the Montserrat monastery. The beautiful and long one and the short one close to the big road. Some people hesitated, I did as well, but after all this walking and beautiful landscapes just getting there would do. So we did. And we weren’t the only ones.

I knew, of course. But I hadn’t expected it to be such a tourist trap. Ice cream shops, restaurants, a police office, a tourist train, souvenirs, a bank, cars and busses and tourguides and so many people. It made me sad after having thought of it as the big goal for so many days and I think all of us felt a bit strange. But we all knew the goal was in the road, in the walking, in every step we had taken.

When all of the daytime tourists had left, when the big square in front of the cathedral was empty, when the sun was setting set and the silence had returned, I sat on the steps in the middle of the square and finally arrived.

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