The pain I am feeling in my knees and calves this morning is unbelievable but was it ever worth it to feel the elation of reaching the top of Saint Jeroni in Montserrat yesterday with a few of my friends from my TEFL course.
Our day began with a lie-in of sorts as I only had to get up at 8.45am instead of 8, which was pretty nice until it was followed by a bit of a mad dash around my flat. We quickly realised that by arriving at Placa d’Espanya to buy our tickets at 10.30 would probably mean missing the 10.34 and waiting an hour for the next one. Everything was okay in the end however, and we managed to get our tickets without much hassle except the fact that myself and Colin got €30 in €2 coins back from the machine (pro-tip: If you’re going to buy a ticket for Montserrat than actually bring €20.20 and not a €50 note).
In addition to this, the barriers malfunctioned and I got caught on the wrong side and had to try and explain to the attendant what had happened but it got sorted and we were ready to depart.
The train was pretty nice, there were even charging ports for your phone but there wasn’t many seats and a lot of people ended up sitting on the floor or standing so if you are worried about doing this for an hour I’d suggest you get to the train about 15 minutes before it departs. The journey there was pretty nice and as soon as we saw the mountains we were all excited for the upcoming cable car ride to the monastery where we would begin our hike.
If you decide to go to Montserrat then don’t stress out about the cable car ride. It is super steep but it’s also very fast and definitely worth braving for the incredable view. Plus, I saw the train track up to the top and it looked even more treacherous than the cable car (or as it was dubbed “The Death Box” after an unexpected jolt mid-selfie). Once we were at the top, we grabbed a bite to eat to fuel us for the trek ahead at the Cafeteria. The food was pretty mediocre and needed heating up in the microwave before I could enjoy it but it was cheap and filled me up. We grabbed a map from the tourist office which had 5 different trails on it and decided to go for the longest walk, which was a total of 2hr 35mins and “medium” difficulty. Now I guess I didn’t have to scale a rock face or swing myself across a gorge at any point but medium my arse. We had to walk up what felt like 3000 steps, which was not so easy on my weak knees (thanks, Grandad) and when there wasn’t any actual steps we were still almost on an incline the entire way.
However, each time we reached a precious bit of flat and got to look out over the valley and the town of Montserrat below us it only urged us to continue. The walk up took us nearly 2 hours but when we turned a corner after seeing a small church in a clearing we caught a glance at the summit. This gave me a burst of energy, I tried to quicken my pace knowing that when I reached the top I could drink what precious bit of water I had left (pro-tip: bring at least 1.5 litres of water with you and a juicy piece of fruit because a pear and my tap water kept my spirits high). The view was awe-inspiring.
We were there. Up above the clouds with the landscape stretching out before us and hugging the curve of the earth. Climbers were scaling the rock face at the summit, people were sunbathing and I was breathing in the freshest air I’ve ever experienced. I was so taken aback that I forgot about my aching limbs and just drank in the view from every angle possible. We sat down for a while before making our descent that took us half the time that the ascent had and at the end there was an ice cold beer waiting for us all as well as some sangria from the bar next to the train station. We were so relaxed at that point that we almost missed our train and had to sprint from the small, family-run bar to the back carriage, calls of “Vaya! Vaya, muchachos!” cheering us on. The train was full so most of us sat on the floor and ended up falling asleep from the exhaustion. The aching of my limbs will fade in a few days but my memory of this experience won’t be going anywhere fast.