13th May 2012 11:27am | By Tom Sturrock
There’s no need to feel guilty for indulging in Catalan cuisine if you chase some action in the Pyrenees afterwards. We test that theory.
The giant woman comes into view as we follow the road out of Sort, wending our way alongside the Noguera Pallaresa river. She is not some fabled Catalan ogre, but rather a landmark amid the surrounding Pyrenees, a rock formation that bears a striking resemblance to a sleeping woman in profile. In these parts, it is near impossible to take a road trip with a local without having her pointed out several times.
Despite suffering from what I can only assume is a touch of altitude sickness – not a hangover – I’m looking forward to a morning’s rafting through this immaculate countryside, lush and mountainous, which the river cuts through like a freeway. It reminds me of the best parts of Wales or the Lake District, but with better weather and much less mud.
My unlikely crewmates are a bunch of fifty-something Germans on a motorbike odyssey through Catalonia. Rolf, Jens and Peter are all well-educated, scrupulously polite and able to speak perfect English. But then there’s Klaus – an enormous Bavarian lump of a man – he must be 6’5” and 140kg, all of it straining against his XXL black wetsuit.
From a bank deep in the shade, we push our raft into the rocky shallows, clamber aboard and drift toward the other bank, bathed in sunshine. The undergrowth unfolds upward on either side of the river like a green felt baize tacked across the horizon. Klaus takes the berth on the other side of the raft, directly opposite me. His side groans and sinks noticeably under his massive bulk. The other Germans guffaw uncontrollably. The man runs on heavy fuel.
Before long, we are under way, drifting along peacefully, passing beneath rocky outcrops. Then, round the bend, the first set of rapids yawns up at us. Our guide, Jaime, sitting at the top of the boat, expertly turns us, steering sideways between two sharp rocks and into the swirling waters, where, as we bounce through, a vast spray of foam catches us all flush on our faces. “Buenos dias,” Jaime laughs from his end of the boat. “Good morning.”
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