We were starting to lose hope when we came across ‘The Feet.’ A trek that began with confident assertions that ‘we’ll be there in half an hour’ was entering its second hour. And with Marley the dog waiting at home, we couldn’t afford for a third to start before we reached our destination. Wherever and whatever our destination was.
All we knew is it was called Fontcalda. And it was 6.3km from where we started. Or 8km, if you believed another sign ten yards from the first. Whichever it was, we both figured we were nearly there. After starting up in the Catalan mountain range Serres de Pàndols, we had wound our way down into the valley, passing through coniferous forests and into olive groves along the descent.
Now we were at the bottom of the valley. We could go no lower. One of us voiced the question swilling round both our minds – when do we turn back? It’d take us at least an hour to retrace our steps. And it was uphill. Very uphill. Having failed to reach our destination on a hike ten days earlier, we suppressed the thought, pushing on past dilapidated shacks, eyes straining for a glimpse of ‘Fontcalda.’
We both stopped, gawped, rubbed our eyes furiously, and resumed gawping. Here, an hour over rough terrain from the road, and with just an occasional lizard as an audience, stood two giant metallic feet. Why? Signs written in Catalan offered a possible explanation, but only served to expose our linguistic shortcomings. We just stared and laughed the deep laugh of the contentedly ignorant.
“Is this ‘Fontcalda’?” I asked. It seemed unlikely signs kilometres away would point to a metal foot sculpture. But then the presence of the metallic feet seemed unlikely, too. We gave ourselves ten minutes and pressed on, quickly finding a riverbed. Following the water through the gorge we came across handrails and steps – the first signs of civilisation we’d seen since leaving the road, feet excluded.
And then we rounded a corner and saw a cluster of buildings. Fontcalda! We stopped for lunch in the shadow of the settlement. Monks tried to establish a convent in Fontcalda in the 14th century, but – and I could have seen this coming – it was too remote. By 1753 they were on to their third church, which still stands today. Sadly, like much of the region, it was damaged in the Civil War.
But that’s another story.