I decided on a last minute re-ordering of my itinerary in Barcelona so on Wednesday morning, instead of taking a bus to Logrono as planned I instead took a very empty one towards the Pyrenees, getting off at a town called Pont de Suert. Also on board were two young men, one German and one Swiss, who were heading to the same valley (I knew this because they’d helped me ascertain from the driver that the first bus positively didn’t go up all the way to my destination). We set off together in Pont to Suert to find the tourist information office where we gathered all kinds of useful leaflets: I confirmed that the one bus a day up the valley (also the school bus) left in half an hour and the boys got a map and decided to hike up. We wished each other luck.
I got a room in the hotel opposite the bus stop in Boi and waited for 4pm when the churches reopen after lunch. By this point it was pouring with rain and I found myself huddling for shelter under the porch of the church just down from the hotel with a Dutch couple who I bumped into from time to time during the afternoon.
The churches of the Boi valley are all 11th and 12th century Romanesque with stylistic elements brought by masons from Lombardy in Italy. Many if not all originally had brightly coloured interior frescos most of which have either been lost or removed to museums (this happened in the ’20s) although replicas of the latter have been repainted onto the walls, giving a flavour of what they might have been like when first built.
After Boi and with rain easing off I decided to hike up the the higher village of Tuall where there are two churches included in the UN listing. The path was steep but lovely – overhung by trees and alongside a splashing stream. It was also quite slippy after the rain, making the return journey rather treacherous. It did occur to me that going out on a wet evening without telling anyone were I was going and without my mobile phone would prove remarkably foolish should I slip and twist my ankle. All was well though and on getting back to my hotel I joined a young Australian couple in the bar where we had gin & tonics and dinner. The German and Swiss boys turned up later as well, proving they had survived their long hike in the rain.
I could have left the next day, having seen three of the seven listed churches but I decided to stay another night and spend a day either hiking or relaxing, depending on the weather. As it turned out pleasant but cloudy, hiking won (albeit after a very long lie in) and I set off down into the valley, following the handy map from the information office and the many well placed signs.
It was a lovely day, with a soundtrack of clonking cow bells, birdsong, grasshoppers and rushing water. I visited two other villages, Erill la Vall and Barruera, and their churches and it was the last that I have represented in Lego: