Since having hiked in the picturesque Boi Valley in mid winter; I held a simmering desire to return, when the snows had long gone and the sun had brought natural life and colour back to the valley.
Parking for free in the sleepy village of Barruera; I assembled my bike and myself. A strong northerly wind was blowing down this valley; so I packed two extra layers into my jersey pockets.
I had come prepared for my ride. Yet if you forget something; there is a small supermarket as well as numerous cafes to refuel for the ride ahead. If you fancy a stroll after your ride, or have children who cannot ride; there is a relaxing riverside walk that is worthy of a visit in itself.
The road up the valley
Leaving Barruera behind; the road rolled out and up through fields of lush green grass and crops. The trees swayed in unison in the autumnal breeze and agricultural sprinklers created rainbows under the brilliant but bearable sun.
At times on this main road; passing cars felt too close or too fast. So bear this in mind and consider using an off road route or starting the ride further up the valley. In addition, on the day I did this ride; the north winds would gust so much so that I slowed to a walking pace. Thankfully, after about five kilometres; I turned off to the right, towards the towns of Boi and Taull.
Boi and Taull
As you climb through challenging hairpins and ramps of respectable gradient; you pass through the villages of Boi and then Taull. It seems they now wait to home the thousands of Catalans who descend on this valley in winter months to enjoy the skiing at the top of the valley. Although in summer there are numerous hikers, cyclists and tourists; the towns seemed comatose with shuttered ski hire shops and closed hotels. With the exception of two magnificent Romanesque churches; I found little reason to stop and take in the atmosphere.
The church or Iglesia in Boi, dedicated to Saint Joan; dates from the 11th Century. Along with the two in Taull and five others; they were all built in this period on a design copied from Lombardy in Italy. Feudal lords ruled the valley at this time and churches; not mountains made them feel closer to the heavens.
A hairpin bend denotes the end of Taull and from here you enter open countryside. The gradient eases from an almost constant 8%; down to between 4 to 6%. Then passing a new complex of ski apartments; the valley opens up before you. Looking up you can see your final goal of the ski station and the road that will take you there. Relaxing into a gentle but fast cadence in a lower gear; I took in the sights sounds and smells of the high Pyrenees.
Robins and housemartins flitted about after flies; whilst rare Condors sore high above. The river babbles as if to answer the swaying trees and the sun brings out the rich colours of a verdant landscape enjoying the last weeks of summer.
After a short steeper section; the road falls into a gentler rhythm of hairpin bends to finally reach the ski station. When I rode in September 2020; the ski station was undergoing renovation, so my ride ended at a barrier to keep you out of a building site. Catching my breath and pulling on extra layers for the descent; I sunbathed to try and warm as much as possible for the descent.
Enjoy the descent as a reward for all your hard climbing. Yet take care and watch out for the local rally drivers, cows and their deposits as well as brutal gusts and crosswinds. I reached speeds of over 40 miles per hour; yet in hindsight I would have slowed to take in my surroundings even more.
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