Just a Pack | June 7th, 2017 | 14 Comments

The Cami dels Bons Homes is a historic trail that spans across three countries, Spain, Andorra, and France. We embarked on a five day Pyrenees hiking adventure on the Cami dels Bons Homes trail. It was one of the most incredible travel experiences we’ve had to date.

We hiked the trail from its northern most point in Catalonia Spain down south to its conclusion in the town of Berga. We excluded the French side of the trail due to time constraints.

For questions and information on the hike from its genesis at Montsegur in France check out the official Cami dels Bons Homes website and feel free to send any questions their way.

What is Hiking the Cami dels Bons Homes Like?

Cami dels Bons Homes spain - hiking the Pyrenees

The Cami dels Bons Homes trek in Spain is akin to hiking in the footprints of the past.

A narrow dirt path winds up along the side of the valley, bending and switchbacking through darkened forest as we leave the green pastures of Gosol behind us. We have been following this trail for hours since the early morning and are still far from our destination. The wood is alive with the chirp of birdsong, windsong, and rustling foliage. We spot what we think are packs of deer from time to time and watch them jump and prance between trees. They move in and out of shafts of flitted sunlight that the forest’s canopy has allowed to pass. We stop still in our tracks, holding our breaths as the deer race by, unwilling to break the magic of the moment with the slightest sound.

Unlike the men, women, and children who used this path to escape torture and death almost a thousand years ago, we have the luxury of taking our time. We, fortunately, are not on the run from a murderous and oppressive regime.

Hiking the Cami dels Bons Homes, Spain

We climb higher through the fern, wild flowers, and moss; the trees begin to thin and wide swaths of sun rays hit the forest floor as the path levels out.

Soon the woods are behind us and we emerge into a stunning mountain pass. Fields of green grass dance in the wind before us, as another valley stretches out in the horizon. Dropping our packs to the ground we inhale deeply and take in the panoramic views with wide eyes.

We try to imagine what the Cathari men and women who followed these paths eight hundred years before us when they emerged from the forest in this very spot.

Were they as amazed? Did they have the time to marvel at the beauty of existence, right then and there, as we did? Were there tears in their eyes due to the sharp wind, like there were in ours? Or were their tears those of pain, sorrow, and loss? Were they hungry, tired, and afraid; fleeing from the ever encroaching Inquisition that would one day destroy them all?

The Cathars and the History of the Cami dels Bons Homes

Cathars expelled
Workshop of Master of Boucicaut [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
If want to skip straight to our hiking experiences, head to the bottom of the page and click on page 2.

In the 13th century, the Catholic Church waged war against those they considered to be heathens. This included anyone who did not submit to the established doctrine of “proper” worship.

The Cathars were one such people denounced as heretics. Their beliefs did not align directly with the wishes of the Holy See, and thus they were excommunicated, hunted, and killed in brutal and grotesque fashion.

Indeed the Cathari were unique, as their brand of worship included a rejection of capital punishment and of war in general. They believed murder and killing to be abhorrent. Likewise, they did not eat meat or anything they thought was the product of reproduction. This included, of course, anything derived of animal products. This essentially made them the earliest “vegans” in the history of mankind. Note: the Cathars did eat fish, but only because they thought fish were “fruit” of the ocean and not animals.

They were also feminists. The Cathars believed in a complex system of reincarnation where souls kept returning to new human bodies until they attained perfection. So, they considered gender meaningless, giving women equal rights within the Cathari hierarchy.

Such drastically divergent dogma had to be eliminated. So, the Holy See ordered the King of France, Philip Augustus, to deal with the heretic Cathari living in the southern reaches of his country. Philip was not in a hurry to lead a crusade himself. Nor could he send his son Louis in his stead as the Prince was busy fighting enemies to the north. Eventually, he reluctantly discharged the task to some of his earls and barons, the most notable of whom was Simon de Montfort.

Simon was a proper arsehole. He carried out his duty with extreme zeal. He was driven by righteous religious fanaticism and by a decree from the Pope that any lands seized from the Cathars or any of their supporters’s possessions could be confiscated and given to the leaders of the newly formed Crusade. This decree was met with anger by many southern French lords, and led to a twenty year civil war of sorts, known as the Albigensian Crusade.

Ultimately, the tide of the war turned against the south and the Cathars. The Cathars which were not slain (after being tortured using a wide assortment of sordid and brutal methods) were instead driven out of France.

Many survivors, hunted by the Inquisition, fled south from France through the Pyrenees mountains into Catalonin. The paths they took are now known as the Cami dels Bons Homes.

Nowadays the Cami dels Bons Homes, or The Path of the Good Men, is home to markedly more serene scene. It winds through France to Catalonia some 200 kilometers by way of the Pyrenees mountain range. The trail is a cornucopia of beautiful views, idyllic meadows, and stunning valleys.

The hike is not exactly easy. At its most difficult sections can be challenging to those not used to such endeavors. That said, we are not expert hikers. However, even though we carried a bit too much gear we still managed to reach our destinations with plenty of daylight left to spare.

These are the trail markers you will be following along the Cami dels Bons Homes.

The Cami trail is marked as “GR 107” on maps of the region. The trail markers are horizontal white and red blazes (shown above).

Here is a day-by-day breakdown of our experiences hiking the Cami dels Bons Homes!

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Everything You Need to Know to Visit Prague!

Prague Ebook - Local's Guide to Prague by Just a Pack

Comments

14 thoughts on “Cami dels Bons Homes – 5 Day Pyrenees Hiking Adventure

  1. Great article!! I’m in Spain now, learning a lot about its history but unfortunately won’t be doing this hike this time around. But next time, for sure!!

    1. Thanks Goska! Where in Spain are you?
      I hope you do get to hike the Cami dels Bons Homes, it was one of the best experiences we’ve had in our last 16 months of travel!

  2. I’m so impressed that you did this hike and it looks as if you had fabulous weather. What a fascinating history. Did you see many other hikers on the trail?

    1. Hi Carol! Thank you! Yes, we got really lucky with the weather!

      We only saw one or two other hikers on the trail. It is an interesting experience because you are completely immersed in nature without another soul around for most of the time. It gave me the opportunity to do a lot of thinking and observing. Those five days were incredible.

  3. HI Randi! I just came across of your article. We are planning to do the hike early this June but were wondering if one needs to book all accommodations ahead of time. Also, does one need to be prepared to carry much food or are there reliable sources of food on the path? From your article, it seems so.

    1. Hi Tanya, I’m really happy you are doing this hike. It is an amazing experience and can’t wait to hear what you think about it.

      Regarding accommodations, I’d suggest that you book in advance. There are a few days that are strenuous and looking for a hostel/hotel is probably the last thing you’ll want to do. Also, I’m not sure if you’re planning on following the exact route we did, but if you book in advance you can get advice from each hostel/hotel to better map out your route. Additionally, you can reach out to the Cami dels Bons Homes Regulatory Counsel for guidance. They are very helpful! Let them know we recommended them. 🙂

      As for food, I didn’t bring a thing with me before arriving. The Regulatory Counsel was amazing at communicating with each of the hotels/hostels to accommodate my dietary requirements, and there was always something for Michael to eat. Each day the hotel/hostel we were staying at packed a lunch for us, and we ate breakfast/dinner on-site. Once you’re on the trail each day, there are very few places, if any on some sections, to get food. So, you do need to bring lunch/snacks each day.

      I hope that helps, feel free to send more questions over and have an amazing time.

      1. Dear Randi, thank you so much for your extremely helpful response! It looks like The Regulatory Counsel is a very helpful place indeed. We would like to use their services, but it appears they are only available in Spanish. Can we write to them in English? We speak French but not Spanish. And how do they work? If we give them our dates and itinerary, will they be able to help us with booking our accommodations? what other help were you able to get from them? Thank you for your help! Tanya

      2. Dear Randi, many thanks for your very helpful reply! Your pictures and description of the hike made us even more excited about the hike. If you don’t mind, I have a few more questions. The Regulatory Counsel appears like a very helpful place indeed, but they appear to be in Spanish only. Is it possible to write to them in English? What kind of services/support do they provide? Can we give them our itinerary and ask their help with booking accommodations?
        Tanya

        1. Hi Tanya,

          We communicated with them in English. They are the same as a tourism board for the area. You can request information from them about the area and hiking. Regarding accommodations, they may be able to make suggestions on where to stay or you can see the individual articles (Day 1, Day 2, etc.) where we give details about where we stayed and booking links.

          I hope this info is helpful. All the best.

  4. Very good article indeed, both interesting and informative.

    We have a great range of holiday properties in Catalonia and many of our clients like to do walks in the hills and mountains (we even have a group of geologists coming out to survey some mountain areas this summer) so we can help anyone planning a trip wanting somewhere with a private pool to stay.

    All the best

    Peter Horrocks – Villas du Monde

  5. What a great hike and summary! I was wondering if you could let me know how you got yourselves to the starting town, Prullans. Did you rent a car and leave it there, and then get a ride back to it after the 5 days? I’ll be getting there from Barcelona so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!
    Sara

    1. HI Sara, glad you enjoyed the summary. We arrived in Prullans by train from Barcelona. At the end of the hike we, in the last town, we too a bus back to BCN. When will you be going?

  6. Hi Randi! What a great read, really informative! I’m looking to do part of this at the end of May this year and was wondering if you could lend some answers on a few questions!
    – How scarce is the water out there? Were the natural water sources safe to fill up from if using a water purifier and if not, were there any water dispensers along the route besides the towns?
    – How successful would you say your experience was of resupplying in each town food wise? If you were to hike in the area again would you considering carrying your own food instead (freeze dried meals etc).
    – How were the mosquitos/bugs? Especially at night!
    – Were there any parts that proved surprisingly tricky for you? For instance, navigation (lack of signs/clear trail)/finding the trail to and from towns/getting to the trail from Barcelona/dealing with people in towns?

    Thanks in advance!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.