Later in the week, Benja, Agus and I hiked Montserrat, a smaller mountain, to see the town and the abbey that sits atop. Besides the three of us were two Spanish girls named Monica and Paty and their American friend, Alyssa. Alyssa doesn’t speak a lot of Spanish, so the weekend had to be in English—something I certainly wasn’t going to complain about! However, we ended up not talking much on the walk, anyway, because we had to conserve our energy to power our basic motor functions as well as our general will to survive. It really wasn’t that bad of a climb; the problem was that the sun was relentless. Monica, Agus and Benja formed a little super-trio in the front, while the rest of us were consumed with the thought of the others having to carry our lifeless bodies up the mountain, as well as a slight sense of competition to be the first to drop dead so that we wouldn’t have to carry someone else’s lifeless body up the mountain.
But when we got to the top, it was totally worth it! The town was absolutely adorable, and the abbey stunning. There are several legends about Montserrat, which were dictated to the group in perfect English by Agus. One of them tells of one particular occasion when France and Spain were fighting, and France was approaching through the coastal mountains. The French outnumbered the Spanish entirely. One of the horn-blowers (or whatever they’re called) from the Spanish side climbed the peak of Montserrat and played a war-song (or whatever it is), and its echo bounced around so much in the mountains that the French thought that there was in fact an enormous, angry Spanish army awaiting them on the other side, and turned around.
The other legend, which pertains a bit more to the town’s history, is that a local shepherd was tending to his flock when he stumbled across a statuette of the Virgin Mary. When he tried to take it with him, he found that it grew heavier and heavier with distance, ultimately rendering his mission to take it elsewhere impossible. Eventually it was decided that instead of trying to remove it, the statuette would remain in her original spot, and that a monastery would be built around her.
One of our original purposes for the trip was to see a group of choir boys sing. Apparently they’re famous, and they sing at a very specific time, an event which has become a major attraction for visitors. Unfortunately we missed that (recall: dying on the side of a mountain), but that didn’t taint the experience. The abbey was just incredible: everything was detailed, lined with gold . . . There were little cubbies tucked into the walls on either side that were each dedicated to a particular saint or religious moment. For example, in one you might find a statue of the Virgin (not the statue of the Virgin, mind), and in another, a large canvas painting. What they all had in common were the three rows of pews that allowed visitors to kneel, meditate, and pray in the presence of the scene. It was a gorgeous sight.
I could go on forever about Montserrat, but I think I should end it here. This post is long enough. It is necessary, however, that I give a little shout-out to Benja, who was the rock-star of the trip. At eleven years old, I would have been crying on that mountain. Benja was just bouncing along, totally cool with everything. He led the pack with Agus and Monica, making the remainder of the twenty-somethings feel kind of pathetic. So, go Benja!