The Chinese and the Dolmen of Vallgorguina

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Some years ago I had the strange opportunity to end up in a classroom full of Asian people who, like me, wanted to improve their knowledge of the Russian language and culture in a summer course in the мгу, the State University of Moscow. Since all participants in the group except for me were oriental the coordinators chose a teacher that was interested in the territories of the rising sun. That July I learned as much from the Russian language and culture as from the oriental habits because in the classroom we very often discussed, in our rather primitive beginner’s language, what is typical in one country and in the others and one remark of my Russian teacher made an impact on me. She told us that in China if someone got lost and ask for directions Chinese people would not tell you they did not know how to get to the place you wanted to reach. This meant that if you lost your way you had better take a taxi or you might end up being led astray.

What I had never imagined is that one of my last day-trips would make me think that Catalans do indeed have something in common with the Chinese. That was one of those Saturdays I decide to take the car and play Indiana Jones in own area. I invited one of my friends who I convinced easily after he had read a comment in internet and seen some pictures on a website. In fact it seemed there was a Dolmen in Vallgorguina which, in spite of not being comparable to the Stonehenge one, was worth a visit since it was so close. We had also seen some pictures with totems and we imagined that they had been the product of some contemporary artists who had taken advantage of the existing dolmen trying to round up the site embellishing the surrounding area. Neither my friend nor I knew Vallgorguina and we thought it might be a good way to spend the Saturday afternoon. I wanted to go for the slightly longer but a bit more familiar way, yet my buddy wanted to choose a more daring variant, the one that google maps pointed as faster and that turned out to be so intricate that finding Vallgorguina took us half an hour more than we had expected. And thanks God I had a co-driver to make me feel less useless than when I am on my own and get lost! It took us so long to get there than when we finally arrived we immediately found a place where we could drink a coffee to relieve ourselves cause the water had been stored uncomfortably. We took the chance to ask a waitress there for some directions to find the dolmen. The girl, clearly embarrassed, informed us that she had only been living there for five years and pointed at a direction which she had heard lead there but wasn’t quite sure about that.

A couple of minutes later a woman was passing by the tiny table and I asked her if she knew how we could find the megalithic monument. She informed us that we had to walk a little and that we needed to find the water treatment plant first and from there everything would be easier. A water treatment plant! How romantic! Hiding our disappointment we finished our coffee and we took the non-paved way the woman had pointed at. After going up the dusty path without any visual or olfactory sign of the facility I asked a group of people that seemed from that neck of the woods if they knew the way to follow in order to find the dolmen or the treatment plant. They all looked at each other unbelievingly and after an exchange of information among themselves they agreed that it was the right thing to do to try and find the hygienic facility mentioned before but that we were in the wrong spot and we had to go back first. And so we did and walked back to the place where my car was parked and I drove it, as it was indicated at the beginning of the village “to the water treatment plant”. The problem was that after some eight-hundred metres the dusty path split in two and there was no way whatsoever to figure out which way to follow. We decided democratically to head for one direction and when we had already been walking for about ten minutes we realised that we were exactly on the same place where we had asked the group of people before. The GPS wasn’t working either. Confused as we were, a couple on a motorbike stopped us to ask us the way to the dolmen. I told them we were searching for it too and that theoretically we all had to follow the way to the treatment plant. It was really quite strange. On the one hand Vallgorguina was advertised in the search engine in google as a place of touristic interest due to the dolmen. On the other hand nobody knew where it was.

We turned round and walked back to the point where we had lost the track of the sewage plant, where the path was split in two. We continued through a footway that was supposed to lead to a summer camp house although we had our serious doubts anybody would place one in the near of an annoying sewage plant. It was getting steep and after two and half kilometres of swimming that day I did not feel like walking any further without any guarantee for success. Fortunately enough, after a short while we spotted a middle-aged man who was descending with his dog and I sprang at the chance to attack him verbally with a: “good afternoon!” do you happen to know if we are on the right way to find the dolmen?” “The dolmen!- he said- Oh yes! You have to follow the path to the water treatment plant but it’s a long way”. Having been repressing my extreme urge to burst in laughter now I started crying my lungs out, something I can’t help doing when things don’t work out as expected. In the meantime my buddy was looking at me inquisitively. He had already had his doses of laughter while I was driving in the pursue of the sewage plant. Therefore he could now hold it back. I explained to the man apologetically that we had been looking for the smelly plant for quite some time and that nobody in Vallgorguina seemed to be able to tell us where the heck the dolmen was. With an understanding smile the man told us that it had taken him six months to find it after moving to Vallgorguina. Outrageous! -I though- worth writing a letter to the Major to ask for some sort of explanation! – But it wasn’t necessary because he enlightened us by saying that in order to access the rustic monument, which by the way was not in the original place where it was found, we had to get out of Vallgorguina and drive to the Corredor de Montnegre to walk the way up a mountain. I could have hugged him right there! With my friend gnawn by curiosity and my pride absolutely pounded we jumped into the car. It has it’s Catalan logic I suppose. If the “Roca village” was not located in the village “ La Roca del Vallès” why should the dolmen of Vallgorguina be in Vallgorguina either? And why should Catalans be different from the Chinese and be able to tell you straight away they didn’t know the way instead of giving such vague directions? It was a mystery we might solve contemplating the dolmen. Such an ancient token of art was definitely worth a last effort…

 Right at the beginning of the corridor of Montnegre we had a careful look at the map but found no sign of the dolmen. Never mind! We had decided to go to Vallgorguina to breath some fresh air and hike and we would finally manage to. We started walking up with the drive of those who definitely don’t want to fail and when we run into the first family who was descending we asked whether it was true that there was a dolmen somewhere around. Yes!- they said- Indeed!- we only needed to keep on walking up and five hundred meters away from the monument there was a proper sign for it. I obviously did not utter the ironic comment that crossed my mind that moment… In fact it did not take us much longer to lay eyes on it awaiting on top of a hill. With the very last sun shines illuminating it, the dolmen looked like a table that had been prepared to celebrate the smiling sunset of that warm day of the beginning of the spring. I am not sure if it was because I was a bit moved with that small sample of a bigger Stonehenge or because finding it was a humble victory but it was one of those fugitive moments I would have liked to bottle. That unpretentious Saturday trip made me realise that sometimes the bizarre habits of other countries are not at all that different from ours. And who knows? Maybe if I try and find the totems another day I will end up finding out a secret link between us Catalans and a distant culture…

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