Exploring Sort, Catalonia (Spain)

Sort, Catalonia (Spain) was the site of the 2019 International Canoe Federation Freestyle Worldchampionships – the reason for our travels.

We arrived two weeks before the competition began to give Hunter ample time to acclimate to the area, the food, the timezone and the whitewater feature. Sort held the World Championships in 2004 and has built a great kayaking culture and legacy from that event.

Sort is the capital of the comarca of Pallars Sobirà, in the province of Lleida, Catalonia, in the country of Spain. It is located in the Pyrenees, sits at 692 metres above the sea, and the river Noguera Pallaresa runs through the region. It is a small traditional Catalan town where the shops close for siesta from 2 – 5pm every day, lunch is the significant meal of the day and very little is open on Sunday. It was a significant change from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

We stayed in the Hotel Pessets Apartments, which were a block away from the river feature. It was a popular place for competitors and the entire 4 floors of apartments units were filled with kayakers from end to end. It was like having one big sleepover with all your friends there for a week. Apartment doors were left open, people flowed naturally through the spaces and the little kids could be found gathered in the hallways playing games together. There was also a large pool in a wonderful courtyard that was well used, especially once the heat wave hit and temps were above 35c every day.

Hiking was available right out the door of the apartment building. Over a ten day period before the competition started I was able to fit in five long exploration hikes and a number of shorter walks around the area. The trails were similar to Italy where they are a combination of grass and rock trails, rock walled pathways and cobblestones. At times you are walking along a trail and pop out in a village in what feels like someone’s side yard. The vistas were outstanding and it was fun to experience a different style of life. I loved imagining people coming and going on these trails 100 years ago when they were trading routes before roads were built.

The other fun thing about Sort was the Tuesday farmers market. It happened on the street right outside our hotel, which was also right below our bedroom window. While the market didn’t actually open until 9, things started with garbage collection around 6 am and then the vendors starting to show up at 7:00 to set up. I would look out the window at 8:00 to see how close they were to set up so I could head out and pick up some fresh fruit since I had been up for 2 hours by then!

This was our first international competition and it was fun to meet so many new people and participate in all the events that surround the actual competition. Things got kicked off with an opening ceremonies and it was really neat to feel the pride of representing your country…

Canada was well recognized for our overall team spirit at the event – both the athletes and friends/family fans. We held a Canada Day party on July 1st and opened it up to others to join us, which was another way to really come together as a team and feel proud to be there.

Check out our next post to learn more about the actual competition…

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