Portbou – Cadaquès on foot
Two days immersed in the four elements
Here I am with another little adventure or rather a two-day excursion. It all starts in a library. That of the Peu de la creu of Barcelona. It is fascinating to find a place where culture, art and education reside in one place. And it’s for free! Never underestimate the importance of books and libraries! But let’s get back to us.
The travel section is the one that fascinates me most obviously. Although I have recently returned from my experience with the Bergwald project, I still want to be on the road to discover new places. So a good book of Costa Brava on foot is just right for me (A small book of excursions to do throughout the Costa Brava of Catalonia).
I will not spend all the time at my disposal to travel the entire journey but I decided to cover only a part of it. Obviously with my backpack and a camera. The preparation only needs a few controls. My backpack is ready with the essentials: a sleeping bag, a hammock, spare clothes and the rain jacked. Charged batteries and my D7500 SLR with two lenses.
I leave quietly on the morning of Thursday, 16, taking the train that takes me from the Clot about two hours to Portbou, a small town near the French border. From here begins my excursion. A first route, about 13 km, will take me to Llancà. Before embarking on the journey, as always I try to acclimatize a little.
Portbou is a small town immersed in the vegetation of the mountains of the indented coastline. Hidden in an inlet and protected from the whims of the sea. It is not surprising that we hear speaking more French than Catalan or Spanish. In fact if instead of going down to Llancà decide for the opposite side in a short time I would be in France. A destination for many French families, it is a quiet place with its church almost leaning against the train station. I am going to the tourist office to eat a piece of pizza, prepared the other day. Hydration and energy at full load. Let’s start!
With the backpack on the shoulder and my DSLR attached to the chest, embarking on the journey that unfortunately already decides to take me to the top to overcome one of the reliefs that close and protect the country. It’s warm. Here we go again, hiking is very nice but with about 15 kg of material is not easy. The pace is slower and I often stop to rest and take some pictures of the landscape. Sometimes we lose a good landscape being focused only on what we have in front. The panorama, typical Mediterranean, is barren, severe with plants, shrubs and some maritime pine.
Arriving at Coll dels Frares at an altitude of 205 meters I decide to rest a while. On the other side of the summit one can see the jagged coasts that descend to the sea. The whole of the good coast has beautiful bays where they hide, from bad weather, wild beaches.
At the top of the Colls dels Frares I notice a couple of caves modeled and restored by man. They are bunkers used during the civil war. A dark inlets used by the people’s army against the Franco repression. Today they are only forgotten and smeared caverns with spray cans.
We continue the journey, little by little we begin the descent that leads me to the village of Colera. Strange name that I have not yet checked the reason and its origin of this so sinister name. Following the signs of the GR92 path, I quickly take a few photos and resume the climb to the following promontory. Oh yes, the coast is so good, a continuous ups and downs that hide small towns that nowadays are more places of relaxation for tourists, once fishermen’s houses and small ports.
Following the route, flanking the railway line and the N206 road, I arrive to Garbet beach. An enchanting creek. Exactly one year ago I came here to relax a couple of days. A relaxation interrupted by the news of the attack in Barcelona.
My cadenced step tramples on a rocky ocher-colored ground contrasted by light-green pine trees.
By alternating small pauses, my legs finally take me to Llancà. Another site leaning against the coast in a wide bay of the coast. We are in August, the people I see pass by are mostly on holiday, coming from France.
I enter a supermaket to recharge my liquids. Hunger can wait, in fact I have none at all. I dislike the two empty bottles with two full, one of water and juice together with a nice slice of watermelon. Stopping in one of the coves that stretch along the coast I taste the sugar and the taste of the fruit. I do not need anything else. Water, a backpack, a towel to relax.
The contrast that I create on entering the beach is strong and seeing whole families with their dogs, umbrellas, portable coolers, inflatables taken from cars. Sweat to inflate one, have your own beer with you. We are in August the long-awaited month for deserved holidays. Cities like Llancà and Portbou have lost their charm of the small town with its typical fishing boats.
Time passes, the feet are grateful for the stop and while they are drying from the sweat I realize that the sun begins its descent.
What to do? Sleeping in the city requires money and at this time is not possible or at least too expensive.
Let’s start once again
In a few minutes I put my rucksack back on my feet, I start overtaking Llancà in search of a place where I can perch and lie down for the night.
The pine woods are inviting but I avoid those facing the sea. Nature does not frighten me, but humas of course. You never know who you can meet at night. Choosing a place where nobody would go is a bit of the technique I use to sleep at least with one eye.
The book recommends a path that goes into the mountains up to 670 meters. I can not do it. I’m tired. Sweat, warmth and weight keep me trapped at the coast.
They call it the anxiety of dusk. For me this is the worst moment, especially looking at the streets and houses. The first ones are emptied with echoes and increasingly faint calls, the houses on the contrary light up. Smell of barbecues, a woman who spreads clothes, lights on in the living rooms. An atmosphere that already seems to close your eyes, while the sun gives way to blue and purple hues. Technically I’m alone. I do not have a place to go to encourage me and I feel like a stranger. Few curious looks accompany me on the path that darkens its colors. It’s time to really look for a place to stop, a bivouac for the night.
I leave the path and dangerously run down the road looking for a green corner hidden from all and quiet.
Finally I find what it does for me. In a curve of the road a pine forest, with shrubs of medium height, is right for me. I wait for the appropriate moment and I enter with a jump accompanied by the sound of branches and branches that break and bend. Despite the time I can see a small path, perhaps used by some animal. A few more meters and I find myself at the base of a pine tree with a decent space to lie down.
The slope worries me a bit. It’s typical when you sleep and you do not have a perfectly flat ground. The first hour you sleep well due to fatigue then your body notices the imperfections. A pebble on the right, the body going down a bit sideways to the slope, tonight goes like this. Improvise and adapt.
The noise of the cars that come back home accompanies me while I fix the bivouac and prepare the backpack. Everything at your fingertips.
An hour passes and I fall asleep confident of my choice. The cars leave following their own noise, silence. Indeed no. Despite being distant I can hear the lapping of the waves that are close to the coast even if distant. A noise that cradles me with the dim light in the distance of El Port de la Selva. On the other side, a dim moon to the west follows its millennial path silently.
The night flows quiet but I wake up several times to rearrange the bivouac. The slope makes me roll slowly, change position but after a short slide the same. It is a continual waking up, adjusting and letting sleep overcome.
When the tiredness goes away and leaves room at the wake I realize that it is 6:30. Enough, useless to continue to sleep or try to do it. It’s time to get up and enjoy the sunrise! Calmly redo the backpack, all ready to resume a further day. I’m awake, I’m whole and the day has just begun! What a light it is!
From the depression of the dusk I am enveloped in a positive feeling of good pace and I go to the beach.
The colors to the east indicate that the sun will rise from the sea. But I do not understand well if the star will be covered by clouds or it will be a clear, pure dawn.
I go back for a while ‘on my steps looking for an entrance to the path that runs along the sea. There he is! There is also a small lighthouse! I hasten, the light is becoming clearer. Only me and a family that, arrived by car, is preparing to enjoy the show.
Quickly support the backpack and open the bag with the camera. I do not have a tripod (forgotten at home) but some wooden posts will help keep the car stable during long exposures. As the minutes pass, the light gradually becomes more intense until a small red light emerges on the horizon. It is the sun! No cloud or humidity to cover its awakening. Is fantastic! Its apparent upward movement is clearly visible. The ball gets bigger and bigger and an intense red that slowly passes from orange to golden yellow. Impossible to continue to fix it, I let the SLR do it for me.
On the opposite side the mountains, the lighthouse and the sleeping country begin to color with light and pink hues. Blue leaves room for warmer colors. I take pictures from both sides. The show is always unique and exciting. Even the family perceives the beauty of nature and the new day.
After the photographic part I relax a bit ‘, I have a bit of juice and chocolate biscuits. Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea. What do you want more after a wild night?
Sant Pere de Rodes
Minutes pass, and while I feed myself slowly, people begin to appear and start the day running. Who runs here who jogs there. But where do you all go in a hurry this morning?
Taking an example from them I also start.
This morning we stop in Sant Pere de Rodes. An ancient Benedictine fortress monastery perched high on the edge of the mountain where the castle of San Salvador de Verdera is located at 670 m.
The seven have just passed the ascent of about two hours. The brambles with their blackberries accompany me giving me small doses of sugar and good mood. The trail goes into a mountain inlet, making the monastery disappear from view. Passing through the homonymous village, you start to climb seriously and gradually to my left side at the top begins to reappear the structure of over 1000 years dominated only by the castle in ruins.
Despite it being morning, the sun does not forgive nor the backpack. They are a sweat bath. I decide to take a little break and change the shirt. Having a pair of spare I can afford to change it, always leaving a reserve for contingencies or an additional night. Always sleep with dry things, during the day it does not matter if the clothes are dirty or sweaty.
While I enjoy a bit of shade, beside a big rock, I feel a person panting. Another one that runs. Here is a mania!
It passes quickly to my right and for the next 5 minutes I feel his breath getting lost in the mountains. I resume the march for the last stretch, we are!
After a series of climbs and elbows, here I see the construction in all its strength and austerity. It is impressive how man could have built such a wonder at the top of the mountain, not to mention the castle even higher!
The building is still closed for 20 minutes at ten. Arriving at his entrance I discover an old source. A little water comes out of it and moreover a sign indicates non-drinking water. It matters little, I need liquids and I do not like the idea of paying 2 euros for a half-liter bottle of water. Marketing has come this far. I take my risks.
El port de la selva
The once ruined monastery is renovated ad hoc and its two towers dominate the panorama that extends down towards the sea. We would have to go up a little more to see the ruins of the castle but this time I give up. I relax a bit, contemplate the view and decide to go down again. Consulting the book and some maps, which I had photographed before, I choose the path that goes down to the village Selva del mar, a little deeper inside. The descent is impervious, rocks, stones and stone steps make the journey difficult. Especially for knees and feet.
Tired and with painful feet, I pass the town and arrive at El Port de la Selva. Here another typical tourist landscape awaits me, boats, cars, people walking and wind surfing. Here the wind is the dominant element today. Following a path I arrive at a supermarket. Refueling with liquids and this time also of carbohydrates I am going to the beach. A good snack and relaxation, combed by a wind that eludes the warmth of the sun and pushes the surf.
Fall asleep satisfied with the journey. I open my eyes less tired and a little rejuvenated. Collecting my few things and head towards the road that leads to Cadaquès, my last destination. I’m tired and although I love trekking I need a shower and a decent bed.
Another 13 km are waiting to be done on foot and on the horizon, transported by the wind, more and more dense clouds arrive. During the walk few cars pass, the time is that of lunch and they are all on the beach or at home. Not me. A solitary step traces the asphalt observing the pine forests and the ridges of these bare hills.
Bored, I decide to follow the dry river bed that runs along the road.
Bad decision! As you would say. Apparently free of shrubs, the bed is an intricate labyrinth of cacti, plants with thorns and shrubs. With difficulty I try to resume the road that flows higher. But where?
Without panicking I look.
Some electric cables and above all the noise of some cars that shows me where to access the asphalt tongue again.
Little by little I can glimpse a stretch easily accessible. With some thorns too I get back on track. Never again!
In the meantime the sky has dyed with an intense bluish gray. The density of the clouds protect me from the heat of the sun. But they warn me of another problem. In the distance known to descend lightning. A storm is coming!
We are not very high up but the lightning is getting closer and the thunder help me to speed up a step but not enough.
Despite the road is convenient arrival at the junction leading to Cadaquès with the storm above my head. Fortunately it stopped roaring and after all a bit of rain was the element that I lacked combined with the rocky earth, the open spaces and the burning fire of the sun. As I descend cautiously to Cadaquès a car snake follows the opposite direction. They are all running away from the country given the weather. A light rain, but insistent, accompanies me to the center. Ironically as soon as I arrive, the weather improves, leaving the port less crowded and more livable.
Cadaquès is the small town famous to be visited often by Dalì. Which then took home in Portlligat. Time seems not to affect the area. An aura of serenity and calm reign. I calmly enjoy the postcard landscape. Fishing boats, children playing on the shore and the nature that closes on the sides this hidden cave.
I still have a bit of time to take some pictures before going to the bus station that will take me back to the busy city of Barcelona. I enjoy some extra moment of tranquility before getting on the bus.
Leaving at half past seven I will arrive home after about three hours. Just enough time to rest and rethink the trekking just completed. I did not climb Everest I lived in a desert island for a week. But I already know that from now on in these days I will think back to these two days spent in the street, observing and always learning something.
The white houses overlooking the sea return to be heavier and somewhat suffocating colors. The elevator opens, the key turns. The front door is reopened. I do not have much to think about now. Only a deserved rest combined with satisfaction.
And the next adventure? When and where?