01/09/22 – 04/09/22 137km
As my mum and I drove the 900km from my base in Los Alcázares to the northeast of Spain, I really started to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead of me. I was starting to feel petrified.
At 10am on September 1 we made our way from our hotel in Portbou to the French border, my official start point. After documenting the start with multiple photographs, and an impromptu send off from the French police, I was ready to go.
It was super hot but I was soon back in Portbou and after a long climb out the other side of the sleepy border town I was back on the coastal path towards Cólera and Llança. The kilometres passed with ease and before I knew it I had reached the zone where I planned to camp for the first night. Prior to pitching the tent I bumped into a Polish photographer (whose name meant blueberry) who insisted she took my photograph.
I found myself a secluded spot and decided to wait it out until the sun set before putting the tent up. Apparently it wasn’t as well hidden as I had thought as a local couple sat down to share a romantic beer and fag whilst watching the sun go down. Before leaving they warned me about the wild boar population and the legality of camping. Then left me to it.
By the time they left it was dark and I struggled to pitch the tent. It didn’t matter, I hardly slept that night. I could hear a pack of rabid dogs barking. I was sure they were getting closer. Or perhaps they scared off the boars!
On awakening I decided to take a detour to the coast for a dip in the sea where I met a young Australian guy who was just about to complete the GR11 – the route I would be doing in just under a year’s time. Nice guy!
It was even hotter than the first day however I was feeling in good shape and managed to complete 34km before arriving at my accommodation in Roses. It was only when taking off my shoes that I discovered what would be the first of five blisters. I had climbed over 1,000m, this felt like Corsica all over again!
Thankfully Day 3 was flatter. Blisters popped, sanitised and compeed applied, I was ready to go. I spent the morning walking through the stunning Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l’Empordá. A wetland ecosystem where I was fortunate enough to have seen an otter!
After a brief stop to restock liquids I made out for l’Escala however after 33km I soon realized I would not make it. So I found myself a hidden spot behind a hedgerow in a field of sunflowers. The track behind me was busy into the early hours but no one seemed to notice my presence and I managed to get 9 hours sleep.
The morning routine was made harder by the muddy field and the need to retreat my feet. I was up and walking by 7am and soon found myself in l’Escala. Just as well I had stopped yesterday, I would never have managed the distance the previous night.
Back on the coast I then climbed out of the town until I found a series of Civil War bunkers that punctuate Spain’s Mediterranean coastline. It was here as I sat treating my feet and making a coffee that I spoke to a young lad from Catalunya called Maiol. I could have chatted to him all day.
From this point things took a turn for the worse. As the GR92 turned inland I lost the cooling sea breeze and the heat was sweltering. To compound this issue the terrain had also changed to bare earth with razor blade esque rocks protruding through the surface. This was the last thing my feet needed.
I struggled on and eventually came to a protected inland dune system where I made my way down to the town of Torroella de Montgrí. Thankfully under the shade of a pine forest.
When in town I stocked up on supplies and after meeting three others walking the GR92 I decided to press on. I had earmarked a wooded area about 5km out of town to hang my hammock. When I arrived I felt as if I had not walked far enough, so I carried on. A big mistake!
After assessing the map I found a tourist shelter where I thought I would be able to sleep in the bivvy. Locked. So I pressed on to the next wooded area. Now, I know my Catalan is limited but there was no way I was staying in an area advertised as a training ground for hunting dogs. On I went, with the day drawing in and options limited I tried to contact a camp site. No reply. It was too much of a detour to risk.
So I booked a cheap hostel in the next town. Only 10 more kilometres. It would take me to 45km for the day. All was going well until I received a call from the receptionist telling me they were closing the door at 21:00. Despite the pain in my feet I was feeling good and was confident that I’d make it. That was until the path suddenly disappeared. In my panic to refind it, I slipped and fell down a ditch.
I picked myself up and dusted off the foliage and decided there was nothing else I could do but run. Fortunately due to my increased pace I dropped a bag from my pack and as I turned to pick it up…I saw the path. Buoyed by this discovery and feeling much calmer, I made for the correct path.
It was getting dark now and shadows were lengthening. I pressed on, surrounded by the sound of barking dogs but I had learnt to ignore it as they were always behind some kind of fence. This time however, as I turned to check, I saw two beasts chasing me up the path. Fortunately my best Luke Skywalker impression served to ward them off. Walking poles are great!
So at 20:53 with a whopping seven minutes to spare I arrived. Now to fix the feet…