Week 3: Mi Vuelta a España

12/09/22 – 18/09/22 203km

I woke up late after yesterday’s 50km stretch. It was already hot and I was sporting a massive cut on my hand due to my late night attempts to hammer in the tent pegs. I hadn’t eaten for over 18 hours. Surely the supermarkets were open again. 

I bought enough for two people and proceeded to devour the lot. Then I walked. Urban area, beach, cliff… repeat. It was a boring day until I rounded the final corner and saw Tarragona in all its glory. It had taken me 12 days to walk the three hour journey I had completed with my mum two weeks earlier.

I took day 13 off and did absolutely nothing. It was glorious!

I left Tarragona early on the morning of day 14 and thankfully it was cooler. The start of the day saw me walk past Portaventura – Spain’s equivalent to Alton Towers. It was nice to be somewhere I recognised. After rejoining the coast I walked for 15km along the busy promenade dodging cyclists and tourists. When I stopped to eat lunch I noticed that my socks were disintegrating.

I wasn’t worried though, all things going well I would pick up a change of shoes from the Post Office the next day. I spent the night in Miami Beach. What a disappointing place!

The Post Office opened at 8:30 so I was out by 8:10. After negotiating with the guy behind the counter, whose behaviour resembled someone who had never seen a parcel before, I was reunited with my old shoes. If they got me through Corsica, they would get me through this. 

When I opened the parcel I was hit by a wall of emotion. Cristina had written messages of encouragement and I must confess I couldn’t hold back the tears. Every feeling on this walk, good or bad, has been amplified and this moment was no different. Thank you Cristina! 

Then, on I walked, like a new man, yesterday’s shoes flapping around the sides of my bag. It was a boring day but I didn’t care, I was making progress and the GR92 was coming to an end for me. The only thing to note was my second snake sighting, this one was a monster!

Day 16 marked the start of what I had named ‘Operation Shuffle’ where I would walk diagonally inland to the start of the GR7 in Vallibona. Two days and over 75km I was there. Literally nothing happened.

So here I was at the start of what would be the hardest section of the walk so far. I was going up into the hills and away from the busy coastline. After filling up my bottles in the village I walked out of town and pitched up for the evening. I chose the hammock. 

I fell asleep around 9pm as the light faded but was woken suddenly a few hours later by bright flashes in the distance. At first I thought it was people. I had heard shots as I drifted off. But the lights were far too bright and getting closer by the minute. In my dazed state I eventually worked out that it was an electrical storm. 

I quickly jumped out of the hammock in a tangle of belongings and searched frantically for my head torch. I knew I only had minutes before the rain came. I managed to pitch the tent but could not get the guy lines taught. The grass was so thick it served to elevate the centre of the tent. Finally just as the heaven’s broke I was inside along with my gear. I had survived, or at least that’s what I thought!

It rained all night long. It was torrential. The tent had been chosen for its weight, not its durability and as the single skin became saturated each new drop served to flick water on my face. I bundled everything, including myself, into the bivvy bag. I would have to hold out till sunrise. I had hoped the rising sun would signal the end of the rain.

The sun never did rise, it simply became less dark. I cautiously peeled back the vestibule to find that the tent had been enveloped in a thick cloud. It wasn’t going to stop raining, the only thing I could do was make a break for it. I stuffed everything into my bag except for the tent which went into its dry sack. It was easily 2kg heavier now! I then made my way back down the dry river bed that I had climbed the night before to reach this idyllic camp site. Needless to say it was now more like a raging torrent. 

Then I was out and back on the path. After the first climb I took my waterproof jacket off. What difference does it make when you’re sweating from the inside out. Only 16km and I would be in the next village. As I walked along that morning I started to look around for the first time in days. Despite the torrential rain and low visibility this is what it is all about. This is what I signed up for and I really started to enjoy it. 

As the rain started to subside the most remarkable thing happened. A deer emerged onto the path, no more than ten metres in front of me. For a second it’s gaze fixed on mine. What a moment, what a morning! 

I eventually made it to the village and knew that I needed to sort my kit out. So I made my way to the nearest Hostal. It was closed so I called the owner and when she heard that I had slept out in the rain last night she opened the whole place for me! What an amazing person. Discount, free breakfast and most importantly access to her secret drying room where all my kit currently resides. 

I already know I made the right decision coming inland – now to buy a new tent!

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