Beautiful and Treacherous Cap de Creus, part 1
Today, the alarm is waking me up at ungodly 7am. You may wonder why that is a big deal for me, especially on a weekday.
You see, since I have started traveling over a year ago, I almost never wake up that early, especially with an alarm - only if I have an early flight/train/bus to catch. I know that was not the case so I stare at my phone for a second trying to figure out why this thing is hating me this morning.
Then I realize that the plan for the day calls for some hiking and the most convenient bus to get there is leaving at 8:30am. Since I had a few delicious sangrias the night before, I quickly decide that sleep is more important and I will just have to figure out another way to get there later, then peacefully pass out for a couple more hours.
So I start the hike at the Cap de Creus national park a bit later than planned by getting off at Roses, a town just to the north of Empuriabrava. By now it is around 11:30, but I am not worried - I have about seven hours to cover 21 kilometers/13.25 miles to get to Cadaqués at the other end of the trail and catch the 18:15 bus back. The sun is out and the weather is beautiful - so much for that rain forecast. But who am I to complain?
Walking along the beach, I realize that Roses is much bigger than Empuriabrava, but still appears to be very much of a tourist trap. And their beach is not nearly as big, but there is a lot more going on near the beach. Instead, my attention quickly draws to the hills around the city dotted with colorful houses. They must have an awesome view up there!
It is taking me a bit longer to walk along the beach to the official start of the hike near Punta de Bateria. As I turn around the corner expecting an actual hiking trail, I am disappointed - here it is a concrete walkway alongside some timeshare/resort looking condo buildings.
But the view is still pretty awesome and I have to pause and marvel at the color of the water as small waves are breaking on the rocks below.
The 'trail' continues to run along the coast and right next to the fences surrounding the above mentioned condo buildings. I keep having to ditch the agave and cactus growing and hanging down those fences, but I am also surrounded by the pine and fig trees. I am no botanist, but that is a quite a mix of plants that I did not expect to see next to each other. Cool!
As I walk around another corner, I am treated to a nice view of Platja (beach) de Canyelles, but an even better view awaits me as I march around the beach and then look back to the hill I just walked around. By this point, I am already shirtless, with my sweat pants rolled up above my knees, still sweating like crazy and wondering if I should have worn board shorts and flip flops.
Finally, the trail is changing from a concrete walkway to an actual dirt trail, but I am still walking between a fence on one side and cliffs on the other. The sound of waves breaking nearby almost drowns the podcasts I am catching up on and the breeze is refreshing.
l'Amadrava is the last settlement on the way. Here I actually have to walk for a bit on the beach as I did not see the signs for the trail going around. The tourists are wondering what the heck am I doing but to each their own. I press on, get a little bit disoriented in the village, but then finally find the trail up the hill.
From here on, the trail is the real deal with no concrete, stairs, fences, or people.
I am actually surprised at how few people I am passing. The lady at Empuriabrava tourism office told me that "everyone does" this trail so I was expecting to be constantly running into people as we did during our hike in the Abel Tasman national park in New Zealand. Instead, I have only passed one couple and have not met anyone going the other way. Strange… This makes me a bit uncomfortable (of course there is no cell phone coverage here), but at the same time, everything around me seems to be mine!
It appears that there used to be some fortifications along the coast here. I see the dug outs, concrete pads, and what could of been either storage rooms or even living spaces carefully masked with the surrounding rocks. Interesting…
Soon I see a chance to get down to a rocky beach and decide to make a stop there for some lunch. Quickly destroying my sandwich and noticing that I am almost finished with the first 1.5L bottle of water, I thank myself for deciding to bring two of those, even though they made for a heavy sack.
Full (well, somewhat) and fresh, I enthusiastically press on and almost immediately find myself lost again. The frequent trail markers are gone, the trail is not really a trail anymore. I have to hold on to the cliffs with my hands as I climb the sandstone… No, this isn't right. The older couple I just met could not have come from this way.
I pause for a second. There is no way there is a trail running down here. But then it would have to be up there, on top of the cliff. How did I miss it? Should I backtrack? Thankfully, my trusty CityMaps2Go App shows me loud and clear that the trail is indeed on top of the cliff and I slowly make my way back until I see the trail sign. Originally, I thought it was just a side trail. Silly me.
Another hour of hiking and I get to Cala Montjoi - a small beach and home to el Bulli restaurant which, with its molecular gastronomy offerings, proclaims to be "the most controversial and experimental restaurant in the world".
Apparently, at its glory days, a year worth of reservations used to be sold out in a day, but now the place is closed and as the chef moved on to other things.
It is almost 4pm now and I figure I have less than a couple more hours to go from Cala Montjoi to the end of the hike. I am running low on water (even three liters was not enough!) and out of food, but that should not be a problem as I can easily get some in Cadaqués. Or so I thought until I saw this signpost at Cala Montjoi beach:
Can you spot a little problem here?
Stay tuned for part 2!