Costa Brava – Day 5

For the fifth day, I had the choice of either following the coast or taking an inland trail through a number of rice-growing villages, either 18 km via the coast or 32 km via the interior. I opted for the coast, especially as the wind in the night had cleared the clouds away and there seemed to be a nice beach or two for stops. The ascents only amounted to 150 m, all during the first part of the day.

Breakfast was served in my room as the dining area of the hotel was very small and the place was full for the weekend. A tray full of delicious food – ham, fresh baked bread, the first cherries of the year. And good coffee too.

I set off around 9 o’clock again, promising the friendly manageress that I would be back with my wife one day. Begur really charmed me and I would like to spend more time there on a return trip.

As I headed downhill from the village to Mas d’en Pinc, an old farm at the start of the trail  to the sea, I began to feel a little dampness at the small of my back. This turned into a distinct wet patch and when I felt a drop of water fall on my leg, I knew something was wrong. At first, I thought that perhaps I hadn’t closed the water bottle properly. As the bottle, one of the heavier items, was at the bottom of the pack, I had to unpack completely on the parking lot outside the Mas d’en Pinc. There were plenty of damp and even wet items at the bottom of the pack, but the water bottle was tightly closed. The problem was my Platypus water pouch in the rear pocket. I had overfilled it and, above all, the ziplock wasn’t closed properly. The little water that has seeped out had managed to soak the whole bottom of the pack, inside and out. Not the kind of mistake I would make again!

This was the first day I had trouble following the trail, something that would happen more and more often as I went along. Until now, the signposts had been clear and the trail markers, although infrequent, always showed which way to go at forks in the path. But around Mas d’en Pinc, everything went to the dogs. A sign near the main building indicated the trail to follow but then there was nothing more – no signs and no markers. There were paths heading off in every direction. The only map I had was the one in the guidebook and it was far from detailed enough. However, after a while, I found the right path, closely following the Riera d’Aiguafreda stream. This section was also pretty overgrown. As it was a variant on the main trail (which took the inland route), perhaps it was less popular or hadn’t been maintained since the previous summer. There were various exercise areas, like on a Swiss Vita Parcours, but most of the wooden equipment was rotting away. After following a clear trail to Begur, it was odd to end up on such a rundown section and it was a relief to finally emerge from it at the very pretty Cala d’Aiguafreda, where the trail suddenly became clear again.

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Cala d’Aiguafreda

After this small bay, the track headed uphill through pine forests and along a minor road before reaching some cliffs where I had my first view of the Medes Islands that lie off the coast opposite L’Estartit, the next stop on the trail. The clouds were clearing by now and, even though there was a lot of wind, the day was gradually getting warmer.

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The Medes Islands off L’Estartit

The clifftop trail then headed down to the bay of Sa Riera and its beautiful beach where I trudged across the sand once more before heading back uphill.

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Platja de Sa Riera

Just after Sa Riera, there was another fabulous beach that looked truly spectacular from the trail with a huge rock dividing it into two sections, Illa Roja. It was sunny and warmer by now, even though the wind was still pretty strong, so I decided to stop and get some sun on this nudist beach for an hour or two. I didn’t risk swimming though as the sea was pretty choppy because of the high wind. I found a sheltered spot and it felt good to be basking in the sun after the winter.

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Platja de l’Illa Roja

After about an hour and a half of sunbathing, I set off again. After rounding one final headland, the day’s climbs were over and all that lay ahead of me was one long beach all the way to L’Estartit, about 10 km of it. I stopped at a bar for a coffee and a mineral water, then at a small beach hut for a burger and a beer (it was past lunchtime and I needed fuel for the long slog ahead of me). At the beach hut, I noticed something that would accompany me all afternoon – a cloud of sand lifted by the strong wind, about 50 cm above the surface of the beach. Sandblasting for the calves! It wasn’t at all unpleasant and I managed to dodge it at times by walking on the paved paths in front of the beachfront apartment blocks.

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The long, long beach to L’Estartit

The biggest challenge of the afternoon was finding a reasonably hard surface to walk on. On an ocean beach, this would not have been a problem as I could have walked on the harder wet sand at the water’s edge. Here, on the shores of the Mediterranean, with next to no tide, such patches of sand don’t exist. Between the paved areas in front of the apartment blocks, an occasional dirt road and the beach itself, I kept weaving back and forth to find the best surface to walk on. All the same, I often ended up trudging through the loose sand.

The other challenge this afternoon were the two rivers flowing into the sea along this beach. When I got to the first one, at Platja del Grau, I nearly lost heart. The rain of the last few days had swollen the river and there was quite a current as it poured into the sea. The map showed I would have to make a terrific detour to find a bridge inland to cross it. This is where the walking poles came into their own. I dumped the pack and my boots on the beach, changed into my swimming trunks and, testing the depth of the water with a walking pole, began to cross the river. The water came up to just above my waist, so it was crossable, and the current wasn’t too bad. I went back for the pack, carrying it on my head, with my boots tied together around my neck. A couple of kids playing near the river seemed to find all this pretty amusing, but I felt like a real adventurer. The second river, at Gola del Ter, was less problematic and the water was not as deep.

With the strong wind, the kite-surfers were out and provided a pretty spectacular show.

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Kite-surfers 

L’Estartit was another modern town, but without the high-rise blocks of other resorts earlier on the trail. I found my hotel on the outskirts, the Flamingo fairly easily. After a beer at the bar, I went up to my large and pleasant room with a balcony overlooking the garden. Perfect for airing the pack and its contents after the morning mishap with the water pouch.

I went for a very tasty dinner of avocado salad and octopus (again) with potatoes (pulpo a la Gallega) at the Rosamar near the seafront, a very friendly place. Then back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep, which did not happen because of the members of a French diving club that were staying at the hotel and seemed to think they owned the place. They made a terrific din around the pool until around two in the morning and I had to resort to the white noise app on my iPad to drown them out!

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