Today’s hike took me from L’Estartit to another small coastal town, L’Escala. Around 20 km with 650 m of ascents, it looked fairly straightforward on the map but turned out to be quite tough because of the terrain, adding a new word to my Spanish hiking vocabulary. But more of that later.
I got to breakfast at the hotel just after it began, but the room had already been taken over by the Hippocampes de Massy, the diving club that had been making such a terrific din last night. I managed to get some food, despite them crowding around the breakfast buffet. I’ve always been allergic to big groups, preferring to travel alone or with my wife and/or kids – I find it easier to meet and talk to other people that way. This lot did nothing to change that opinion. I am definitely not a “group” person.
The sky was clear blue when I set off and would remain that way until evening. It was a truly glorious day for hiking, not too hot thanks to the constant wind, and with a clarity to the light that was outstanding.
After setting off from the hotel, I crossed L’Estartit and headed away from the sea, up into the hills past the local campsite. The trail was easy to follow and very pleasant to walk at first but on reaching the Alt de la Pedrosa plateau, I finally understood a new term in the guidebook – “zona pedregosa” – that would be typical of the coastal terrain until my arrival in Collioure at the end. The word “pedregosa” means stony and, from this point on, I was walking on stones or rocks most of the time. Sharp stones jutting out of the ground, others that would roll away beneath my feet. Not the easiest terrain to walk on and a far cry from the well-paved paths along the coast earlier on the trip. This sixth day was particularly “pedregosa” as the trail followed the coast, up and down from one bay to another.
The stony track crossed the plateau before heading down to the sea at Cala Pedrosa, a beautiful, rocky inlet that would have been great for a swim if the water had been warmer. Instead, I just sat in the sun and contented myself with adopting an “actitud mimètica” (see photo below).
From Cala Pedrosa, the trail climbed up again to higher ground with stunning views of the coast, notably of the Foradada headland.
The narrow trail was consistently stony and it was hard going. The walking poles came in particularly handy, notably on the downhill sections.
The next bay along was the beautiful Cala Ferriol, a narrow inlet with some large rocks just off the shore at its entrance. Another spot where it would have been great to have a swim in hotter weather with warmer water.
After Cala Ferriol, there was another climb up to join the GR 92 and head over more stony terrain on an inland track some way from the sea before returning to the cliffs near Punta Ventosa where there were some truly spectacular views of the coast and its caves that would be fun to explore by kayak.
From Punta Ventosa, I had my first view of the Cala Montgó, a beautiful semi-circular bay with L’Escala just visible beyond it. The trail down to the sea was particularly stony and steep. I met four English hikers heading in the other direction who were also complaining about the terrain. They were finding their way with an app on their smartphone and I realized that maybe I could reduce pack weight by investing in one myself, rather than use an iPad, a guidebook and my old dinosaur phone to find my way. Definitely something to look into for future hikes, especially as consulting the map in the fairly large-format guidebook for this trail meant removing the pack from my back each time.
After Cala Montgó, rather than round the headland with its tower, the trail I was following cut directly across to the bay of Isla Mateua before following the coast on more stony paths to the outskirts of L’Escala. I never thought I’d be happy to walk on asphalt but, after a day of stones, it was a relief to be on a hard, even surface.
I was a little confused on arriving as I thought I was in the centre of L’Escala, when I was in fact in the outlying district of Puerto de la Colta. As I started to look for my hotel, knowing it was just back from the beach, I realized my mistake. The actual centre was about 1.5 km further on, around the bay to the next point that marked the entrance to the centre of the town with its quaint anchovy shops.
L’Escala was a charming little place, another spot to return to at a later date. My hotel, the Torrent was on a quiet street just off the main square, near a beautiful old church. The room was very comfortable, with a small balcony, and the owners were friendly and helpful in suggesting places for dinner. Unfortunately, a couple of their recommendations turned out to be closed on Mondays, but, after a vermut in a bar on the main square, I found a table free at the very funky Grop where I had some croquetas followed by the daily special of monkfish – and found myself with a whole, very grumpy-looking monkfish on my plate! Absolutely delicious and incredibly fresh.
The weather had turned quite chilly, a strong wind was blowing and rain seemed to be on the way, so I headed straight back to the hotel after dinner for another excellent night’s sleep.