Day 7 would be the big one, distance-wise. It was indicated as a 31-km hike in the guidebook (with just 150 m of ascents), but I ended up walking 35 at least and, by the time I’d gone to dinner in the evening and returned to the hotel, I was probably up to 40 for the day. It took me from L’Estartit to the resort of Roses (the last big development on the trail) via a stunning ornithological reserve and the hideous Empuriabrava complex.
Breakfast at the hotel was good and tasty. Once again, it set me up for the day. Apart from a couple of days when I actually stopped for lunch, the big breakfasts provided by the Spanish hotels meant that I rarely needed to eat more than an energy bar before dinner.
From L’Escala, the trail headed along the coast on very pleasant paths without a stone in sight after yesterday’s tough slog. It was a gorgeous morning, with clear blue skies and views of Roses and the start of the Cap de Creus national park in the distance.
This path along the coast took me past the ruins of the old Roman town of Empúries, which were still closed when I passed by, to the small and pretty village of Sant Martí d’Empúries with its church on a point overlooking the sea.
On leaving the village, I took my first wrong turn. The marking of the trail was far from clear and I ended up going some distance out of my way before hitting the GR 92 variant on the coast that took me back inland to hook up with the trail. One problem that I would come across more and more often from this day on was the lack of trail markings at key points and also vandalized signposts at a number of intersections. This made the trail difficult to follow at times, but that was also my fault for relying solely on the maps in the guidebook in my pack. Still, it was surprising to see so many signs in such a pitiful state.
I cannot say that this was my favourite day on the trail. Most of the morning section unfolded between deserted fields on dusty tracks, with an occasional car passing. There were a few fruit orchards from time to time but, in general, the landscape was monotonous and the walking dull. And mostly in a straight line too at first, which really wasn’t any fun. It was more a case of getting the distance covered than actually enjoying the day’s hike.
At the village of Sant Pere Pescador, the trail, which had been heading inland, turned back towards the coast, following the Fluvià river. After passing a series of locks that seemed to be linked to irrigation channels, I arrived on the beach at Gola del Fluvià, on the right side of the water without having to wade across anything.
Here, the trail turned inland once again, towards the Els Aiguamolls de l’Empordà Nature Reserve. Even though the sky was clouding over by now, this next section turned out to be an absolute delight. The path was lined with tall trees and bushes, as well as occasional hides to observe the 300 or so different species of birds that have been spotted in the area. I saw quite a few photographers equipped with huge lenses to photograph them from a distance. As for the birds, they were everywhere. I had rarely heard so much birdsong in my life. There were all kinds of aquatic birds, nesting storks, flamingoes and, at one point, a group of five or six bright green parrots flew right over my head.
I took a break at the El Cortalet visitors’ centre in the middle of the reserve after five of the eight hours the day’s hike required. It was a peaceful little spot in the middle of nowhere with lots of information available.
The trail continued through the reserve before hitting the Muga river where I crossed bridge to reach Empuriabrava, a huge development dating from the 1970s with villas that have direct access to the water thanks to a system of canals (a little like Port Grimaud in France). Things clearly weren’t so strict back then as the development was bang in the middle of the nature reserve which continued on the other side of it. Not a pretty place and fairly run down too. I was glad to leave it behind me and return to the nature reserve.
After a final section of the reserve, I found myself walking alongside the main road from Figueras to Roses and unfortunately, thanks to missing markers and signposts, ended up following it all the way into Roses. It was horrible! An endless line of car and boat dealerships, shopping malls and waste lots. After around 32 km, walking on the hard, asphalted surface was exhausting. I barely even bothered looking at the huge 16th-century citadel that I passed on arriving in Roses, which turned out to be a fairly large town with a lot of residential blocks.
It took me a while to find my hotel, the Montmar, because I took a couple of wrong turns in my exhausted state. It turned out to be yet another fine choice, with a fairly large room (that had a weird blue light under the bed) and a great shower, which was what I needed after such a long day.
I walked into the town for dinner and ate at Can Cevera after chatting to the friendly owners who were taking a pre-service cigarette break outside. I had a trio of croquetas and a bottifara sausage with white beans, along with an excellent local red wine recommended by the owner. A place to return to if I’m ever back in Roses.
And then it was back to the hotel where I crashed out after my 40 km and didn’t wake until the next morning!