Costa Brava – Day 9

Day 9 took me from Cadaqués to El Port de la Selva, a 24-km hike with another 750 m of ascents over some of the stoniest terrain encountered so far. It was a tough day, notably because the trail markings vanished in a very tricky area to negotiate, but truly spectacular and one of the best so far.

Breakfast at the hotel was a lot of fun. I sat down at an initially empty table. The waitress then started bringing me food – bread, garlic and tomatoes, ham, cheese, scrambled eggs, pastries, jam, fruit, etc – not all at once, but in stages, continually asking if I had enough to eat. After a while, I had to ask her to stop as it was getting crazy and my table was covered with food!

I set off at around 9, first going up to the church for the view over the town. It was a glorious morning again, with not a cloud in sight. The full charm of Cadaqués was on display as I walked along the shore to the opposite end of the town to pick up the trail. Despite the Ascension Day weekend, the place was pretty quiet as the season had not really kicked in. Definitely a place to return to in the future.

At the other end of Cadaqués, at the Es Poal beach, the trail veered away from the sea to head steeply uphill (the first climb of the day) to the small and pretty church of Sant Baldiri, before following the road down to Portlligat where Salvador Dalí’s house stands. I didn’t really have time to visit the place but it looked interesting from the outside – a series of old fishermen’s houses acquired over a period of years and turned into a single residence, with giant eggs and huge sculpted heads on the uppermost roofs. Next time.

After the Dalí house, the trail continued to follow the road for about 2 km before veering off onto the same kind of stony track as in previous days, between dry-stone walls for most of the first part. It provided spectacular views of the coastline all the way to the lighthouse on the Cap de Creus. There were a couple of paths leading down to beaches from the main trail, notably to the beautiful Platja d’en Lluis.

Platja d’en Lluis

All the way along, there were great views of the coast, with the Cap de Creus lighthouse appearing and disappearing again following the twists in the path. For the main path from Cadaqués to the cape, the terrain was pretty wild at times and clearly not for the average tourist in flip-flops. I imagine most people took their cars or the tourist bus as I only saw a couple of other people (Germans) on the trail all morning.

After skirting one last inlet, Cala Fredosa, and crossing the road the trail headed steeply uphill for the last few hundred metres to the lighthouse. I arrived at the top, flushed and sweating, and found myself photobombing the wedding photos and video of a Russian couple who were posing bang in the middle of my path. The Spanish photographer and crew had a good laugh, but the Russians were not pleased and looked very put out.

Cala Fredosa

After a coffee and a bottle of sparkling mineral water at the bar at the top, I set off again. A friend had recommended the cape’s restaurant but it was only 11:30 and the place wasn’t open for lunch, which I didn’t really need anyway after the copious hotel breakfast.

Cap de Creus lighthouse

To continue the trail, I had to retrace my steps past Cala Fredosa to Cala Jugadora to pick up the GR 11 long-distance path that runs from the Cap de Crus all the way across the Pyrenees for over 800 km to the Basque Country and the Atlantic Coast (the Spanish equivalent of the French GR 10 across the border). The turn-off point at Cala Jugadora was clear enough, but the markers were few and far between from then on. It was pretty hard going on a narrow, stony, uneven path between bushes covered with sharp thorns. All the same, I managed to find my way along it, even though it resembled little more than a goat track at times. I was glad when I finally emerged from the bushes into a more open area where the trail was finally visible more than one or two metres ahead.

At this point, I also had my first contact with a phenomenon that I would encounter again over the next couple of days: the French hiking group. Because of the Ascension Day weekend, there were quite a few of these groups on the trail from this point on. Not the most pleasant of encounters. Firstly, you could hear them coming from a kilometre away as they talked non-stop in very loud voices. Very much in their own world, they virtually ignored me as a single hiker with very few greetings from them. And woe betide you if you happen to be in their path as they often walked side-by-side in twos or threes and would not break that formation for anyone. I don’t know if this is a particularly French phenomenon, but I didn’t witness this herd behaviour among the Spanish, German or British hikers met on the trail (in groups of six at the most).

French hiking group

Other encounters on the trail were much more pleasant…

GR 11 encounter

Unfortunately, I took another wrong turn at some point, possibly at the sign shown below, because rather than heading to Mas de la Birba and then the Cala Tavallera bay, I stayed on the GR 11 and never saw either of those two places. Throughout the afternoon, the indications and markers on the trail were pretty confusing and I even strayed from the GR 11 at one point to end up on a dusty dirt road that took me far out of my way before hooking up with the main path again for the last stretch down to El Port de la Selva.

The best sign ever!

It turned out to be a tiring afternoon and I was relieved when I was finally back on track. Before hitting El Port de la Selva, I made a stop at the pretty Cala Tamariua for some sunbathing and a quick nap.

Cala Tamariua

From that beach, it was an easy walk round the headland into El Port de la Selva. This pretty little town set on a wide bay was fairly spread out and my hotel Porto Cristo was at the opposite end of it from where I arrived. Still, that gave me the opportunity to scout a few places for dinner.

The hotel turned out to be quite luxurious compared to the other, simpler places I had been staying at (it was a little more expensive too). The huge room even had a jacuzzi which turned out to be more than welcome after this tough day. I don’t usually take baths but this was a treat my aching body didn’t want to miss out on.

For dinner, I headed back along the seafront to Can Pepitu, a tapas place with an outdoor terrace, friendly service and what turned out to be great food. The smoked burrata on sun-dried tomatoes and focaccia was out of this world, as was the octopus and potato timbale that followed. With a couple of glasses of vermouth, this was one of the more memorable meals along the trail, especially as it was so pleasant on the terrace in the setting sun.

Focaccia, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked burrata at Can Pepitu

After dinner, I walked back along the seafront, hoping to have an ice cream at a place I had spotted near the hotel, but it was closed when I got there, so I went back to the Porto Cristo for another great night’s sleep.

El Port de la Selva by night


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