Costa Brava – Day 10

Day 10 of the trail was a 20-km hike with 550 m of ascents from El Port de la Selva to Portbou, the last stop on the Spanish side of the border. The morning was mostly easy walking on trails along the sea past some very pretty beaches and inlets, occasionally on boardwalks. The afternoon section was a little hillier. It was also the only day when I cheated and took a train for the last 2 km between Colera and Portbou, but more of that later.

The hotel breakfast was excellent yet again with all kinds of different food and would keep me going all day.

I set off from the hotel around 9 beneath clear blue skies. It was going to be another beautiful and hot day. I had both my water bottle and pouch full as I knew there wouldn’t be any watering points until I got to Portbou that evening.

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Morning view of El Port de la Selva

The trail from El Port de la Selva first followed the seafront promenade before sticking to the coast all the way around this beautiful bay.

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It was all very pleasant at first, until I heard a hubbub of French in the distance. And then I saw them, rounding the next headland about 300 metres away: a group of 30 French hikers, some walking three abreast, taking up the whole path and talking non-stop. They were barrelling along and, as they came closer, I could hear that they were mostly talking about everyday problems rather than the setting that they were in. Their attention to their surroundings didn’t even include other walkers as, rather than shift into single file when passing someone coming in the opposite direction, they continued to walk two or three abreast, caught up in their conversations, forcing the other person (me!) off the path, without a word of apology or even acknowledgment. I was glad to see the back of them.

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The unpleasant group of 30 French hikers

But even such rudeness was unable to dispel the beauty of the morning and my happy mood as I carried on along this enjoyable, undulating path just a few metres above the sea, passing pretty coves and inlets. The conditions were absolutely perfect as I made my way along the coast to the next town on the trail, Llança, another small port, where I had my usual double espresso and sparkling mineral water. I also stopped off at the tourist office to check on the times of trains running between Llança and Portbou. I must have had a premonition that I would not cover the full trail that day…

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Looking back along the coast to El Port de la Selva

From Llança, the trail continued to hug the coast, turning a little wilder and rockier as it rounded Cap Ras, past the beautiful Cala Bramant.

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Cala Bramant

Shortly after, I reached the isolated and peaceful Platja del Borro, another of the many nudist beaches along this coast where I took my midday break.  There were quite a few people on the beach (the Ascension holiday again), but I found a peaceful corner and soon dozed off in the sun. Later, I tried going into the welcoming-looking water for a dip but it was still too bloody chilly. I made a couple of attempts but it was no use.

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Platja del Borro

After a lengthy stop of three hours, I left the beach at around 4 pm for the climb up to the Coll de Sant Antoni, the descent to Colera, then another 200-metre climb before descending to Portbou for the night. I was not helped by the signposts on passing beneath the railway line…

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Another useless signpost

Fortunately, the path up to the pass was clear and fairly easy to follow. There was a terrific view back along the coast from the pass, with the railway line below.

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Coastline from the Coll de Santi Antoni

However, on reaching the pass, I lost my way again. The trail hit the main road and the marker just before the junction seemed to indicate a slight turn to the left. So I blindly followed it along a dirt track. 15 minutes later, having seen only a couple of markings that didn’t resemble the trail ones but that had convinced me I was on the right path, I began to have doubts. Being as stubborn as a mule, I persisted a little longer but then had to face the facts – I had clearly misinterpreted the marker at the pass and walked 1.5 km out of my way. I finally got the guidebook out of my pack and, on examining the map, saw that I was heading in the completely wrong direction and should have been down in Colera by then. The trail guidebook was excellent, but it was a pity it was in such a large format and could not easily slip into the pocket of my hiking shorts.

So I headed back to the pass (a total of 3 km out of my way in the end) where I tried to pick up the trail. I returned to the last marker that had sent me off in the wrong direction and saw that it was in fact indicating the other side of the road. But there were roadworks on the other side and I couldn’t see any pathway heading down… until I crossed over, climbed over the huge mound of earth and rubble and… discovered a tiny marker, partly covered by stones, that indicated the fairly clear path down to Colera!

It took me about ten minutes to reach the centre of Colera. I was pretty pissed off after going so far out of my way, even though I only had myself to blame, and I’d had enough for the day. I reached the Colera railway station at 5:40 pm and there was a train to Portbou at 5:50, so I decided to hop on it and forego the joys of another 200-metre climb to the next pass before descending to Portbou. I felt guilty for about a minute at skipping this section of the trail. After all, there had been no cheating up until that point, it had been a very hot day, I was nearly out of water and I was feeling pretty tired.

There was no ticket machine on the platform and when I asked a lady waiting for the train where to buy pay, she just laughed and made a “who the hell cares” gesture. The train pulled in and, less than five minutes later, I arrived at the impressive Portbou railway station that used to be of huge importance as the border station before the high-speed line between Perpignan and Barcelona was built. Nowadays, an air of abandonment hovers over the place and it seems inhabited solely by the ghosts of the past;

From the station, it was a quick walk down to my hotel, the simple and basic Hotel Masia on the seafront square. I had dinner at the nearby Riky Bar, with a delicious plate of calamari, followed by my last pulpo a la gallega in Spain (this time round). The bar had a big outdoor terrace overlooking the main beach and the sea. It was a warm evening, people were out and about and it felt like summer had truly arrived on this last day of May 2019.

 

 

 

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