Kilometres walked: 42km / Total distance: 824km / Elevation gain: 1142m / Elevation loss: 1560m / Time walked: 9h30min
No matter how groggy I wake up from a night of mosquitoes, heat and city lights, today I set myself a challenge: can I make it all the way to Llança in one day?
Llança is a coastal town about 10,5hrs walking away* (walking time, so without accounting for breaks) which is a lot, but I think I can do it. I’m usually a bit faster than the guidebook anyway, so maybe it would take a bit less.
At the beginning of the trip I had the vague idea that I wanted to do 50km day but I quickly let go of that because earlier it would be really hard with the difficulty of the terrain and elevation change (unless you run of course, which is perhaps a challenge for another time) and now that the days are getting shorter it would mean that I’d be walking in the dark, which I rather avoid. But maybe I can do this? I’m not sure how far it is (the guidebook mentions time instead of kilometers) but I can probably do 10hrs of walking.
To commit I book a hostal for the night as I make my coffee, and leave as it’s just light enough to start walking. Instead of climbing with beautiful views over the Mediterranean, I’m ascending into the clouds. I walk through the fog and am slowly getting soaked, but at least it’s not cold. It’s actually quite nice and adds a bit of drama to the landscape.
There is no water on the climb and following descent and after 2hrs walking I’m almost out. There should be a tap near some farm and closed restaurant somewhere, but I can’t find it and the place gives me a bit creepy vibes (perhaps enhanced by the fog) so I don’t want to linger around and look for it. There should be another source a few minutes later on, so I’m aiming for that one. When I arrive there is indeed water flowing, but there’s some strange orange cloudy substance in the basin. I fill my bottle anyway, filter it just in case, and when I take a sip it tastes absolutely disgusting. Like metal and tannins, and somehow my whole mouth gets dry. No good, but I have only a couple of sips of my other water left so I take it just in case, and pray that the ‘woodland streams’ mentioned in the guidebook are actually running.
I continue walking and a bit later I hear the trickling of a stream. Water! The stream is running! The water flows over the track and in the middle of it is a cow standing with behind her a pile of fresh droppings which are slowly being carried away by the water. Great. I dump out my dodgy water, walk around the cow and take some water from upstream, filter it, pour it into my other bottle, and take another liter. That should be enough till the next town.
As I descend further I get below the clouds and have stunning views over the last foothills of the Pyrenees and the coastal plains. I take a quick lunchbreak (tortillawraps with humus, bell pepper and chorizo) with this view. Am I really done tomorrow? It’s a surreal feeling, and I notice I can’t quite wrap my head around it yet.
I check the map and guesstimate that the total distance for the day will be around 42km. After some mental math (it’s hard to keep track of the days) I realize that today is day number 42 on the GR11. 42km on day 42, that’s pretty sweet! And then at least I cam say I’ve walked a marathon. Nowhere close to the 50km I had in mind before, but it will have to do.
The next section is a deviation from the official route, but it’s slightly shorter and fits my planning for the day. The only downside is that it involves a lot of roadwalking and my feet are not liking it. They feel tender, like they’ve been beaten, and every step on pavement hurts. The sun has come out too, and I can feel the heat from the tarmac radiating through the soles of my shoes.
Luckily the final climb and descent are on gravel tracks again, which is still not great but a lot better. After nine and a half hours of walking I’m done, and soaked with sweat I arrive in the hostal we’re I immediately chug a Coca Cola (I don’t even like Coca Cola) which is what I guess makes the receptionist feel sorry for me because he lets me have a dorm room all to myself. Yes!
After a much needed shower I realize that the last thing I want is to walk to town to find dinner, so I decide to finally eat the emergency freeze-dried meal I’ve been carrying since the beginning. Fitting, on my last night on the trail. It’s chicken curry with rice, straight from the bag. I have a few tablespoons of couscous left which I throw in for good measure, as well as the last two tablespoons of olive oil. Not necessarily a combination I’d recommend, but I’m starving and the meal is gone in no time.
I want to go to bed early, giving my body the rest it deserves because I’ve been pushing it a bit the last few days. But I can’t sleep, the thought of finishing tomorrow keeps me up with both sadness and excitement. Eventually I drift off, dreaming of rocks and cows and snow and mountains.
*If taking the shortcut via Espolla, which I did.