Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 21 - Albanyà to Requesens

52km, 1690 metres of ascent
What a difference a decent night's sleep makes. This morning the world seemed a much brighter place. I packed up early and left before Bassegoda Park was awake.

The trail from Albanyà quickly gains height via a pista before following a mix of track and trail through wonderful pine forests. So much more scenic than yesterday, and much warmer, with full sunshine all day.

The trail northwards was fairly uneventful apart from one minor faux pas where the GR11 signs sent me around in a circle.

I stopped for a drink at Moli d'en Robert, but the barman seemed uninterested in serving me, so I just carried on towards Maçanet de Cabrenys.

On reaching the edge of Maçanet de Cabrenys I was in two minds whether to go into the town centre, but I thought it would just waste time, so instead turned right in the direction of Darnius, then cutting a corner through cork oak forests to pick up the road to La Vajol. The guidebook suggested following the road to La Vajol as being far easier than attempting the waymarked GR11, so I took this option,

It was still quite a hilly winding road to reach La Vajol, where I made a brief café stop, and actually got served this time.

After La Vajol, the GR11 is really starting to run out of inspiration. The route has given up with following the border hills, and instead follows a tedious tarmac road for several kilometres before taking pistas through scrubby farmland dotted with fig trees and cactuses.

The landscape is suddenly starting to look Mediterranean.

It is after 6pm when I cross the busy E-15 motorway to reach La Jonquera. The place looks like one enormous truck stop, lined with the most enormous supermarkets and junk shops. I need to get through this hell-hole as quickly as possible, to stand any chance of reaching Requesens tonight, which is still a good 3 hours away.

I hurtle round one of the supermarkets which is twice the size of some of the villages I've seen on my trip. Then march down into the old town hoping that I might pick up the GR11 markers again. To my amazement I look down an alleyway and spot a marker, and hope that I am now back on route. I scoff down as much of the food and drink as I can, then brace myself for the 600m climb up the ridge to Puig dels Falguers 778m.

I am extremely pressed for daylight, setting off up this climb just after 7pm. I try to move as fast as possible, since I don't think there will be any camping before Requesens. The trail is rocky and overgrown and not all that clear, so it requires 100% concentration.

As I get higher on the ridge, the sun is dropping low on the horizon into banks of cloud, and the wind is picking up to the point of seriously impeding progress. By the time I reach Puig dels Falguers I can barely stand in the screaming crosswinds.

It's just before 9pm when I reach Coll de l'Auleda, and although it's getting cold and dark and horrifically windy, I can partially relax now since it is an easy downhill pista to Requesens. Plus I get a boost from seeing a magnificent full moon rising into a cluster of pink clouds above the coastal town of Roses. I love seeing sights like this when I'm the only person on the hill, it feels like a special reward for bending the rules a bit.

I dilly dally on the descent taking photos of the full moon, which means it is pitch dark when I reach Requesens, but I find the first bit of flat ground and carefully pitch the tent in a buffeting changeable wind, trying to make sure nothing blows away. As soon as the tent is up I realise I have company from a large bull, but there is no way I have the energy to make alternative sleeping arrangements, so I just hope that I won't be trampled in the night.

I spend the night listening to violent gusts of wind approaching and then slamming into the side of the tent.

View GR11 - Day 21 in a larger map

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