Thursday, October 27, 2016

Orriols - Sant Martí d'Empúries

GR1 Sendero Histórico day 49.
Distance: 25.0km (1429.4km), time spent: 7:50.
Waymarking: Good, with one ugly exception.
Weather: Wonderful.


Of all my walks, this is the most special last day’s morning of them all. When you have walked so far, it is even stranger to know that you have made it. I eat a good breakfast, and make myself ready for the taxi back to Orriols. With a significant difference. Since the trail will carry me back to Camallera, I can leave my backpack behind and the hostess is happy to help. Which means that I can walk the first seven kilometres with a light weight on my back. My feet should be celebrating for that reason. The end of the walk does otherwise fit nicely to the name of the trail, when I arrive in Sant Martí d'Empúries, all my experiences underway will have gone into history. They will dwell around every abandoned village and towers, castles and bridges from the past, like timeless threads wanderers leaves behind.

A pink red sky over the Pyrenees to the north in the morning in Camallera.

Less heavy on my back, I am back in Orriols. The route leaves the village underneath a small underpass; there are markings of a Camino here also. Yet another unknown one, there are Caminos all over Spain, almost as if any decent village here should have one going through it. The GR1 however, continues further in a rural scenery, which also here is interrupted by a highway, but this time you can walk under it. Then a lesser road is crossed, where the signpost afterwards tells me that GR1 is following the road southwards, but I detect that there is something amiss. After looking in the guidebook, I follow the forest track leading west instead. That it turns out to be the correct way makes me surprised anyway. To Camallera, the trail is similar to yesterday, but is now lighter and brighter at heart. The village is larger than I first believed it to be.

Out from Orriols.

After retrieving my backpack and had a break with some refreshment, and some simple food, I start out on the last part of the walk with all of my equipment back on my back again. I find it odd how different the scenery appear here, according to what it did on yesterday’s walk from Banyoles. It has not changed in any spectacular way; the view does not offer any new surprises. Still a landscape consisting of woods and plains. Only more pleasant perhaps. The tiny hamlet of Pins is barely noticeable when you walk through it.

A shepherd with his flock of sheep outside Camallera, the bell tower to the church in the village in the background.

In the lowlands, even small hills become tall and from a ridge the horizons forms a special view. To the north, I can now see the Pyrenees again, gradually sinking downwards. To the east lies the ocean, the Mediterranean. My goal is in sight, somewhere at the shores of the ocean lies Sant Martí d'Empúries. I am rather excited on the short walk across the small ridge, before the route crawls further towards a short reunion with familiar mistakes on the trail.

I walk wrong, does not see the waymarks pointing away from the forest track to a less inconspicuous path, quite possible there were no waymarks doing so either. It is not an unknown phenomenon on the GR1. The result is however just as before. Map, route description and what I see does not match each other. The forest track forms a junction, and there is nothing indicating which exit I shall take. Back and forth is just as long, several times. I get some help in the bar of a shooting range in the end of one of the exits. What quiet there is, is broken by the sound of shots on the way back to GR1.

The church in Camallera, notice the drawing of a church outside the doors of the church.

Last day of a long distance walk is always something of a paradox, especially one of this distance, on one side you are happy to be finished. On the other side, you actually wants to continue walking, to keep the adventure going, not coming out of the rhythm and life one has got accustomed to. The wish to see what awaits you around the next corner. Discover the unknown close by. One thing that is now unknown however, is that I am nearing the end. Even the hills flatlines eventually. Vegetation gradually changes to resemble what we associate with the landscape around the Mediterranean. The smell of it also changes. Yesterday can in that way, be said to exist in the no man’s land between the high country and the lowlands. The Pyrenees becomes more and more clear where the horizon becomes flat towards the horizon to the north of me.

On the trail on the last day, here on the wrong way.

Viladamat is the last place I get to before I will be in Sant Martí d'Empúries. There are no other villages, hamlets or small town to walk through before I stand next to the waves. It is relatively quiet here, as opposite to the road that quickly passes by outside. I order myself a bocadilla in a bar, but have to wait a little; the bread is not ready yet. A large cerveza con limon is a treat that I feel I can lavish myself with now. Four kilometres left, considerably more behind me. My father, Jan, has now already arrived, but he has escaped to walk almost across the whole of Spain to get there.

The sea at last. From the top of a small ridge, I could for the first time behold the blue water of the Mediterranean.

Flat is the word of the last scenery I walk through, but it is not boring flat. I walk past large fields of white flowers, with the mountains where the GR11, HRP and GR10 also enters the last of their tracks in the background. A small snake worms across the trail. Today, my feet has not bothered me, luckily, but then again I have not had to carry my backpack for so very long on my last day. Still, I do look a little bit longingly backwards, when I walk unto the road towards the Bay of Roses.

Painted tiles on a wall in Viladamat.

Here the trees and vegetation seems almost strange to me when I arrive, so different they are from the landscape that I have passed through. From the limestone mountains in Picos de Europa to the blue wave crests of the Mediterranean. Another world. I am at the end of the road. In front me lies the ocean and there are no longer any way further. The sound of the waves crashes onto the beach. 49 days it took me to walk the GR1. It has been 49 days of toil, pain, joy, boredom, feelings, great experiences, abandoned experiences, ghosts, small experiences, irritation, pride, happiness. It has been an adventure, but now it is over. And another begins.

On the flat coastal plain of Spain. Large fields with white flowers and the Pyrenees in the background.

It is still quite strange to walk for so long, without meeting many other people, for then the first person to meet when you arrive is your own father. On the other side, oddly natural. Jan was down at the beach, while waiting for me, when I took my last steps to the edge of the Mediterranean.

In Sant Martí d'Empúries.

I have not walked almost two months and over 1400 kilometres to the Mediterranean and a beach, for then not to bath. That gets to be the last thing I do on the GR1, to swim in the ocean where the trail ends on its journey through the northern Spain to the small village and ruins, Sant Martí d'Empúries. Afterwards, I throw away my hiking pants that so faithfully has been used on all my long walks, now it has done its job, is worn out. It would perhaps have been more proper to do what is done at Finisterre after one has finished a Camino, to burn the pants in a symbolic bonfire, But I do not think it will be as well received here (it is really not so well received there either). The pants goes into the trashcan without any large ceremonies.

Later we go for a walk in the small village and looks at the ruins. Then we sit down for a quick drink, and so to leave the GR1 behind and drive to Cadaques. Now I will have some calm days in Spain together with my dad, but that is another history than Sendero Histórico.

A tired hiker at the end of the walk in Sant Martí d'Empúries and the Mediterranean, 49 days after set forth from Puerto de Tarna. An adventure is over…another begins.

<- Orriols

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