Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swamp Walk

[caption id="attachment_439" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="L'estarit"][/caption]

I ordered my new hatch in the mail.  Meanwhile I couldn't stay in the marina in L'Estartit until it came.  Pigeon had a friend in Santa Margarida who was willing to host me for a while.  I sent Pigeon an email asking what his address was.
I went to a tourist information center to find out about buses; in order to get to Santa Margarida, a town only about 12.5 miles away as the crow flies, I would have to take four buses.  I got schedules of the buses and found that it would be impossible to get there the same day.
Or could I?  I found a map on line with a 22 mile walking route.  That wasn't too far.  I figured I would get there around 2:00 AM and would then have a place to sleep for the night.  I still hadn't gotten the address of the place I was going, but Pigeon told me to call her whenever I got there, no matter the hour.
I memorized key elements of the map, put some necessities in my dry bag, grabbed my sleeping roll and some water, and was on my way.
My way quickly took me into the steep hills along the sea that I had admired from below.  As I hiked through lovely green forest I got a view of cool mountains in the distance and a setting sun to make the scenery perfect.  Here and there I passed a small field, olive trees, or the burst of a stony precipice from the soft forest.

Once the sun was down my way was lit by an almost full moon and a clear sky.  My path was dirt and gravel roads with the occasional intersection and sign leading me towards Escala.  It was a sad moment when I finally left the woods and found myself in a city.
In Escala I walked the wrong way for a while, but then got directions, and finally with my thumb, I got a ride through most of the city.  The truck had a cage behind the two front seats.  A cage that kept two giant ferocious dogs from tearing me to pieces.  The cage did not stop them from using every expression at their disposal to tell me that that was exactly what they would like to do.  Their gnashing teeth were inches from me.
I got out of the truck and thanked the driver, then headed down to a promenade above the bay.  I walked on it for some time with waves at the rocks just below me.  I climbed stairs and took turns besides old stone Catalan buildings above the water.  I turned onto a jogging trail that led along a beach.  The trail had a light pine wood on both sides, and beyond that, sand that led to the water.  For a while their was an old cemetery on my left, and then a stone castle-like building from another age.
Beyond the jogging path I was on a thin paved rode that eventually turned away from the beach.  At that point I looked ahead to a sandy expanse that fell away into a river.  Not far away their was a foot bridge over the river (42.14564,3.115527), so I went over the bridge.  Ahead of me to my right was a long sandy beach that would make the going tough.  Ahead of me to my left was what looked like a lightly used path through tall grasses, and a road in the distance.
I took the path to find that it quickly got smaller as the grasses on either side got taller.  Instead of sand under my feet there was now a little mud, then there were a few inches of stinky mud.  I stepped through it quickly so as not to get stuck.  And was suddenly submerged in chest high water.  My sleeping roll was bobbing behind me.
Ahead of me, there was more stinky water.  I could see fairly well now that I was beyond the tall grasses.  I didn't need a lot of time to reflect.  Returning, half swimming half flying, up the bank I was back on dry land.
Collecting my thoughts I opened up the contents of my dry bag, since it wasn't sealed some water had gotten in.  I poured it out, there wasn't too much.  I checked my phone which had been in my pocket.  It was blinking at me.  Laughing at me.  My phone was no longer working, and I could only hope that I had not lost a third computer since my trip began.
I was on the beach, very wet, very dirty, and reeking to high heaven.  I began walking, the chafing on my left leg was almost immediate.  I was soon cold.  I could have stopped to put my long johns on, but I kept from getting too cold by walking very quickly.
Later, a small hotel (42.187217,3.088397) was closed, but walking around I found an open bathroom.  There was no hot water, but I used it to change into my long johns, and I washed the tiny feathers off of my left thigh that had caused the chafing.*
There was a dog barking nearby.  I left the bathroom and saw that there was a house on the hotel's property.  The dog and two people were at the door, watching me.  I began to go back the way I had come.  Then I called to them in the dark, “Do you work here?” hoping that if they did, maybe they would let me stay for the night.
“What's wrong?” A woman answered.
“I really need a place to stay.”  I called back.  The desperation in my voice, I'm certain, told a part of my story if she was willing to listen.
She wasn't.  “We're closed.”
“We're closed.” She called back again, this time with absolute finality.
“Do you know if there is another hotel nearby?”
“Just over the bridge, in town.”
I left, went over the bridge and into town.  There where a couple of men leaning against a wall.  It was about 11:00.  I asked them if they knew where a hotel was, and they told me.
The hotel they pointed me to was closed. I tried knocking and ringing the bell, but no luck.  I walked for a bit and then saw the same two men, and asked them if there was another hotel or hostel in the area.  The man walked back with me to the previous one and determined that which I had tried to tell him.  It was closed.  Their was another hotel the way he was going.  He would show me.  Their was a buzzer.  I buzzed and buzzed, but nobody came.  I called a number that was posted on the door, by putting my sim card in his phone, and I was told that the hotel was closed.  We went to three more hotels, and along the way I told them my story.
As they walked around with me at night, a couple of friends joined up with them.  I greeted them with “Ahalan.” having picked up on the Arabic accent on there Spanish. One of them gave me his fleece, and told me twice that he was from Morocco.  I had begun to shiver since the walking was slow and not keeping my body temperature up.
Finally, there were no more hotels in Sant Pere Pescador.  One of the men told me he owned a bar, or something else that I didn't understand, and said that I could stay there for the night.  We walked to the bar, I went in and they went about there nighttime activities elsewhere, after showing me much kindness.
I sat in the bar for a while, warming up.  I then tried to explain to the bartender what the men outside had told me about staying there for the night.  She laughed.  I moved on.
As I walked through the night I got cold again so I jogged for a while until I was just beginning to sweat then I walked.  I walked and jogged for a few hours.  Cars would pass me on the road and I would stick out my thumb, but they could probably smell me even with their windows rolled up.
At about 2:30 AM I was close to Santa Margarida, my destination, so I went to a gas station and asked the man there if I could use his phone without it costing him a thing.
“No.”  He told me.  He was the last person I saw that night.
I got to Santa Margarita at 3:00.  I walked around for a bit, hoping I would find a bar or something open so that I could call Pigeon.  Nothing.  I opened my sleeping roll and went to sleep.  Pigeon was waiting for me not far away.  My sleeping bag was inside my water proof bivy, so it had only taken on a little bit of the swamp water.  For a while my stench kept me awake, but then I slept.
At 5:00 AM I woke.  It was cold and there was a frost.  I would need to switch to my heavier bag at the next opportunity.  I lay there until 7:00 not wanting to get out into the frigid air.
Day came, and with it, I eventually got in touch with Pigeon and found a warm place to stay.


  1. That'll be a story for the grandkids. Glad you're safe.

  2. I posted the two GPS points in this post on a Google Map and opened it to editing by all:,3.088403&spn=0.020732,0.052056&t=h&z=15

    (Not an offer to update it, though I'll try, and not an offer to handle the couchsurfing account either. Let me know if this is redundant - I searched Kayak Dov and didn't see any existing maps.)

    I did LOL when you were suddenly up to your neck. Part of me thought you'd just keep swimming.

    Rock on.

  3. I thought there was a fair chance he'd keep swimming, too. So relieved he didn't... ~ ed.

  4. I would be lying if I said I didn't think about it.

  5. Well it is getting chilly here in the Big Apple water wise. Just about to dip into the 50's F. Swimming at the beach for over 20/30 min leaves me totally exhausted for the rest of the day. May be getting that dry suit soon so I can keep on kayaking.... So it was the neoprene seal that blew away not the hatch lid?

  6. It was the whole lid. The seal is attached to the lid, so that went with it.