Walking in double quick time from Enforex Camp Barcelona, Jess and I made our way back to the car. We kept looking over our shoulders out of fear that one of the children may have broken free of the compound, er, camp, and be in teary-eyed frantic pursuit. We shared reassurances that this was the right decision and that the kids were safe – they had food, beds, and nearby beaches. How bad could it be, really? Even if they ended up scrubbing floors and peeling potatoes, that would teach them something. Those Spanish omelettes don’t just make themselves, kids! Self-assured in our decision to abandon the kids to Spanish sleep away camp for a week. we hopped in the car and headed out. Our destination: Spain’s northeast coast, the Costa Brava, or “Wild Coast,” because when you’re in your forties and just dropped your kids at sleep away camp, that’s about as wild as it gets.
Spain’s Costa Brava runs from just Northeast of Barcelona to the border with France. It’s comprised of small fishing villages, picturesque rocky shorelines, and countless marinas and coves, all a popular summer destination for Europeans seeking Mediterranean sunshine – with or without their children.
But, I’m a Norcini, and that meant the first days were not destined for beach-bound relaxation. Rather, we set out to hike the rugged coastline and see what made this coast so “Wild,” after all.
It was just before we arrived in town that we learned of a trail, the Cami de Ronda, that runs the entire length of the Costa Brava, all 243 kilometers of it. While we didn’t have time for all 243, we planned to do about 26 kilometers, heading southbound from the town of Begur. The trail, originally constructed by connecting pre-existing local trails by the Spanish costal police in the 18th and 19th centuries was designed to keep an eye on the coast and prevent smuggling. Translated the trail name cami de Ronda means “patrol road.” And, how do you patrol hundreds of kilometers of rugged coastline dotted with coves, beaches, and inlets against pirates while wielding a hand torch in the night? Well, you don’t, at least not well.
However, two centuries of strong supervisory efforts had resulted in a well-established network of trails that connected seaside towns. Equipped with some water and a GPS map, we set off in search of pirates, or, at the very least, some good photos.
And what we found was stunning turn after turn beget more impressive views of turquoise waters, the kind of coves you remember reading about in children’s books, and beaches you see on reknowned travel shows like The Bachelorette. I mean, that’s what I’ve heard from people who watch it.
At one point, the trail was closed. Falling rocks, allegedly. The long way around was, well, long, so we decided to push beyond the fence (the ease with which it moved aside proved we weren’t the first ones with this defiant pursuit of a short cut) and continue on. And, around the bend, we stumbled upon…
A nudist beach. Sun’s up, buns up! The first thing that caught my attention as we came around the corner was a what appeared to be a floating set of buttcheeks and a snorkel. Upon closer inspection, yup, it was a man out for a naked examination of marine life in the cove. The beach was filled with like-minded beachgoers, and the cove itself was stunning. So much so that it begged a photo – but, wait! Is a photo of a nudist beach allowed? Voyeuristic? Inappropriate? A peddling in peninsular pornography? Perhaps. So, instead, we took a photo of this here sign, designating the space as one of tolerance and freedom to tan all one’s parts.
We continued on, up and down, up and down, pausing for photos as we headed south along the Cami di Ronda.
At one particularly rocky stretch, we came across a sign that appeared to be either a person squatting to poop or preparing to jump. While this could easily be labeled a five star bathroom sight – I mean, really, with this view, anything done here would be five star rated. Five star cheese and crackers. Five star backpack reorganization station. Five star confessions into the wind. It seemed an unlikely place for a perch potty.
There was a second marker, like an old milestone, but it was weathered beyond comprehension. Was this a marker for 18th Century police as to where to look for smugglers? Or, perhaps a note to those under pursuit by the law, on the run after an 1791 Ceylon cinnamon delivery gone wrong, that this was the place to jump to safety? I walked to the cliff’s edge. It looked deep enough and the trajectory seemed doable enough, even for a 44 year old novice smuggler, er, cliff jumper.
Some Spanish teenagers stopped on the trail to watch what was going to happen. Now I had an audience.
“There?” I asked and pointed at the cliff’s edge.
“Yes, there,” one of the Spanish teens responded. “It’s completely safe.”
Somehow this affirmation by local passersby, too young to have yet fully developed frontal lobes gave me the push I needed.
I took off my shirt and shoes and handed them to Jess. And the credit card, I gave her that, too. I mean, if this was how it was going to end, she’ll probably need the credit card. Also, my untanned body ensured that once in the water I’d be easy to find, my white skin gleaming in the Mediterranean sun, a beacon for the rescue team.
Once she was in position to capture it on video, I took one final look over the edge and went for it. It is the Wild Coast, after all.