Swimming the GR-92

Llançà to El Port de la Selva.

2 legs, 2.18 and 3.3km.

Funny, how we rarely heed our own advice. There again, it’s for others, not us. In my last post, I mentioned that swimming across bays and harbours of the Costa Brava in the peak season of July and August is best done very early in the morning – It is, and I didn’t.

However, the combination of an early morning train ride, 1.5km walk and hiker-to-swimmer metamorphosis all took a sizeable bite out of my plans for a sunrise swim.

The swim across the Bay of Llançà to the security of the concrete breakwater is less than 500 metres. Not far at all, but busy. I crossed paths with three sailboats (under power), two motorboats and a local fishing vessel, all of them leaving port and heading directly into the low morning sun.

Platja de L’Argilera to Platja Les Tonyines (Tuna)

Despite my Fire engine red, Subea® float bag and two fluttering diver-down flags, I’m convinced that the skippers of all three sailboats hadn’t the slightest clue of my whereabouts, despite passing me within conversational distance.

Having professionally run boats for over twenty years, I can hardly blame them. A skipper’s mindset is on other vessels, rocks, navigational aids, crew, gear and a multitude of things that go bump in the day, and night. With the sun and spray directly in your face (or worse, a windshield), fishing floats the size of your average noggin are easily missed. I’ll readily admit to snagging lobster pots in Florida and a very costly salmon net, ‘head-on’ in Alaska.

40ltr Subea® float bag with additional 5ltr Itiwit® bag

I now sport a very dashing Orca® fluorescent orange, open water swim hat. Flying atop my float bag is a larger and taller red/white dive flag and a blue/white ‘Alfa‘ flag. I’m well aware of the ‘Diver Down’ meaning of these flags. Of course, I’m not technically diving and don’t give a hoot as to nautical rules and regs. I want to be visible. It’s the eye-catching movement of these flags that is so critical.

Asked about the title of their 1982 album, Diver Down, he replied “it was meant to imply that there was something going on that’s not apparent to your eyes”. 

David Lee RothVan Halen

Feeling relieved to have the crossing behind me, I rounded the breakwater and headed into a natural cave below the rocky outcrop of Les Carboneres, a late-19th century coal mine. My interest in exploring further, quickly faded after coming face-to-face with bobbing plastic Coke bottles.

Directly above the cave entrance, a pack of testosterone addled teens had gathered on the cliffs to ‘tombstone’ right where I needed to exit. A loud shout caught their attention, and I was given a ‘thumbs-up’ and granted safe passage. Seconds later, some cocky little bastard, depth-charged right behind me. Fair enough, 50 years ago, I’d done the same thing.

With enough excitement for any swim, I ended this 2km leg on the beach at Les Tonyines. I returned a few days later to camp the night, ready for the next 3.3 km to Platja LaVall

El Molló to La Vall (missing 5 min waypoints are due to low Spot® tracker batteries)

Tucking myself out of sight behind a large rock on the beach of El Molló, I enjoyed a peaceful, bug-free (people and insects) night. No tent needed. An hour after sunset a glorious full moon, blood orange-red, rose gracefully out of the Med. I was right where I wanted to be.

Up before dawn, full of coffee and baked apple porridge, I slipped into the sea before sunrise. The Med – smooth as a baby’s bum, not a wrinkle or wavelet in sight.

The coastline for the next four kilometres, all the way to El Port de la Selva, is accompanied by the GR 92 hiking trail and no less than nine separate beaches. The GR 92 (Grande Randonnée, a network of long-distance footpaths) forms the southern or Spanish portion of the E10 trail which runs between Finland and Spain. More of a boardwalk than a trail, this coastal section of the path is very popular with runners, walkers, families and their kiddies, who pointed and waved eagerly as I paddled by.

Instead of swimming the short distance around Cap de Bol, it was tempting to see if I could float over the barely covered mini peninsular leading to the Cap. Doggy paddling over rocks and sea urchins, I stumbled upright for a few metres before re-submerging to continue the very picturesque swim around the lighthouse of S’Arenella and south into the bay of El Port de la Selva. Somewhere, 24 metres below me, lay the remains of a Roman vessel from the 1st century BC.

Almost at my exit point, I was pleased to see the irresistible entrance to the Cave of Els Lladres (the thief) with two entries, plenty of light and a small beach. I’d loved to have rolled out my sleeping bag and spent the night. Bats, spooky sounds and imaginary monsters would have made it all the more fun. If only there had been a tad more beach.

My swim had been nothing short of excellent. 3km on a perfect summer’s day. Wading ashore, I was greeted by a beach full of affectionate mutts who bounded over, each one gleefully wet and wagging with delight. “Welcome to the Beach of La Vall” – an official Dog beach with a cheerful sign in three languages declaring it all theirs . . . how refreshing.

In contrast

“Most of us live in a world where more and more things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about all this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands, by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official version of things.”

Roger Deakin – Waterlog

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