Five quarters of an hour

GeronaWhen I decided to spend a long weekend in Spain, I had the idea to do some hiking in Cap de Creus Natural Park. I initially looked for a host at the seaside village of Cadaqués which lies at the centre of the protected area, but eventually got invited by a guy who is refurbishing an old flat in Roses and puts it to the disposal of passing travellers. How nice!

I spent the morning in Gerona, gadding around the old town, watching the compact wall of colourful houses reflecting into the still waters of the river in the early morning, following the walk along the top of the city walls, and finally heading to the bus station. In Catalonia I know I am in Spain, but in a region with its own language that has become a powerful political weapon in its bid for autonomy. The independence flags that draped many of Gerona’s windows and balconies told me how strong this feeling is and to what high level regional pride has grown. That show of nationalism generated a slight uneasiness that compounded my discomfort with only being able to speak Castilian.

In Figueras I visited the Theatre Museum that collects the works of the creative genius that was Salvador Dalì. Whatever idea whirled in his mind and was churned out in the form of object, jewellery, painting, etch, sculpture and what not, found its way into this extraordinary exhibit. There were plenty of interesting pieces on show, but a few seemed like old junk with the embryo of an artistic idea that didn’t quite get to the stage of final accomplishment. The impression was sometimes one of chaos rather than organised beauty.

I got to Roses in the late afternoon and was received by two other guests of the house. The owner joined us only later and we spent the evening chatting with our feet dangling from one of the jetties and then in the flat. Julian decided to accompany me on the following day’s hike to Cadaqués. Knowing that the coastal trail was about 25 km long, my idea was that we’d catch a bus back to Roses in time for my 5.30 departure. One of Julian’s friends, though, had said we’d walk for about 3 hours, so we’d have time to trek back. I’d also paid a visit to the tourist office, but had come out with rather confused ideas after talking to people who’d obviously never ever walked on that route, if ever any other.

The sun shone bright and there was hardly any shade along the trail. I was wearing a sleeveless shirt and feared I would get sunburnt. The trail went along the coast, up and down the hills, across beaches, never quite making a way into the wilderness as I’d hoped. The hours went on and on, and I realised that Julian’s informant had probably never trekked to Cadaqués either, definitely not in three hours. We stopped for a snack and asked someone how long it would still take to reach our destination. It was just nearing the time when I risked not making it back to Roses by 5.30 pm.

CadaquésThe man sounded familiar with trekking in the area. He described the route in detail and estimated we’d take five quarters of an hour to get to Cadaqués. In my obnubilated mind, it took a few seconds to figure that out and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d have burst out with laughter at what sounded like a joke, but it was not. When I repeated to myself “one hour 15 minutes” it suddenly acquired a meaning. I thanked him and kept on walking up the hill.

Eventually, it took us one hour and a half to reach the charming little village. The mind was not the only one to be tired. If it had taken me a little longer to work out the odd expression that man had used to measure time, it also took me a little longer to walk all the way up and then down to Cadaqués.