Les Carbanes De LaPalarm – Paradise Lagoon
I woke with a different worry. There was a brief moment between waking up and checking were I wasn’t sure. I didn’t feel any pain but maybe my arsehole had been bruised so badly the nerve endings were no longer capable of feeling the pain. Turned out I was fine in that department. I hadn’t been rohypnoled in the night and bum rushed. Relief without pain in a funny sensation, I certainly would have chuckled at the alternative.
I didn’t rise anywhere near as early as I should have done. By the time I got the water on the boil, the mosquitos had also woken up wanting their breakfast also adding another 4 to the collection, on top of the previous nights score of 8 whilst on the phone to friends plotting the next adventure, to accompany the previous day’s total of 20. Total bites on the long push is currently somewhere around the 50 mark. News from google didn’t help either! I wanted the know the best times to avoid the little buggers, not information that I chosen the first year that the southern American Tiger Mosquito had settled and plagued the Perpignan region. I left the abandoned campsite with more damage but at least it was the face and not the arse.
My first leg of the day was about 300ft to the warehouse at the end of the road. I was already knackered, even with a decent cup of fresh coffee in me, opting to take shelter from the risen sun and check my notifications on the various networks.
My decision to continue was most certainly the right idea. Not only had I already written thousands of words to date, not only were there people mailing me and asking for further updates, but it seems my last post was bringing in an unexpected amount of messages. I mean, it was simply supposed to be a post that replied to those that wrote to me, in bulk, but instead, was opened my johns to a flood of support, well wishes, offers, gifts of unimaginable generosity, messages of concern… the list went on. Then, when I cleared the first lot of notifications, I refreshed and started working on the next wave. Seems like the UK was waking up and every had was pointing one way, South!
I had to press on and I knew the board wasn’t going to help me today. The route I room was marked as acceptable for a certain type of cyclist which included anyone with crippling depression, those that had escaped the death sentence by use of a sneaky lawyer and, of course, Max Clifford. It wasn’t a road, it was a noose tied of a hundred HGVs, cliff faces that guaranteed no removal of the helmet regardless of how much sweat was pouring from my right brow and into my eye, due to the falling rocks.
Yes, it was a much slimmer road than the autoroute alternative and I can understand the velo route planning consultant making a decision to mark this as acceptable if he was looking at a map of the world trough the bottom of a pint glass but that doesn’t mean that it was in any way safe. The distance between my body and the rock face was like a closing vice. I splayed my body against the rocks everyone I heard a big lorry approaching, out of respect but also to keep myself from being swept off my feet by the sidewinds delivered with every pass which strangely was a huge risk but also the only relief I had from the roasting heat now dead centre in the sky.
I pressed on by opting for the long grass at the edge of a field that ran adjacent picking up some company as I went in the form of 4 tics, heads buried firmly in my shins. I removed 3 with “my first Opinel” – a lockable and extremely sharp knife I picked up at the Decathlon store a week earlier, just as deadly as the original version but with a bright green handle that should appeal well to both little girls and boys.
I left the 4th as it had bullseyed a mozzie bite, therefore probably doing more good than harm.
As the window of the car that had pulled over wound down, I realised I’d found my salvation and when the driver, Greg, saw my board, his face lit up. Greg is an ex skater. Spent most of his youth on a board and even picked it up again, just as had I, later on in life. He spoke good English and told me to jump in. Some people emanate friendliness, he was one for sure! Safety, a supermarket and a much safer route was only 4km away, just not in the direction I was going. Phew!
Greg managed a good few interesting stories during this short trip. He offered me work in fact! (let’s face it, anyone who’s capable of skating this distance has already passed the interview for being a fruit picker). He told me of another “must see” location that I immediately added to the list of spots I won’t be seeing as I concentrate on making progress South. Then he shoved a bit of hash in my hand and dropped me off at a supermarket for supplies but, once again, the day delivered more surprises as the manager offered me a double espresso on the house and introduced me to her dog….
This one didn’t like me either. Security guards and dogs are fundamental skate racists and not afraid to show it whenever the opportunity arises. For the guards it’s the board that spells trouble. For the dogs is the helmet, so I removed “la casket” so I could get successfully close enough to tell it to shut up, but with a head ruffle of friendliness. The coffee was awesome! The strawberry cola that the Spar do in this region wasn’t, but, well, it’s a tough day granted, but there’s something quite strange going on here!…
She confirmed the direction to Perpignan as Greg had told me and I set off once more almost falling over as soon as I spotted out of the air con and into the blazing heat once again.
The road was much the same, deadly! The heat was worse, deadly but I still had a tiny lighter flint like spring in my step from the morning messages. Something to focus on other that the battles in my mind, finally. This carried me for about another 8km but the heat eventually got too much to bare. I saw a tunnel leading under the autoroute and decided to rest in the shade it offered. A few steps into the dust, I spotted a guy at the other end of the tunnel getting into what I assumed was rock climbing gear. Eager for another chat with the only other human I’d seen for a few miles silly enough to be without an HGV, I approached for a chat. It was scuba gear he was getting into! He was a man of few words. When he saw the sweat pouring off me, he simply some with a finger pointing right and said “go for a swim! Cool down.”
There’s a famous film that has been shot here, if not, there will be and it’ll be called something like “the blue lagoon” or “oasis from heaven” or maybe “Sod ibiza! Go no further, it doesn’t get better than this”.
I hadn’t followed Gregs instructions one bit. I didn’t find the location he told me about. It found me!
My jaw dropped to the rocks as I looked at a large pool of crystal clear water springing from under the mountain to my left. Aqua blue as if someone had already been fucking around with the image filters on Instagram. A strip of white sand shining from the depths, calling me in. No fish bar a couple of tiny roach like things, so small even I couldn’t make out the species.
As the diver disappeared into the underwater caves within the mountain, I stripped off for the best bath I’ve ever experienced. The water cold enough for an unavoidable yelp as it hit my balls. Cool, clean, fresh! Totally bliss!
Now remember, this is all happening on day after yesterday which was uncomfortably sat two days after one before the one before.
I chilled to the point of uncomfort, stepped back onto dry land and instantly started sweating again after drying within seconds of the heat. I dived back in of course and had an unexpected urge for a Bounty.
This was a moment.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how amazing this spot is. When I was first told about Atlantis in ibiza, I was expecting this! I was still amazed by what I found when I got there back in 1999 but this was the real thing! A true oasis.
It wasn’t totally perfect so I’ll list the negatives and get back to the beauty very shortly: road noise and mosquitoes. Done!
I fired back up my phone after finding some shade and snaking into whatever was left in my larder. Another round of wonderful messages poured in after a very dear one of my ibizans had posted my page around whilst I hiked through the heat. “A little more stoke for you sir before the next course of your beauty bath?”… only if you insist garçon! Otherwise, “please, please YES!”
A couple more swimmers stopped to cool down for 20 mins but apart from that, this oasis was mine and I didn’t want to leave. I had it all to myself for about 2 hours before the scuba divers bubble broke the surface. But he didn’t. He just stayed on the bottom, every part of his equipment in crystal clear HD, from my shoreline patch of shade, even at 15-20ft.
He was a man of little words. As he pulled himself up onto the bank and started carting his 6 cylinders back to his rather impressively new, white VX60, I tried to thank him for the finger that brought me this wonderful place. I know quite a bit of French now! Well, enough to show a ridiculously high level of appreciation anyway. But still, he said very little. He returned for another armful of kit as my gaze slipped back into the lagoon. I offered to help of course. Still nothing, just a pleasant smile, more gear lugged. One more load but this time he came back bearing a gift (another one for the pile). A half frozen bottle of water.
Now that kind of item on a day like today really is something you should expect between humans, especially on a day like today. In reality, it’s kinda like when you were a kid at school and the teacher gave you a fresh book because you’d just filled in the last page or the cover was torn or too offensive due to the amount of cock you’d scrawled over it. I actually had a litre with me of course. But this wasn’t about the gift, it was about it being the 9th gift of the day, in a day, on the day, after “those days”. And I hope that one stays firmly in the past tense!
He didn’t say much. Which was even stranger because he spoke perfect English. I probably looked very confused.
After he returned for that time, the kit was now on its way back in the form of two chilled smoothies and a cold Red Bull………. I was lost for words when I first saw this place!
I wanted to stay. Headphones on and sitting in the direct sunlight keep the mosquitoes away and puts the road noise at bay. It was beautiful. But, although I had water, I had very little food in the North Face hamper, not enough!
I went for a couple more swims and foolishly got a little sunburn on my back (not ideal with a 16lb reminder with every step, but at least that’ll take the attention away from the blister pain) and waited for the heat to die down.
I headed south once more making a total of 26km (and I even rounded that one up!) finishing up just North of Perpignan.
The camp spot tonight is ideal, but a little risky. There a small patch of fir trees in the middle of an open expanse. The pine needles offering comfort from the very Spanish looking dry, reddish, cracked earth. But there’s also an outhouse to my left that’s been frequented by other rough sleepers. Oh goody! I hope they’re skateboards from East Sussex too!
Yeah, I think I might have got some positive back from today.
There’s more that needs to be written about today. I have a whole chapter of thankyous just for Greg and the Spar lady and Silent Bob. But I thinks that’s all safely tucked away. I won’t be forgetting one, ever.