Ramon’s shoulder blade was broken. His uncle, a doctor, issued his diagnosis after one look. Thanking us, he started to prepare for the drive to Figueres hospital.
We drove down to our apartment, making the supermarket barely five minutes before it closed. Lugging the five litre container up two flights of stairs we slammed the front door shut. As we poured the water straight down our parched throats, we began to laugh with pure joy.
What a day it had been. A year previously we had walked the eight kilometres or so along the coastal path from Port de la Selva to Llança. That was another hot day and as we arrived on the outskirts of Llança we came across a fruit shop. I remember eating the juiciest nectarine ever, the juice running down my chin.
This time we were headed for Tavallera, a cove deep within Cap de Creus natural park and accessible by a path from Port de la Selva. We learnt of it from a book of local walks, had read about the isolated cove and its freshwater well. We imagined nothing but us, the sea, a rocky beach and plenty of fresh water straight out of the ground. How wrong could we be!
Cap de Creus is beautifully stark with dark volcanic rock and Cadaqués its best known town. Salvador Dalí lived at Port Lligat, near Cadaqués, and some of his works include the distinctive rock formations of the area. It is the eastern most point of the Iberian Peninsula and often battered by 100 kilometre plus winds that cause the sea to boil. At those times life is sheer misery.
We set out in the afternoon, with just a couple of cans of Fanta in our rucksack. Little else. The sun beat down as we stomped along the dusty paths. Past the ruins of Sant Baldiri, past the farm. Walking, walking, tired, hot, thirsty.
After we’d been walking for more than an hour and a half we reached a steep downward incline. Descending carefully we finally found ourselves at the edge of the cove. But rather than the deserted beach we expected, Tavallera was full of people. Many appeared to have arrived by boat, dozens of which were moored in the bay. At least the well was close.
But when we walked the few steps towards it we saw a notice. The water was polluted and not safe to drink.
That was a real blow. We’d spent the better part of nearly two hours in the heat, fantasising about that well. But we did at least have the Fanta.
We shared a can and had a swim. But aware of the time it had taken to reach the cove, we didn’t want to set back too late and be out there at nightfall.
We started up the slope, along the dusty paths, just looking forward to getting home. We had no drinking water at home, but we would at least have time to buy some. We still had the other can of Fanta, but we would wait a while.
As we trudged back towards Port de la Selva the salt from our still-damp swimming clothes began to chafe. After a while I could take it no longer. Checking ahead to make sure there was no one else around I removed my swimming trunks.
We walked and walked, skin burning, dusty and dry. We shared the Fanta. We talked more about water. We would get there but couldn’t afford to rest too long as the supermarket closed at 9 pm.
I put my trunks back on again, expecting at any moment the sight of whitewashed buildings, of civilisation. But it just didn’t seem to come. On we trudged.
And then we realised we must be close. The car would soon be revealed. Two mountain bikes rushed past us, too fast for the rocky path. Too close to pedestrians. We cursed them.
As we rounded the corner we saw the car at long last. We also saw the bikes stopped on the path ahead. One rider was upright, the other on the ground clutching his shoulder. And when we reached him it was clear something was wrong, his shoulder contorted at an unlikely angle.
Leaving his friend to get the two bikes back home, we drove the injured rider home. Ramon was clearly in considerable pain but tried to make small talk in English as we bumped along the dirt track.
Ten minutes or so later we were outside his home and got the attention of a portly man, who turned out to be his uncle. Luckily he turned out to be a doctor and took charge immediately.
It was a tough walk with a couple of unforeseen obstacles thrown our way, although the lack of fluids was of our own making. But what I remember most was the joy of gulping down that water when we finally got back to our apartment.