It’s only 10am, but the temperature has already risen to a balmy 28degrees. Luckily we’re paddling in the open sea – a few splashes of sea water immediately cool me down. Here in the Mediterranean, the weather is as beautiful as the shimmering coastline. It’s hard to believe that just an hour earlier, we were wrapped in sweaters braving the chilly morning air of the Pyrenees Mountains, and now we’re sea kayaking in nothing more than our bikini and wetsuit.
This is Costa Brava – a slice of Northeastern Spain that packs in everything from ski resorts to dormant volcano craters to wild beaches – each of them just within an hour’s drive to one another. During our week-long trip through the Pyrenees, we went from the steep mountains in Vall de Nuria through the volcanic area of La Garrotxa and down to the coast of Cap de Creus. We’ve had the grand opportunity to see the region from air (onboard an aircraft and a hot air balloon), land (4×4 segways) and now, the sea.
Cap de Creus: Sea Kayakers’ Paradise
That morning, we met our instructress, Pat, from SK Kayak on the beach of Llançà. This famous beach lies at the edge of Cap de Creus, a cape that straddles the invisible border dividing Spain and France. Famous kayakers like Nigel Foster are frequent visitors of this area – drawn here by its nautical challenges and interesting marine life. SK Kayak organizes day excursions along Cap de Creus as well as multi-day kayaking expeditions along the entire Costa Brava shoreline.
After a quick 5-minute safety briefing, we suited up in our gear, carried our fiberglass kayaks out to the sea and we were soon off gliding in the open sea. As soon as we’d left shore behind, I couldn’t wipe off the wide grin on my face. Having grown up on an island, I have a strong affinity to the sea and I’m the happiest when surrounded by it. As we paddled, I ran my toes through the water and dipped my fingers in to touch the sharp spikes of the sea porcupines – and I’ve never felt more alive.
Entering a Different World: Paddling in a Cave
Back in the sea, I’m enjoying the tranquility and the sensation of floating on the sea when our instructress slides by, with the rest of the kayak group in tow. Adorning a pair of Oakley’s, a tanned complexion and bleached blond hair, she can easily pass off as a California surfer chick. But looking around the shore, I see stacks of white-washed houses piled up in the town of Llançà, and I’m reminded that I’m in Spain.
We follow her lead, paddling close to the rocky cliffs that hug the shoreline, catching a glimpse of the hidden bays tucked in between. We’re not far from the beach of Llançà, and yet, amidst these craggy rocks, I feel as if we’ve left it all behind and plunged deep into the backcountry. Pat tells us that we’ll be paddling into a narrow cave where we may get the chance to see nudibranch (sea slug). I’m stoked – while I’ve kayaked along fjords in Alaska and in the ocean off Mauritius, I’ve yet to kayak in caves and narrow inlets.
As we ease our kayaks through the crack in the cliff, we find ourselves pushing the rock walls with our hands instead of paddles to move slowly into the cave. A cave this small may induce claustrophobia, but I’m too excited to feel my nerves. Pushing past the crack, we get to a tiny circular inlet – here, the water looks even clearer than before, shimmering in clear shades of emerald green under the sun’s rays. As I eyeball 360 degrees around me, I’m in awe by the natural setting and atmosphere – it’s almost as if we’re in a different world here.
Once back out in the open, we’re paddling freely in shallow waters again. I’ve obviously picked the right partner: Katie is a master at steering our kayak in the right direction and our paddling rhythm is in sync. As the two of us paddle swiftly away from shore, I satiate the smell of freedom and embrace the feeling of ocean breeze in my hair.
Towards the end of our sea kayaking experience, I look out to the mountains that lie inland and glimpse back at the open sea behind me – it’s still hard to believe such geographical extremities can exist in one region, but the truth evidently lies before my eyes. Having explored its mountains, rivers, volcanoes and now the sea, I wonder what other surprise the Pyrenees has in store for me…