After three hours of driving from where we slept for the night, the river finally comes into view. Turbulent and fast flowing, we start to wonder how we will paddle back upstream. We have planned a round trip because we only have one vehicle. We are soon reassured once we see the beginning of the gorge. A picture-perfect setting, a beautiful stretch of calm water sits downstream of the torrent, which brings with it white chalk sediment. This is the place.
Before we can start paddling, we come across our first obstacle: the road to the launch point is closed. So we would have to carry all our gear down for a good kilometre. It's doable, but we are dreading the steep and scorching descent with our fully loaded kayak. Presumably charmed by our rudimentary Spanish, the owner of a nearby kayak hire company offers to open the barrier and take us down in a 4x4!
We load our kayak, another advantage of the compact size of the x100 is that it easily fits inside the vehicle along with all the rest of our gear. Now on a muddy beach, under the blazing sun, we start inflating our craft. We're getting pretty used to it: 3 psi in each chamber, 5 psi for the high-pressure rigid floor, plus a few extra strokes of the pump to make up for the extra weight. It makes for a decent warm-up and we are already sweating, but we made it, we're happy.
A few "muchas gracias" later and we are on the water. Everything is stowed away nicely. The two barrels are at the back and the dry bags fit in the net on the rear deck, along with a few loose items. It's a tight fit but without being a squeeze; the weight is evenly distributed over the whole kayak.
The road quickly disappears out of sight behind us. As there are no other access points further downstream, we are officially heading out into the wilderness.
With the tops of dead trees poking out of the water, we imagine we are floating above and weaving our way through an underwater forest. At this point it is still quite wide, but already very wild.
A little further down, the cliffs start to form and the banks narrow. We are now entering the Congost de Monte Rebei. The cliffs are very close together, vertical above our heads. We are paddling in turquoise water, it's idyllic. We are not alone and we are accompanied by a number of rental kayaks, but we power past these streamlined and rigid craft with disconcerting ease. The x100 surprises us once again, fast despite being fully loaded.
With the day tourists overtaken and pristine blue-green water as far as the eye can see, we begin to scan the banks for a suitable camping spot. The topography we had seen online before we left proves to be correct and as such, given the vertical banks, there is absolutely nowhere to pitch a tent.
We keep going, admiring the vultures nesting in the cliffs, the hikers perched on suspension bridges that zigzag across the cliff faces and the footbridges that suggest another way to discover this natural park. From above, looking straight down, the view is surely just as spectacular.
A little disoriented in the maze of winding gorges, momentarily narrow, then wider, then narrow again, we quickly lose track of time and kilometres. Only GPS is able to give us our approximate location on the map. Our arms are starting to ache, which suggests that a good part of the first day's paddling is done. We decide to push on a little further each time, telling ourselves that around the next bend there will be a less steep slope that will be hospitable enough to spend the night.
After paddling for what feels like about 15 kilometres, we finally reach a small lake. We think we can make out a flat area on the opposite shore so we head straight there!
We discover a peninsula, with large flat beaches covered with fine sand: we couldn't have wished for anything better.
We set up camp, the view is breathtaking, with the southern entrance of the Congost de Monte Rebei in front of us on the opposite side and the outline of the mountain range behind it. There is no sign of civilisation as far as the eye can see, that's it, we are off grid now.
Time for some risotto and then bedtime.
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