In our little village of El Port de la Selva we often see signs put up by the town advertising upcoming events. We checked with Isobel in the local information office to find out more about the latest trip, a Sunday morning excursion to a series of caves that have apparently been inhabited since neolithic times -- sign us up!
We met the rest of our group and our guide at 9:30 this morning, and after waiting for a few latecomers, our little convoy of cars headed off along the Cadaques road. Within minutes we pulled off the road and parked by a dry river bed. Unfortunately the next part of our trip involved walking awkwardly for perhaps a kilometer up the shingle riverbed, which only a few weeks ago had been a raging torrent. Finally, we left the river bed, passed through a small olive grove and scrambled up a short slope through huge wild rosemary bushes and pear cactus to reach the first cave.
We learned that the eight sandstone caves showed signs of human use dating back four to six thousand years. Not much is known about the earliest inhabitants, but we saw some intriguing evidence apparently dating from the Roman era. At this time the caves had been enlarged and a cement like coating added to the walls. We could plainly see the remains of stone walls along the cliffs immediately above the caves, and evidence that walls had once protected the cave openings as well. Our guide explained that at one time the caves were possibly occupied by Christian hermits. Scratches in the walls showed a cross very clearly and what were believed to be images of a Roman ship, identified by its square sail. Another pictogram apparently showed a Roman shipwreck at night complete with stars.
You may wonder how we gained all this information with our limited Catalan. It's quite simple. Every time we go on one of these jaunts someone very kindly volunteers to translate for us, for which we are most grateful. We noticed that one of the group was listening very intently to our translator, and sure enough, this person also spoke English and soon joined in with his own version.
At this point we discovered that most of the group, which included a number of children, had come prepared with sandwiches which they now began unwrapping. As we had already eaten and not brought anything with us, we said our 'thank yous' and 'goodbyes' and headed back to our car, this time taking the more comfortable route along the paved road.
We wrapped up a very pleasant morning with cafe con leche and croissants at Club Nautica. We sat with the sun shining in our faces while we picked pear cactus needles out of our hands and legs, but it was all worth it!