I was lost somewhere in the forests of the Massís del Garraf coastal mountain range. It was directly behind Platija de l’Home Mort, a gay naturalist beach on the outskirts of Sitges, Spain. I’d been wandering for at least 30 minutes; the network of trails seemed endless, engulfed by bushes and branches. I’d fallen asleep in the sun while on the beach an hour earlier, and had woken dizzy and light-headed. I probably had sunstroke. I had no water either, just two small beer cans in my pack. Despite all that, I wasn’t about to turn around.
After my time in Berlin, I had decided to do a quick trip to Spain for a few weeks before heading back to North America. I was reluctant to go back to Toronto at all, but I had promised Ernan that I would head back before heading to California. I heard that Sitges was one of Europe’s gay Meccas, like Provincetown is for the US, so I found a cheap room with a visual artist/social worker who couldn’t speak much English.
I’d decided to check out Platija de l’Home Mort because of the cruising alone. The descriptions of where it actually happened were vague, as they often are. From all accounts, you should enter the forest by crossing the train tracks behind the beach and then go uphill. It seemed simple enough, but nothing that’s good in life is that easy.
There was a thin, dark tunnel at the beach that led under the train tracks to a clearing in the forest on the other side. The listing said nothing about this tunnel, but it was the only way to get to the other side of the tracks. I found a few naked men leaning against trees. I thought that this might be the spot, but there were also a small group of guys picnicking within view — maybe I was wrong.
I noticed a narrow trail that led into a thick bush. Uphill, just like in the description online described it. It resembled a typical park cruising trail, somewhat inconspicuous and wild. That must be it, I thought. As I ascended, my heart started pounding. That’s when I began wondering if I really did have sunstroke.
The trail led up into the mountainous area, away from train tracks. It went so far up I could see Platija de l’Home Mort and some naked sunbathers. I wasn’t sure if this was the right way — you never really know — but I found the landscape intriguing, so I kept going.
I continued up the trail and took the first right, heading deeper into the forest along the side of the mountain. It was so thick in there that I couldn’t even see the sky above. After continuing through the bush for a few minutes, I felt like I was being devoured by this mass wilderness. This wasn’t regular park cruising — it was a real backcountry experience like you’d find at Yosemite, and it was just as intimidating.
There were so many turns I’d taken that I became disoriented and couldn’t tell which way the sea was. I wasn’t even sure if I was walking along a path anymore, or if it just looked like a path because it was between a narrow clearing among a series of trees. That’s when I knew that I was lost.
I stopped walking, and dropped my bag on the path . . . or whatever it was that I was on. I could’ve attempted to backtrack. That was the safe decision, but even if I knew which way “back” was, I decided I didn’t want to give up. I was going to find that cruising spot no matter what.
Cruising isn’t quite dead in North America, but it’s quickly becoming a lost art form, mastered by the older generations and made irrelevant with Grindr. To me, it’s always been something that’s classically gay, and even though I grew up in front of a computer, I made the effort to master this art form during the last few months of travel. Many gay men condemn cruising because they think they’ll be taken more seriously if they follow the rules of matrimony, but I couldn’t settle for that. I was on a mission for some sort of enlightenment, sexual or otherwise. So I kept wandering through the forest, looking for sex.
I miraculously found my way back to what seemed to be a foot trail. I continued along it some more, until I finally stumbled upon a naked man, sunbathing in the small spot in the forest where rays of sun were coming through. He was laying on his stomach, ass up . . .