Tuesday, 30 March 2010

29 Mar 2010 - Font Centella

At last the summer, or at least the spring, seems to have arrived here in Spain. After months of changeable, and often wet and grey, weather this week we have had warm and sunny days. So we were all very pleased to be told that this week we would attempt a new walk for the Monday Club.

The walk started from Tormos, and the first challenge was to find the car park. We normally park on the side of the Orba to Sagra road, but this walk was to start from the Piscina (swimming pool) car park, which is in the village itself. It sounded complicated to find, but proved to be easy. Tormos is only a ten minute drive from Parcent, and most of the group were waiting when we got there

The first part of the walk was on a difficult and not very well marked path. Peter and Pat had done a recce previously, but this did not prevent Peter from having difficulty finding the correct route.

It was a pretty hard climb for the first hour but we finally reached Font Centella, the highest point of the walk. Despite its very attractive name, the font proved to be a disappointment. The water was cold and some of the group filled their bottles, but the surrounding area was unimpressive.

The track downhill was much better than the one uphill, and we soon reached the path to Isbert Dam. We had left this path near the start of the walk and I was surprised to find when we rejoined it almost three hours later that we did so only a few miles closer to the dam.

If Font Centella was a visual disappointment, Isbert Dam was not. The approach to the dam is through this cleft in the mountain which looks like the entrance to a hidden valley. The steep walls ensure that it is always shaded here, and an excellent spot for lunch. Despite our earlier route finding difficulties earlier we reached our picnic spot right on time for our usual 1pm lunch break.

Peter and Pat enjoy a well deserved break from leading the walk

As we left the dam we had to clamber over the rocks in the dry river bed, and Peter fell quite badly. Apart from scratches he was fine, which was lucky as he did land hard. This is only worth mentioning because Peter has a well deserved reputation for being extremely sure footed. On most walks he goes leaping uphill to use up his surplus energy, and runs down paths the rest of us tackle with great care. Which just goes to prove that anyone can, and sometimes do, fall. If it can happen to our own “mountain goat” it can happen to anyone.

We were now in much more familiar surroundings. The route from the dam led through the disused railway tunnel which had been used to carry materials to build the dam. It’s quite a long tunnel and very dark for a short stretch at the start. So it was fortunate that Peter had a small torch, as there are a lot of large rocks inside which could well have caused someone else to fall. Fortunately we all managed it without incident.

There are two routes back to Tormos from Isbert Dam. One is an easy path along the river side. The other is a steep climb uphill to Fontilles followed by an equally steep walk back down to rejoin the other path. Needless to say our leader opted for the latter option!

The climb was steep, but the path was good. And once we had recovered from the climb the path through the woods was very pleasant.

The almond blossoms have all gone, but have been replaced by these cherry blossoms. They are not so extensive or striking as the almond, but still attractive and a reminder that spring has arrived.

It was then downhill to rejoin the path from Isbert Dam to Tormos.

The river bed is dry for most of its length. The one exception is where we have to cross it to get back to Tormos. It’s not very deep, and it’s quite easy to cross. Despite this I managed to get my feet wet the last time we were here. However everyone crossed without incident today. Jan didn’t really need the bamboo pole, but it looks good.

Previously we had always followed the road back to Tormos, but today Peter led us along the side of the (now) dry river. It was an easy path and made a nice change.

As we neared the village we had to walk through the orange groves to rejoin the cars

Monday is the one day of the week when the bar in the village is closed. But there are always alternatives, and the one on the Orba – Sagra road was open. However we had done enough walking for one day and drove the cars to our old parking area rather than walk through the village. The shandy was cold and very welcome.

Next Week

Col de Rates, but a different route. This will will follow the Stations of the Cross from Jalon and eventually join the usual path to the Col. Meet at the tourist information car park in Jalon at 10am. Hope to see you all then.

Monday, 22 March 2010

22 Mar 2010 - Baranco Inferno

Bright and sunny as we met at Benimaurell for one of the most impressive walks we do - the 2000 Steps and Baranco Inferno. There had been heavy rain during the night, and we were expecting the walk to be cancelled. Fortunately it cleared up leaving a fresh and sunny morning.

The walk leads through the village towards Fleix. The next time we see this bar on the left will be at the end of the walk. Let’s hope that the beer is in the fridge waiting for our return!

We have soon left Benimaurell behind us. The building on the hill to the right of the village is the hotel used by HF Holidays for their Costa Blanca walking holidays.

It’s not long before we leave the Fleix path and head downhill to the valley bottom. This part is easy going on the excellent mosarabic trail.

This is the view as we wind our way down the endless steps which zig zag into the valley below.

I have to thank Peter for taking this one, which includes me in it. Half way down the trail we pass through this arch which is an excellent photo opportunity

With a very short stop to wait for everyone to catch up, and take the group photo, it’s onward and downward again.

An hour or so after we left Benimaurell we finally reach the valley bottom and join the dry river bed, which will lead us to the Baranco Inferno.

Previously we had followed the river, which involved clambering over some rocks. But this time Peter found a path which ran alongside the dry river bed. Though easier than following the river, this way also included a little clambering!

Eventually we reached the spot where the 2000 Steps starts its long climb back up to Benimaurell. However we would push on for another half hour to reach the Baranco Inferno.

I thought we had already done some scrambling, but as Peter confirmed this is where the scrambling really begins.

We follow the river bed through a steep valley with huge rocks moulded by the water which fills this river when there are heavy rains.

The Baranco Inferno is a like a large cave where the river ends. There is a hole at the top where I assume there is a waterfall when the river fills with rain. Unfortunately we were unable to cover the final few hundred yards due to water from last night’s rain. There are often pools of water at this point, but previously we could work around them quite easily – but not today.

Peter went ahead to do a recce, but soon confirmed that we could not go any further without getting very wet, and the rocks were very slippery.

A short break to admire the surroundings…..

….and yet another photo opportunity

Then it was back the way we had come

Until we found a suitable spot to stop for lunch.

And then it was up, and up and up back to Benimaurell. This is a really steep climb, and for the first section the path is no more than a goat track. Worse it had been damaged by rain and wild boars, so it was even worse than I had remembered it from last year.

Eventually we reached the mosarabic trail which leads up to the village, the bar and the very welcome cold beer.

Next Week

Pat and Peter have done a recce of a new walk from Tormos. I have no idea of the route, but it is a completely new walk for this group. We will meet at 10am at the Piscina car park in Tormos. NOT at the usual parking area on the Orba-Sagra road. Hope to see you all then.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

20 Mar 2010 - Benimeli Aerials

The weather forecast said it would be cloudy, warn and dry. It was, and it was also very hot climbing to the aerials above Benimeli. After a couple of weeks when it has only been warm when the sun was shinning, today it really felt like being in Spain again. The temperature on the sign above the farmacia said 24c

The path follows the “stations of the cross” out of the village and is very steep. Within 15 minutes we were already well above the village and had good views of the valley, even if it was very cloudy.

This part of the track is rocky and quite hard going. We had frequent short stops to get our breath back, then on again towards the aerials.

After half an hour we arrive at the remains of an old settlement or village. It is the first flat bit of land, and a good place to have a water stop. It is also where two paths cross, and we watched a large group making their way down to Benimeli. They were very loud and very English, and we were glad that they were not going up to the aerials like we were.

The steepest part of the hill starts here, and the path is very difficult to find. Actually there are lots of paths up, but the official one is the easiest to walk but the most difficult to find. We failed to do so and just aim for the first cairn, from which we found the marked route.

Again we had to make frequent short stops, and despite the weather the views were ever more impressive.

Once we reach the aerials we join a gentle and flat path along the crest of the hill. We pass the ruins of an old Iberian settlement.

Eventually we reach the end of the crest, with views to the coast – but not today. We found it quite hard to see Montgo or Denia, let alone the coast.

As always we had our picnic lunch here. This walk has the best picnic site of all and it’s a delight to watch the birds and listen to the silence. Even with the restricted views today it’s a very magical spot.

Back to the aerials, and then down this long road for about an hour. Our least favourite part of the walk.

Eventually we join a track through the woods and around the opposite side of the hill to the one we had just climbed.

Just one week ago there would have been a mass of white and pink almond blossom’s here. Most have been replaced by very green new leaves and almond buds.

After a short couple of weeks the beautiful almond blossoms are replaced by the almonds, and the trees look ugly and stunted.

An hour after we left the aerials we reach the end of the path winding around the hill, and we start to make our way gently downhill along a difficult to follow goat track.

It’s not long before the church and buildings of Benimeli come into sight

And in no time we are seated in the village square with a cold glass of clara (shandy). The walk has taken less than four hours, but we are more hot and bothered than usual due to the hot and humid weather. So our glass of clara was even more welcome than normal.

Lovely end to a lovely walk.