Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Snow in Parcent

No walking in the hills this week! It started on Sunday with overcast gloomy skies, which turned to rain by late afternoon. By nighttime it was heavy rain, which was to continue for 36 hours.

We woke on Monday morning to heavy rain and strong winds and worse of all bitterly cold. But even worse was to come. By lunch time we had our first power failure. Not just the lights, but also the water. This was to continue throughout the whole day and all night. The main problem is that we never know whether it will last for five minutes or five hours. It comes and goes throughout the day and night.

Incidentally Monday was also our 41st wedding anniversary. We had planned to go out for a meal, but couldn't be bothered to get dressed up in the dark, and as the power cut was throughout Parcent, and Monday is closing day for most restaurants, it was unlikely that anything would be open anyway. But with a roaring fire and candle light it was quite a romantic meal. Fortunately we cook with gas so Jan was able to make the dinner - also by candlelight.

Then on Tuesday morning we woke up to the first snow we have had in our four years here in Parcent. Only a light scattering on the mountain tops, but unusual enough to take a few photographs. And of course our usual blue skies. By lunchtime it was warm enough to eat lunch on the naya and even have a little snooze afterwards.

But when the sun goes down so does the temperatures. Winter has arrived and our annual battle with the cold. These houses are designed for keeping cool in the summer, not for keeping warm in the winter.

The forecast is for slightly warmer weather and no more rain. So it looks like back to normal next week.

Monday, December 7, 2009

7 Dec 2009 - Lliber

We do two walks from Lliber, but this is my favourite. Its called Font l'Axia, or something very similar. A much more difficult climb than the other, but well worth it for the views and the valley walk back.

The walk starts in the village of Lliber, which is about 10 miles from Parcent. We parked in the central car park, which was quite busy due to today being a religious fiesta day. Its a tiny village, so we were soon out in "the campo". The path is not very clearly marked, so Pat did very well not to lose it.

One of the nice things about the Monday Club is that there is always someone to help anyone who needs it over the more difficult parts. This time Peter and Barry were providing the helping hands.

Once we started climbing it was not long before the jackets came off, though not the jumpers yet.

This is very typical of the walking in this area. The pace is not too fast, but quite steady. There is quite a climb to do, even though it is a quite gradual assent.

The first "proper stop". By now most are in shirt sleeves as the the combination of the climb and the sun has warmed us all up. Still quite a bit to climb, but a good spot for a group photograph.

The ever changing scenery looking towards the Jalon valley and the mountains beyond.

Almost there, though there was a false summit which was the cause of some "mumbling in the ranks". If people are able to complain it is a good indication that the pace is not too fast!

When we reached the top we had this wonderful view of Montgo and the coast . This is looking towards Pedreguer and Denia.

A short stop at the top, and another opportunity for one more group photograph....

....and then its back downhill again. The path down was considerably worse than the really good one coming up.

This narrow cleft in the rock is called something like "fat man's pass", or more likely "slim man's pass", because it is so narrow.

Throughout the decent there are excellent views of the coast. Though a bright and sunny day, it was quite misty and not very good for long distance shots.

Again Pat's call "can we have a man at the front" was answered - this time by Bob and (of course) Barry.

As we neared the valley bottom the path improved. It was still necessary to watch where you put your feet, but the track was much wider and more distinct. The paths had been marked recently on this side of the mountain, so following the path was pretty easy.

This reservoir was an ideal place to have our picnic lunch. The sun was now high and very warm and pleasant. Its quite easy to forget that it is mid December, it feels just like a warm spring day in UK.

This lovely clearing, which could easily be Scotland, was our lunch view

No picnic site or tables, but we are well used to making the best of what is available. This time is was the low wall. Fairly easy to get down, but some had problems getting up again!

After lunch it was a nice level walk along the valley back to Lliber. It was lovely to be able to step out and not have to take care where we put our feet down. However it was close to here that Jan fell off the path when she spent too much time looking at the view. Fortunately no damage done.

It doesn't take much to excite our interest, such as this plastic snow man in the garden of a house we passed. It gets very windy at this time of year and his arms were secured to the ground with chains to prevent him blowing away.

The latter part of the walk was along a dry river bed. Unusually the path was closed by the owner to prevent walkers using it. The river bed was not difficult, and was a contrast to the rest of the walk.
Just before we got back to Lliber, we passed this herd of bulls. They were not fenced in and seemed to be spread out over quite a big area.

As ever we finished the walk in the bar in Lliber village square. This was a longer than usual walk, but no one wanted to miss the end of walk drink

Ann has a well deserved reputation for enjoying a brandy at the end of the walk, which makes everyone else very jealous. Especially Jan, who was sitting next to her and could smell it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

5 Dec 2009 - Orba Castle

Orba Castle is one of our local walks, in fact this photo was taken from the end of our road.

Its always difficult to know what to wear for walking at this time of year. This morning we had blue skies, but it was cold enough to need a coat. We both love December and January, because it feels so fresh - like Spring in UK.

The first part of the walk is through "the campo" through masses of orange trees. The mountain is "The Green Horse", another favourite of ours. We usually walk in a group, but its nice to be on our own for a change. Everything is so quiet and peaceful.

This is pretty typical of the paths we use. They are not marked, and you only know about them by someone else taking you the first time. We have done this walk about 20 times, but earlier this year we took a wrong turning on the way back - too busy talking! There are many paths and most of them are farmers paths which only lead to his field.

After half an hour we reach the barranco (a dry river bed). This used to be a narrow river bed overgrown with weeds and bamboo. But a couple of years ago we had a big storm which resulted in heavy floods, and this river was completely changed. For months we could not do this walk at all as the water was too deep - and about four times as wide as we had ever seen it before. It is now almost completely dry, but still the same width. Very impressive, and unlike anything we had seen in UK.

Next comes the village of Murla, and then into the campo again heading for Orba Castle. The village was very busy, which is most unusual. First there was a market in the square, with lots of cheap and tacky Christmas decorations. Then there were a large group of hunters meeting in the village before setting off for a days shooting.

The climb is not too difficult, though it is on very bad tracks. There is a new "official" route, but we prefer our old one. It was not as overgrown as we feared it might be. It involves a little scrambling, but there are plenty of places to stop for a short break.

Two hours after we left the house we were at the castle. I am not sure how long the walk is, about 10-12 km I would think - plus the climb of course.

And this is the view which makes it all worth while. The castle is in ruins, but there is plenty of space to find shade or shelter from the wind if required. Today this was not necessary as it was sunny and warm when we reached the top.

We had the castle to ourselves, and we choose to sit facing the coast to have our picnic lunch. It is not the most comfortable place to sit, and you have to move around to find a spot that is not too uncomfortable.

This is the view we had whilst we ate our lunch. The town is Orba, and the mountains behind Benimeli (The Aerials walk). Orba valley leads to the coast at Ondara, which is near Denia. Today is a fiesta, and whilst we ate we could hear a distant band playing in either Orba or one of the other villages.

It was very pleasant sitting in the sun, but you don't want to sit for too long or you get stiff and its difficult to get going again. We took about half an hour for our lunch, and were off again before 12.30pm.

Half an hour later we were down in the valley again, and were home by 2.30pm. Even after a shower it was still warm and sunny on the naya, where it was 23 degrees in the shade. Just right for a well deserved cup of coffee, a short read and a doze!

Monday, November 30, 2009

30 Nov 2009 - Col de Rates

What a difference from last week! The temperature has fallen and it was just 7 degrees when we met in Parcent to climb the Col de Rates. We were all well wrapped up for the long approach walk. Even the steep climb to the top did not make us remove our jackets. This photo is taken at the finca which marks the end of the steep climb. We only had a short stop as it was too cold to linger for long.

From the finca is is a lovely level walk to the restaurant on the Col de Rates. Even the cold wind could not take away from the lovely views of Parcent and the Orba valley beyond leading to the coast.

Margaret, left above, suggested that we have a coffee in the restaurant, and there were no objections. I was not sure that the management would welcome us in our walking boots, but it was very quiet and I think they welcomed the custom. It was lovely and warm, with a blazing fire in one corner. And very cosy with all of the Christmas decorations already in place. It was however not easy to get everyone going again when we have finished our coffee!

By the time we started downhill the sun was shinning, though the wind was very cold. We made our way to our usual lunch spot, and found some shelter from the wind behind some rocks. Even in the sun it was not warm, the wind being very cold, but with our jackets on and our backs to the wind it was ok for a short break. Then the long downhill walk along very good tracks to Parcent and the cars. Despite the drop in temperatures it was still a lovely walk.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

23 Nov 2009 - Benimeli Aerials

These are the aerials from Benimeli, a lovely walk and not nearly as difficult as it looks. There were 17 for the walk, a good turn out for the Monday Club. This is a walk which Jan and I do quite often, as it is a favorite to take our fitter visitors. Not too much climb and spectacular views of the coast, Jalon and Orba valleys.

This local turned up as we were putting our boots on. I have never seen him before, and am not sure whether he was some sort of local character. He made a great fuss of getting us to move off the road so that he could get his horse and cart past, but I think it was all a bit of an act.

The walk starts with a stroll through the village and then uphill following the stations of the cross. It is quite a steep climb, and no where to stop for a break. Though we did have short stops just to allow everyone to keep up.

The weather today was pretty well ideal for walking. Warm sun and clear blue skies, with a cool wind. Fortunately the first part of the climb was in the shade, because we were soon feeling quite warm enough without our jumpers or jackets.

We were soon well above the valley and I could tell by the constant nattering that the pace was not too fast for anyone. Normally we allow everyone to climb at their own pace, but on a narrow track like this it is not possible. So setting a suitable pace for everyone is not easy.

It took us just over half an hour to reach our first halt. This was at an abandoned finca on a flat area just before we started the second stage of the climb. It’s a good spot to have a short break. There is plenty of space to sit, and the walls provide shelter from the wind. This was not really necessary today, as it is also a nice little sun trap.

Time for our first group photo before we set off again. This was the last walk before they return to UK for David and Rosemary, and he also takes photographs of the walks. So in the group photographs either he or is are always missing. I took this one, but I have a copy of the one he took with me in it as well.

The views of the valley are always changing as we climb. The village on the right is Benimeli where we started, then Rafol on the right and Sagra on the far right. Orba is in the middle distance and behind is “Cavall Verde” (our Green Horse walk).

The second part of the climb is short and sharp. There are many paths to the top, many of them marked by different groups. However last year a new official path was marked in green and white, and that is the one we followed today. It is slightly longer and more winding than the old one, but it is a much easier climb. I offered to let the group use any path they preferred, but all opted for the official one when I told them it was an easier climb.

At the top is a lovely view point, shaded by this large tree. There is also a car park and a picnic area with wooden tables. Fortunately it was empty today, because it is really annoying to do all of that climbing and then find a group sitting and enjoying the view who have only walked a few yards from their car.

It was a clear day and we had views of the coast all the way to Valencia and beyond. There were also views of the coast and of course of Montgo overlooking Denia. The area directly in front is a large rice fields which are famous locally for bird watching.

From here there is a steep climb up the road leading to the aerials, and then a nice flat walk past the Iberian ruins to our picnic spot at the end of the ridge. Lots of flat rocks to sit and eat our picnic lunch.

I climbed this rock to take photos of the group at lunch, and of the surrounding area. Whilst there David took this photo of me.

A lovely view of Montgo with Denia and the coast behind. I seem to take one of this view every time we do this walk. But I never tire of these views or enjoy sitting in a sunny spot having lunch. It always makes us realize how very lucky we are t o live in such a lovely area.

A rare photo of Jan and I together, again courtesy of David. Jan did complain at having to climb up the rock to have it taken, but I think it was well worth the effort.

Sue making the best of a quiet moment to sit and admire the views.

Another view of the rice fields and the coast behind. The whole coast from Benidorm in the south to Ondara in the north is covered with urbanizations. They all have sea views and consist of a narrow strip of housing. Most are holiday homes, and are deserted at this time of year.

Everyone is very comfortable sitting in the warm sunshine, and not in any hurry to start walking again. But you have to be careful not to sit for too long, or you get stiff and sore when you finally get going again. Half an hour is about right, though it is tempting to stay much longer.

If you look a very carefully at this photo you can see the ruins of a small fort or watch tower built high on the side of this rock face. There is a path which leads downhill towards the coast.

Well rested we set off back along the ridge to the aerials, then downhill and around the side of the hill back to Benimeli

The final stretch of path is an overgrown trail through the undergrowth. This used to be a very difficult path to follow, but has also been marked and cleared about a year ago and is now much easier to follow.

The walk down to the village always takes much longer than you expect, but you are soon rewarded with these views down the valley.

Just as we reached the village we passed this colourful tree, which provided a very suitable background for our final group photograph. As you can see everyone is still relaxed and smiling. This is not one of the most taxing walks we do, but it is one of the most enjoyable.

The best part of any walk – a well deserved drink at the end. We always visit this bar in the village centre, and we usually have the outside area to ourselves. Most Spanish prefer to take their drink inside watching TV. If there is anyone else in the square they are usually “ex pats”.