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”.

Monday, November 16, 2009

16 Nov 2009 - Bernia Circuit

Its almost three years since we walked the Bernia circuit with the Monday Club, and I would have thought that there would have been a larger group than the 11 who took part. On the other hand it is quite a difficult walk, and includes a low tunnel through the mountain, so perhaps it was not too surprising.

It was a warm and sunny day, but with a lot of haze on the coast. So the views as we climbed were quite magical.

After an easy walk to the font, with very pleasant view to the coast, we filled our water bottles with the lovely cold water. Then it was uphill all the way to the tunnel. It is quite a steep path, with not many places to stop to rest. But it was on the shaded side of Bernia, so it was much cooler than exposed to the sun.

Sue was supposed to lead this walk, but was not able to make it today. Fortunately she had done a recce during the week with David, who was happy to lead. He set an excellent pace, not too fast or slow, and did not get lost once.

The tunnel is not easy to see until you reach it, but the path is now quite well signed and easy to follow. This is the final approach to the entrance to the tunnel.

The tunnel is quite low, and you have to crouch crab like to inch your way through. Its very hard on the legs and back. But the floor is often less than clean, as the goats often use it to shelter when it rains. Fortunately it was clean and dry today.

There is the most fantastic view towards Benidorm, Alicante and the Guadalest valley as you emerge from the tunnel.

There is also plenty of room to sit and recover, and to admire the view. We had our first “banana break” here to recover from the climb.

After the climbing on the shaded side we were now sitting in the warm sun and admiring the clear blue sky. It would have been easy to sit here for an hour or so, but we still had a long way to walk.

Just time for a group photo before David was blowing his whistle and warning “two minutes”. Time to pack our water bottles away, get our haversacks on and off we go.

The path had recently been greatly improved. The markings were on the old path, which was quite confusing. However both paths kept crossing each other, so it didn’t really matter which one we took. The newer one was easier to walk on, so we stuck to that

The path runs just below the summit of Bernia, and Pat stopped to admire the high peaks just above us.

An example of the peaks, which looked quite easy to climb but Peter confirmed were more difficult than they looked.

A lot of the path was like this, but a vast improvement on what it used to be like. Even though there was a lot of shale, a path had been cleared through it and clearly marked.

David and Peter were leading, with Pat in close support. The pace was excellent, and no one had any trouble keeping up. It was also quite a good pace, and we finished the whole walk in less than five hours.

I had forgotten that there are a few houses quite high on the slope of Bernia, and a very good road not much below our track.

Hard to believe that last week we all had our warm clothes on as it was very cold for our Green Horse walk. Today it was similar a warm summer day in UK, though with a pleasant cool breeze. November and December are often two of the best months for hill walking here on the Costa Blanca.

Although it looks quite difficult, the path was actually very safe and easy to follow. This is a spot where we had trouble finding the path when we last did it on our own, but it is now very well marked and easy to follow.

Although the path was pretty level for most of the way, there was the occasional section which involved a bit of a climb. We had now been walking for about three hours, and everyone was beginning to feel the heat and the strain.

You can see from this photo just how close we were to the actual jagged peaks of Bernia.

Lunch is in view as we approach Bernia Fort. This last section is along a level and well defined path. Although clearly in view, it is difficult to identify the Fort until you are very close as it is now a ruin and does not stand our from the surrounding hills.

We arrived just after 1pm and being in direct sun, and having been walking since 10am we were all “glowing”. So we needed to find a shaded spot for lunch.

Gathered in the shade of one of the ruins we spent a very pleasant half hour having our lunch. This photo was taken into the sun, and it was not as dark as it appears.

The lovely view into Guadalest valley from our picnic site.

Ken (far left) had hurt his finger when he stumbled during the early part of the walk. And received very little sympathy during lunch as he applied some very basis first aid. Everyone was quick to mock as he displayed the injured finger.