Monthly Archives: October 2013

GR7 VALENCIA. El Rebollar – Valencia and home.

Take me to the station and put me on a  train, I have no expectations to pass this way again…    play with Spanish lyrics – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhk-ojOaopQ

We knew there was a station just up the road but enquiries at the  hotel for the timetable to Valencia produced the usual Spanish shrug  –  No lo sé.   Even the local Police having their morning drink in the cafe had no idea. There was some suggestion that there may be a train at 9.30. So we rushed our coffee and walked up the road to the station/halt. The train arrived at 10.30! Thank god it stopped.

Within an hour we were climbing out into the beautiful city of Valencia. This is one of my favourite places in Spain. All of the interesting areas in the old city are within easy walking distance making it a great place to get lost and explore.

                                                  Station and bullring.

Everywhere you look there are outstanding buildings.

We dumped our sacks at Pension Paris  http://www.pensionparis.com in the center of the city. Lunch was a great squid bocadillo. Went exploring, climbed El Miguelete Tower in the Cathedral for fantastic 360 degrees views of the city and beyond. Wandered into the Barrio Carmen, the historic centre of the city, but now a Bohemian experience. Sat at a cafe, amidst the perfume of marijuana, enjoying a good coffee and the ambiance.  Back at the hostal for a rest before dinner. There is only one place to dine in central Valencia – La Utielana. You will have to find it yourself in the back streets. Home cooking from a wonderful family. Fish specials every night.

In the morning I wanted to find a bank that houses temporary art exhibitions. Couldn’t remember where it was from the last time but the helpful man at the pension suggested the Bancaja nearby.  Would you believe it but there was a Picasso exhibition on. Faun, Centaur and Minotaur. Sketches from the1930’s exploring mythology and man’s relationship with animals.  At the centre of the exhibit was a running video of a Ballet choreographed by  Nijinsky with Nureyev performing – L’apres midi d’un Faune.  Fantastic interpretation of Picasso’s images.

Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qjvGIMeIhU   Must see.

 In some of the nearby plazas were magnificent large trees, Ficus Macrophylla, over 180 years old with their sculptured barks and roots.

 Into the city we were ready for a sit down and found the celebrated Santa Catalina horchateria in the back streets.  Horchera is a drink made from Tiger nuts and used as a refreshing pick-me-up. You dip fartons into it!

 We made our way to the market, a fantastic mixture of colours and odours, with the locals buying their suppers of meat, vegetables and fish. We stocked up with dried fruit and nuts for presents for home.

Made the effort to cross town to the beautiful stylish old market which is being reinvented as a shopping /cafe mall.

                                               Old market.

Time for lunch at an outside cafe near the station – paella of course. 10 euros for three courses and drinks.

Sadly back to the elegant station for the train to Alicant and the flight home.

 

                                   Good Journey!

GR7 VALENCIA. Mijares – El Rebollar.

A beautiful morning with a touch of autumn. We climbed up the ridge in the trees and within the hour had reached Las Moratillas recreational area. Because of the financial restraints in Spain this has officially been closed. All the water taps have been closed. There is a grand old house here with a fantastic drive approaching it. I’ve  done some research but cannot find who it belonged to before handing over to the Valencian state.

                                                   Las Moratillas

 We had a good look around in the capacious rooms, what a place this must have been in it’s  heyday.

 Earlier in the day we had picked some figs but when we unwrapped them they were covered in hundreds of ants so we were unable to enjoy them.  Whilst on the subject of wild fruit there was a tree in the grounds which bore strange green fruits, they were hard and obviously not ripe but had a distinctive taste. Found out later it is a Persimmon and should be yellow/orange to eat.

                                              Persimmon fruit.

 Onwards on the road there were no signs and we took the wrong turning to the left which ended as a dead end above a steep cliff above the valley we wanted. No alternative but to reverse and start again along the road until we found signs pointing us in the right direction. We quickly lost height into the valley which was a beautiful nature reserve.

 It was hot down here, the Fuente Roses was bone dry, the refuge was locked so we sat by the trail eating our tuna. Climbing up forest trails was hard work in the afternoon heat. Down the other side we had our first glimpse of El Rebollar in the wide valley. Now we were walking through vineyards of the Utiel-Requera wine which we had been imbibing the last few nights. The Bobal grapes are grown low and unsupported in this area.

                                                               Bobal vines.

The village of El Rebollar didn’t offer much and we were directed over the motorway to a motel. Had some difficulty crossing the motorway. At one point we thought the safest way might be underneath through pipelines. Ended up climbing over and walking down slip road!!

The motel on the service area turned out to be a pleasant hostale. The room was OK, as was the food and we slept well before the lorries headed out.

GR7 VALENCIA. Venta Gaeta – Mijares.

                                                                     Breakfast.

  I had a good nights sleep on my ‘table’. As we were going down for breakfast the Sunday motorbikes from Valencia were pulling into town for coffee. The locals were already installed at the bar for a wine and bocadillo breakfast. We had the usual tostada and tomato. Having said our fond farewells to the whole of the village we were on our way up to the Sierra de Martes. This is named locally as El crocodrilo because of its silhouette. We climbed and then traversed in to the snappy end.

  Once over the snout we were in a vast undulating upland area, the paths wandered in  seemingly haphazard ways. Amongst the shrubs were a few Strawberry Trees [Arbutus unedo] the fruit is edible but rather bland and seedy.

                                             Arbutus unedo.

  We meandered around the hillsides through various cols until a steep downhill took us to the flowing Rio Magro and the Tabana recreational area. lots of Spanish families out enjoying a Sunday picnic.

                                                     Rio Magro.

 Nobody seemed to know where the GR7 went and we lost the waymarks. Ended up walking up the minor road for 3k in the heat of the day to pick up the signs again near Mijares. Another flowing river was crossed, unusual to have so much water in the rivers at this time of year.

  The village of Mijares was deserted, only a dozen houses. But we found a lane signed to the Fuente Olivera and were glad of the good water obtained for the night.

  A little further on and we came to an abandoned grand mansion with a ‘lawn’ for camping on. Luxury. I noticed my 35year old Saunders Backpacker tent was starting to disintegrate at the seems, will be sad to see it go. We drank and ate the last of our food and sat and watched the stars. Not a sound in the night save for some owls.

GR7 VALENCIA. Cortes de Pallas – Venta Gaeta.

                                                        Cortes de Pallas.

Cortes is hemmed in by cliffs and the lake. There is a great deal of mundane industrial infrastructure associated with the hydroelectric set up. The map showed several Kilometers of road walking, including tunnels, to get out of the vicinity. So at breakfast we made an arrangement with the hotel owner to drive us 4 or5 k up the road later in the day, there being no taxi in the village. Thus the morning was free. A small market with the usual stalls was occupying the plaza but was fairly quiet.

  We stocked up with food for the next three days there and in the tiny shop. Relaxing over a coffee we people watched as the morning trade increased. Being a weekend the motor cyclists were out and a large group of gleaming Harley Davidsons were parked up. The bars were full of leather clad enthusiasts.

  Back in the hotel bar we enjoyed a tortilla for lunch and then were driven along the road in the owners van. We had made the right decision as it looked quite dangerous for walking on. He took us further than expected, to where the GR7 left the road, and then refused any payment.

From the lay-by we were straight onto the route which on the map only looked about 8K for the afternoon. It turned out to be one of the toughest of the trip! The track quickly faded into a small path through the undergrowth.

 The red and white marks were difficult to follow and quite a lot of backtracking was done. It was impossible to penetrate the prickly undergrowth. We were climbing quite steeply alongside a large rocky ravine, the map was of little help.

  At one point we hit a forest road but it went nowhere, we had missed our turning onto a smaller track. The afternoon wore on.

  We arrived at the rim of the ravine at a cave [Cueva del Moro] only to loose all waymarks.  I scrambled/climbed up above the cave to find cairns on a forest track, but no red/white. Encouraging H to follow we were soon walking along the track. No waymarks appeared so we just kept going in the ‘right’ direction. Junctions were a point for debate/argument but eventually the Sierra de Martes was in view ahead and we had something to aim for. Amazingly after a couple of kilometers the waymarks reappeared from the right and goat tracks were followed into a gully and back up to the crest and a view down into the Gaeta Valley.

  Venta  Gaeta consisted of a dozen or so houses. We knew of a cafe here but it looked unlikely from above. We scouted for camping spots as we approached the village. The noise of Spanish families drew us to the restaurant in the middle of the place. A large crowd were finishing  lunch in the square. Presenting ourselves at the bar/butchers we enquired about any rooms in the village. This produced much discussion amongst the regulars and we were soon trying to gain entry into the school room, the keys didn’t seem to fit.

  Eventually we were installed in a large room which we soon converted into a dormitory. Rudimentary but it saved camping.

  Dinner was arranged for 9pm in the restaurant. The village was originally a staging post on a route into Valencia. Now only 5 people live here permanently. The restaurant and attached butchers shop seems an anachronism but must get sufficient trade to exist. Apparently it is popular with the Valencians at a weekend who appreciate the locally selected meats. The bar was busy when we came for supper, the usual family groups watching the football.

  We had the recommended house specialty. A starter of delicious fish flavoured mash, meatballs and mixed olives followed by lamb and various home made sausages with potatoes and egg. Filling!

  This was washed down with a bottle of Utiel-Requena wine. This is  the local wine made from bobal and tempranillo grapes.

  The cafe was busy when we left at 11pm.

  Quite a long short day.

GR7 VALENCIA. Canada de Sacaras – Cortes de Pallas.

                                                                        Rio Jucar.

Today’s walk was one of the most spectacular on the GR7 for scenery.

An early morning stroll down the valley through olive trees below the cliffs brought us to the Fuente Sacaras with a good water supply. We were caught red handed knocking walnuts off a man’s tree!!

  There was a way marked up through the cliffs onto the plateau which looked exciting but ended up on roads.

Alternative route up ravine.

 We wanted to follow the GR7 above the dammed Rio Jucar, and we were glad we did. The path became narrower as we rounded the nose of the cliffs and views started to open into the Rio Jucar valley.

                                                                   Chirel castle.

The river which has been dammed for hydroelectric purposes is hemmed in by cliffs up to a 1000ft high. All very impressive. The castle of Chirel on the far bank was always prominent as we made our way along the valley. To our right were cliffs of smooth limestone [difficult to photograph against the sun] To our left was the view down to the Rio Jucar and cliffs beyond. The odd tourist boat appeared on the lake below.

The track was quite narrow and had recently been cleared to make it easier. Thank you.

We followed the trail below cliffs, in and out of ravines, to eventually climb out of the ravine above the cliffs.

Now on a road we made our way down to Cortes de Pallas and a hotel for the night. We went into the bar of Casa de Fortunato ordered a ‘zumo de naranja’ and asked for a room. Surprised to be taken up to the top of the village to our rooms in an apartment block! No problems with the room but not exactly convenient for a hotel. They did make us a good evening meal along with the family. Lots of young children and babies eating after 9pm, don’t know how they manage.

 

GR7 VALENCIA. Caroche – Canada de Sacaras.

Caroche tower.

                                                                  Caroche tower.

We were not in a rush to get away in the cool morning. It was not light till 8, so a brew in the tent was appreciated before packing up. Well marked trails took us towards the summit of Caroche which looked like something out of Monument Valley with its rock towers. A lot of weaving about eventually saw us at the Collado Caroche where we expected to find water. There was a large collecting tank and feeding it a sparkling fuente, possibly blessed!  – time for a snack and drink.

 There seemed to be lots of tracks converging on this spot which is in the middle of nowhere and miles from any habitation. despite the isolation and rugged country we never saw a raptor all day.

Having topped up with enough water for the night we climbed over another col into the next valley which was lined with cliffs as far as the eye could see. More visions of Colorado. We were walking along the left hand rim with great views down into the now uninhabited valley.

Along the way we spotted lots of ‘praying mantis’  type insects…..

 The dirt track kept high until it met a road coming from nowhere and apparently going to nowhere. This zigzagged down into the valley of Canadas which at one time must have been a thriving agricultural area. Now only a few olive fields and walnut orchards survive. There were however some fig and almond trees by the road side to provide us with some snacks on the way.

 Getting tired as the day wore on, this valley goes on for miles, we spotted a suitable flat piece of land next to an old casa for camping, The Fuente Sacaras would have to wait till the morning, we had enough water for the evening’s cooking.

  Unfortunately the ground we had chosen was full of those very prickly, round, mine-like burrs which are not good for pitching on. As it happened I came across the key for the rat infested house and we salvaged some plastic proven bags to underlie the tent – problem solved. A couple of chairs and a table also proved useful for supper!  Beautiful sunset over the cliffs and soon the full moon was illuminating the valley.                           Magic.

Having been at Enguera a few weeks ago walking south on the GR7  [see Gr7 Trip Prelude. Its a gas  Oct2nd]  I was back again with H and both fully laden with backpacking gear. Repeating the journey Liverpool to Alicante by plane, train to Xativa and a quick taxi to Enguera. We were soon swimming in the hotel pool to freshen up from the travel. The notorious butane gas cylinder was recovered with relief from reception.

Samuel the taxi man came to collect us in the morning for the 18k trip up to Benali. He was in his smart Merc so my plan of a few extra kilometers on the dirt track to the Rio Grande evaporated.

We trudged down the well surfaced track under our heavy loads cursing Sam’s protective nature towards his car. I’ve driven down far worse tracks whilst out climbing in Spain. We were carrying 3litres of water as the first fuente was over 27k away and on the first day we did not want to overdo things. Water for camping is always a problem in Spanish mountains. Several forestry jeeps passed us, they stopped for a chat but any information gained from them seemed conflicting. Of course the Rio Grande was dry.

                                   Dropping down to the Rio Grande.

The rocky escarpment of Caroche [1126m] was always visible and didn’t seem distant but the tracks in this wilderness are very tortuous avoiding the ravines.

Caroche in the background.

                                                    Caroche in the background.

                                                 Looking south over the forests.

 The day became hotter and hotter as we climbed and descended into another ravine and some food in the shade. We realised the hours were passing and we wouldn’t make the fuente at Collardo del Caroche so we started looking for possible camp sites at 5pm – not easy in this rocky territory. A side track looked promising with some flat ground. Whilst we were investigating it we noticed a partridge feeding set up, seeds and water. Our own 20 gallon container of water!!   How lucky is that?    Get the brew on.

Water supply.

                                       Water supply.

The tent pegs wouldn’t go into the stony ground but there were plenty of rocks around.

Under the slopes of Caroche a full moon and clear skies gave us lots of light and stars, and a cold night!