This article is purely an excuse for me to extol the virtues of living here in Valencia, specifically in regard to the outdoor activities and lifestyle.
Often I find that I want to rant about my frustrations with the language barrier and the endless bureaucracy but ultimately we chose to live here so I know full well that we just need to deal with, and overcome, those issues.
It’s therefore refreshing for me to want to spill forth my feelings of nothing but gratitude and praise for having landed, most fortuitously, here in this part of Spain.
Selena’s Dad has just departed after staying with us for a fortnight and, being a walking, cycling and gym monster, I felt I should keep him appropriately occupied whilst Selena and Lizzy were at school. He thought he was coming for a holiday but has now gone home to rest!
The day after his arrival we took a short walk to the top of La Mola, which is a very distinctive summit in the Sierra Calderona mountain range that overlooks our home. It’s called ‘La Mola’ because it is shaped very much like a molar tooth, and it stands out easily amongst the other more traditional mountain tops. I had done the same walk with Selena and Lizzy two days previously so I knew that it would only be a short outing. Having said that the views from the top are breathtaking and there is a bar for refreshments upon completion.
The following day we headed out on a cycle ride into the foothills of the mountains, with the added objective of house hunting, as I had seen some interesting properties in that area on a previous outing. The back roads in the area are really quiet in terms of traffic, with more cyclists than cars, and we enjoyed nosing around on two wheels.
The next day we tackled another hike in the mountains, trying a new route that I hadn’t done before. It was a 14km circular route, through picturesque valleys, with some steep climbs to reach another two decent peaks. Again it was a walk in full sun, and unlike hiking in the UK, there are no rivers or streams to dip your toes into. We were suitably worn out by the time we had finished but we had an hour to kill at the local bar upon conclusion. The removal of walking boots and drinking an ice cold beer with olives whilst surveying the mountain range before us was a decent way to recover.
We were then into the weekend where family orientated activities resumed, before another cycle ride on the following Monday. I had previously only partially explored the cycle route into the city from our house, so I was keen to complete the trip to see whereabouts in the city it emerged. The cycle route is well maintained and flat, through a mixture of industrial area and horticultural land, and after an hour of leisurely cycling we were in Valencia city. I had a destination in mind for our refreshment break and ten minutes later we were there. ‘Kiosco La Pergola’ is directly adjacent to the dry river bed ‘La Turia’ that is now a famous park area running the length of the city. It is always full of locals and famed for its ‘bocadillos’.
I did say that this article was to be about the great outdoors and, although I might be going on and on about the sun, sea and mountains, there’s another highlight to talk about. It is said that Valencia’s cathedral houses the actual ‘holy grail’. I’ve seen it and it looks impressive to be fair. However it could be said the La Pergola houses the holy grail of sandwiches. The Superbombon is exceptional. A large baguette filled with tenderloin pork, cheese, mushrooms, fried potatoes and a delicious garlic sauce. It really hits the spot.
Suitably replenished we headed off on our bikes along the riverbed, passing the remarkable ‘city of arts and sciences’ towards the harbour, where we started our return journey along the beachfront. It truly is nothing short of amazing to merge from rural horticultural land, where generations still toil daily, bent double, at their fields, into an amazing city centre that features thirteenth century architecture alongside such futuristic constructions as the arts and sciences centre, and then into the sands of the beaches.
We followed the promenade that parallels the shoreline northwards, taking in the sights and smells of the beaches and restaurants, stopping for a swim at a deserted spot before continuing home.
The following day we headed back into the mountains for another exploratory hike, following our noses along various trails for a few hours. Again it was hot and thirsty work, as we made challenging, steep ascents to two peaks including ‘Pico del Aguila’ (Peak of the Eagle).
After a day off from exercising, concentrating instead on DIY jobs around the home, we set off to tackle a hiking challenge of a different kind. I had researched an interesting walk, taking in one of the highest points of the eastern end of the Sierra Calderona, ‘Monte Garbi’. However this was to be no ordinary walk as it would involve some precipitous scrambling up the face of the mountain, followed by a similarly tricky descent down the front of ‘La Mola’. I didn’t mention this to Selena’s Dad until we began to clamber up rocks at the foot of Garbi, having followed a barely discernible stretch of the GR10 trail from Segart.
After some muscle burning climbing skywards we reached a vertical section with chains embedded in the rock face. Thankfully these had been installed to assist leverage (and safety) and we had to use each and every one of them to pull ourselves up the face of the mountain. The GR10 route is waymarked with red and white paint splashes along the way, but these markers are sporadic and unreliable. At one point it appeared the only way up was to cling, spider-like, to the huge boulder before us and ease up using toes and fingertips, as the chains seemed to have been removed at this section. Having ascended 15 feet or so, with Paul watching anxiously from below, we heard voices approaching from behind. Thankfully a couple were doing the same route (the only people we saw all day) and had caught us up. The man was calling to me that I had gone the wrong way so I slid gracelessly down the wall to reassess the options. My chosen route could be done, he explained, but it involved a dangerous leap at the top. My fear of heights would have seen me frozen and dangling in wait for a helicopter rescue had I continued. On turning around 180 degrees, the familiar red and white paint markings could clearly be seen, although the way forward was unclear. On closer inspection there was a narrow gap between the rocks that was just wide and tall enough for a person to fit through, leading out onto a ledge and another sheer rock face, this time with useful chains in place.
Soon we were safely at the summit, with beautiful views to savour, before continuing on into the heat of midday. We descended steeply via another route and then climbed up to La Mola where we needed to find a route down the sheer face, which I hadn’t known existed. On closer inspection from the top ‘the cavity’, as it’s known, became apparent, although it involved a certain degree of faith and positivity as it wasn’t entirely clear that it was achievable. After some tentative and undignified scrambling downwards, we soon reached a more distinct path which took us into the shade of the trees and back to the start point. Again we rewarded ourselves with some well earned, ice cold refreshments as we reflected on the most memorable day yet.
That was a fitting way to end our fortnight of exploring the great outdoors on the doorstep of El Puig. Being able to enjoy the wilderness territory of the mountains, where you barely see another soul, to then relax at the beach, just minutes away, is heaven for me.
Paul did much more, during his stay, than I have recounted, as he also used the local gym while he was here, and did the 14km circular walk again with Selena one Sunday morning! Not bad for a 65 year old!
Needless to say normal service has resumed here and I have encountered some ‘ups and downs’ of a different kind, which will keep for another time.