Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sailing underground from La Vall d'Uixo

Rio Subterraneo in the Coves de Sant Josep 
We're still at Camping Altomira in Navajas and will probably be here until Sunday when we really need to start heading North or we won't catch our ferry. Although with the blazing sunshine here over the past few days, that's actually quite a tempting prospect!

Yesterday we had an amazing excursion to visit the Coves de Sant Josep in La Vall d'Uixo. The caves contain the longest navigable underground river in Europe and the 3/4 hour boat journey was worth every euro of the €10 entrance fee (€7 for oldies!). The Americanised audio guide was a bit ropey though. Hopefully the above photo that I've pinched from the Grutas de San Jose Facebook page will give you an idea of the fabulous environment. It is all quite subtly lit so very atmospheric and the lowness of the cave roofs in some places meant we were all nearly bent double in the boats so as not to bash our heads on rocks. The water is very clear so we could see up to several metres below the surface. Therefore, at one point, I experienced the previously unknown occurrence of feeling both claustrophobia and vertigo at the same time! There are ancient stalactites and stalagmites, breathtaking 12 metre high chambers and a smattering of amusingly named rock formations. 

Sunflower house in La Vall d'Uixo 

Outside we saw this little old building painted with sunflowers which I thought was cute after the dramatic landscape underground.

Navajas is a great base for walkers as we are discovering every day. There's a route similar to the Cuckoo Trail that passes right by the top of Camping Altomira. Known as the Via Verde de Ojos Negros, the pedestrian and cycle path is the longest in Spain at 160km and we've walked, erm, a little bit of it! Several routes seem to join around Navajas and we've enjoyed several afternoon and day walks passing abandoned quarries, going along shaded rivers, and seeing orchards of olive, almond and cherry trees. Many trees are in blossom at the moment and the white and pink flowers are beautiful to see. One walking route takes in about a dozen natural springs, mostly named after saints but including one named for the 1940s film Gilda. The walk ends by passing two waterfalls, one of which has stone steps that climb up and pass almost under the water itself. The spray was welcomingly refreshing on a scorchingly hot day. On today's walk we discovered the Cartuja de Vall de Cristo at Altura, a 6km walk from the campsite. This impressive sites dates from the 14th century and used to be a Carthusian monastery until it was abandoned in the 1820s. It's all closed up now which is a shame but we think renovations are being attempted so maybe visitors will be accepted in years to come.

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