Sunday, 14 December 2014

A pair of picnic walks from Xabia

We've finally dusted off the pink stripy picnic rucksack
We got to the base of the Montgo and might climb it
next time out! 
- so called because it has a good sized cool bag compartment - here in Xabia and have undertaken two lengthy walks with lunch stops during the past couple of weeks. It is lovely to be somewhere which has great walking routes which are challenging enough for us to get a sense of having pushed ourselves, but not so difficult that we get overwhelmed. I am a lot more confident about scrambling and climbing now, especially due to my trusty boots and walking poles. It still takes me considerably longer to go downhill on rough scree tracks than uphill, but this is the next skill for me to work on! We try to stop for our typical lunch of fresh bread, cheese, apple and jam after 2-3 hours which is generally a little over half way. Our favourite Spanish sheep cheeses are perfect and we enjoy the extra challenge of trying to find the most pleasant place to pause a while.

First off we did a 10k (ish) wander which took us along the base of the nearby Montgo mountain which towers over Xabia and can be seen for miles. It got it's name, meaning elephant, because from a certain direction the mountain's outline and the positioning of a small cave resemble an elephant's head. We found this La Plana Circuit walk on the Javeamigos website which has a good selection of suggested walks from which we could choose. Described as 'energetic', it is mostly paths and tracks but includes one fun section where the 'path' is more of a suggested scramble up a rocky hillside. A route up is marked with paint and muddy footprints, but I couldn't always see that its footholds were any more practical than anywhere else! It reminded me of a dry version of El Torcal, but much shorter.

Our second walk was longer at about 15k and took us just over five hours of actual walking and scrambling so we are proud of ourselves for achieving this. We followed an official route around the Granandella natural park and also found it thanks to the Javeamigos website. The route is frequently and clearly marked with yellow and white painted stripes on trees, rocks and posts. There was an amazing range of surface types within the park so we were strolling along wide concrete tracks one minute, or pine scented rough woodland tracks the next. We saw scrubby areas where wild rosemary, lavender and heathers were profusely growing and flowering. We've bought several jars or local Benitatxell honey and could easily see where its delicious flavour comes from. One part of the route took us scrambling along high rock ledges and we sat in the sunshine overlooking the sparkling sea and a small ruined Castell for our lunch break. A gleeful Dutchman warned us that our post-lunch climb would involve having to pull ourselves up by chains hammered to the rocks. We were a little concerned by this, but soon discovered that this section was no more difficult than we had already climbed to get there. It would have been awful to have been forced to retrace our steps as we were already over half way! The last part of our walk was the reverse of a shorter route we had already done.

We were also invited to join Chris and Marta on a challenging excursion to the Moorish steps which we disappointedly declined as Dave did a fantastic 2 1/2 hour bike ride the day before - and temporarily knackered his knees. Our friends set out anyway and we since learned that the route was a six hour spectacular consisting entirely of ups and downs - no flat bits for respite. Congrats to Chris & Marta for completing the walk as I think it would have taken both Dave and I well past our enjoyment thresholds!

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