Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Roman inscription at the Cova de l'Aigua

View from outside the
Cova de l'Aigua 
We had a good hike on Christmas Eve, climbing part way up the Montgo mountain to a cave where Roman soldiers were garrisoned hundreds of years ago. When I say climbed, of course, I don't mean in a mountaineering sense! The track got pretty steep in places though and there are leg-achingly big steps towards the end. There's also a dizzyingly long drop from a short section of footpath so if heights aren't your favourite thing, maybe don't do this walk!

We parked in the street opposite the Ermita Pare Pere which is a pretty shrine and worth a brief diversion to look around. If all the parking is taken here, follow the road upwards and there is more space just past where the walking route leaves the road. For full walk instructions, Click This Link. It describes a circular walk of 5.4k which we intended to do, but didn't due to the rocky footpaths after the cave detour being very slippery. We reckoned we would probably manage to climb up to Raco del Bou, but I didn't fancy potential accidents on the slide back down!

The initial ascent however is toddler friendly. It's continuously uphill but not especially strenuous and was a popular family walk on Christmas Eve. Part way along this gravelled road, clear signs indicate the footpath up to the Cova de l'Aigua. A later fork in this footpath is also clearly signed. We were high above Denia at this point and there are spectacular views across the town and out to sea. The winding path admittedly doesn't scream 'Romans were here' in the same way their distinctive straight roads do. It gets steeper the nearer we got to the cave and in several places large steps have helpfully been cut into the rock. Once we turned off the track to the footpath we had it completely to ourselves which was great as I didn't feel as though I needed to rush. I could imagine that it could be tricky trying to get up here and back at the same time as lots of other people - on a summer weekend for example.

The Roman evidence - an inscription in the rock dating from 238AD - is now protected by a metal cage although it had already been partly graffitied before the grille was put into place. It's not actually in the cave itself, but just before the last few steps. You can see the edge of the cage in the bottom left of this photograph. For an idea of scale, Dave can just be seen climbing up mid-picture.

And the inscription itself is here:
(You might need to squint!)

The cave itself is believed to have been in use for thousands of years before the Roman visitation and for hundreds of years after they left as well. We could walk into the large first chamber and along a dark passage - you'll want to take a torch - from which we could peer into a flooded second chamber. Clay pipe remnants buried in the floor show where this mountain water used to be piped out to a now vanished hillside village. By medieval standards, this was valuable fresh drinking water - we didn't taste it!

Dave in a Cave!

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