Quiet roads, mountain path, river bed path, quiet lanes. Our highest altitude in Spain.
On Monday evening, on the way home, we got out of the train one stop too soon so we could find a Taxi. We found Pedro in taxi number 7 and arranged to be picked up outside Mercadona at 7 am the following day. So Pedro took us to Finistrat. Anne left her brand-new, never-used stick in the taxi. Neil forgot to pack the olives for lunch. We are gah gah.
Almost all of this walk was "hearts desire". After a few little lanes in Finistrat, the mountain path began. This is a well-used and fairly easy path without too many big steps. There are a couple of short stretches where vertigo might be a problem. Soon after the highest point, we left the way-marked path and headed down a narrow and steep gravel track taking care not to glassade (a glissade but less dignified). We spotted this path on Google Earth. After about 100 metres we reached a wider track used by forestry vehicles. We headed down, soon joining a way-marked forest road. Lower down the mountain, back in the roads and houses, the path continues in a dry river bed. This also was really nice. We went under all the main roads and avoided all the housing estates. It was shady too, in the heat of the day. The final leg into Altea was back on little country lanes. In Altea we aimed for the taxi rank and with a stroke of luck found Pedro and retrieved Anne's stick. After a short amusing negotiation it was decided that although the stick had traveled a few hundred kilometres, there was nothing to pay and anyway it was a lazy stick that preferred to sleep in a taxi boot. Pedro was nice and cheerful.
On this walk we reached our highest altitude so far and also did the biggest climb even taking into account the fact that our start was 200m up.
We set off at 6.55 to meet the taxi outside Los Granadinos. His is the second taxi to pass us but he is on time He is number siete. I have Neil’s cup with a lemon in it as he had left it on the kitchen worktop. Neil gets in the front to tell him where to stop and I get in the back with the mustangs. Today I am taking with me my travelling light stickula. I normally take a folding one which can go in the mustang when not in use or be folded up and hung over my belt. In this way you cannot forget it. I feel this stickula is hugely at risk of being left behind. I brought it this time so Mini could use it if we went off road together and it would double up for me up a stoop pummock. On arrival in Finestrat I get out, pull my mustang after me and get out my money to pay Pedro. Meanwhile Neil goes to the back and pulls out his mustang. He then gets into a position to log on. While he is doing this a man comes out of a house using crutches. This triggers my neurones. Bugger, I have left the stick in the taxi as I had feared. It was brand new and I had cut off the label this very morning. I've had it for years but never used it.
We set off up the hill towards the Fonts. Water is gushing down at the side of the road as usual. We turn off before the fonts and go past a pension which we had previously wondered if we would stay at. The turn-off up the mountain is tricky to locate but Neil had woomarked it so we knew exactly where to look out for it. Our second attempt was correct. We had walked this path on an earlier holiday. We followed the circuit of Puig. It was fabulous up there. The ascent is steep and narrow full of flowers and at that hour in the morning nobody there.
At our elevenses stop, Neil's says bugger I have left behind my cup for Mini. I produce it from my bag and he is pleased. But did he spot my left-behind stickula? No, he did not. When we got out of the taxi he didn't see my stick on the back seat next to his mustang and say are you intending to leave this or taken it out for me. Actually I should not blame Neil. It is Mini's fault as usual. If I had not brought the stick for her to use this would not have happened. Gerald Durrell had a similar problem with his mother. It must be a universal feature of family life. Mother gets the blame.
Eventually at around 800m the path levels out a bit and we got to the stony place where a German walker noted to his companion disapprovingly that he wondered why we were dong the walk in Schlappen (flipflops). There are few western European languages that we don't at least understand so his comment is now recorded for posteriority. He is quite wrong in any case because we don’t wear Schlappen but all-terrain sandals with soles just like boots. From this high we can actually see the Balearic Islands. We check with a compass bearing and map that it is not a promontory beyond Jávea but it isn't.
Once round to the north side of Puig we hear some Frogs ahead but are able to turn right before they meet us. We just say bonjour in passing. This side of the mountain is more lush and our descent is very steep like Polop which it is near but with ball bearings rather than with stuns you can use as stairs. I do some of it backwards which means you have the same degree of control as you do on an ascent. If we had had ropes we could have abseiled but I don't know how you get your rope back if you are not accompanied.
Neil has plotted a woo all the way back to Altea without going on big roads. This is no mean feat as it is on today's walk that we are passing Benidorm. Is the SIerra Cortina called this because it screens Benidorm from the cold winds? Or is it because beyond it you are screened from Benidorm? Probably neither of these. Our route takes us down past built up areas but we avoid them by following a dry river bed path. Eventually the track has a stream running down the middle of it. This widens to a little river which eventually becomes impassable. There are stands of bamboozle wheich show the area is often wet. Probably in summer you could get through.
We now go on the narrow quiet country roads which crisscross the countryside behind Albir and Altea. As we approach Altea we see the Poble Antic rising above us and hope that we will not have to climb over it. The road looks a though it might well wind round the bottom. Our feet are now killing us although we have done only about 25km as usual. The terrain makes distances academic. My friend Ruth said on her Himalayan trek they did just 5 miles a day but because of the terrain, and later the altitude, that was quite enough. We see the cement factory on top on Altea's heights. Our road winds onwards and upwards and eventually we arrive at the summit. After what we have already done this ascent seems insignificant even though we are tired.
We now wind our way down through the Poble Antic, past the church with tiled copula and down lots of steps to the bottom. On the way, we almost pass a house we had rented there one cold February. We see the Pino gordo which was our landmark. We do not however pass the restaurante where I fell up the steps after a particularly cheerful evening with duck and wine. We exit the Poble Antic just by the taxi rank which I needed to revisit to see if I could find Pedro and his taxi numero siete. We pass number 10 and number 8 and number 14 and then, pulled in across the rank, there is numero siete.
Pedro jumps out and I say to him Quien esta loca? He goes to his boot and gets out the stickula found by the next clients. Neil asks how many kilometres the stick has done and what it owed. Pedro said it had travelled gratis. It had been to Alicante and all over during the day. We tell him where we have been and he says that is lejos. and I say the stick was too lazy to do all that and he said yes he preferred to sleep all calm in his boot. He then said we should go up Bernia because that is even nicer than Puig although even fiercer. Maybe we will do it on a rest day. We are too prerked to go shopping in Mecadona and decide to make do the next day with what we've got. I will make a drink out of Neil’s left over grapefruit and my left over water plus some garseosa also left over. We will eat what there is and go shopping tomorrow when we are doing a walk in the park.
For supper we have the rest of the chicken with beetroot and ratatouille. Luckily Mini has been shopping and got some nice things to keep us going.