Disused railway. Quiet lanes. Very little on busy roads.
This was a very nice walk. The first half from Oliva to Gandía was on a disused railway converted for cyclists and also ideal for walkers. The second half was on quiet lanes and tracks parallel with and just east of the Gandía to Valencia railway line. For part of this section a small river ran parallel with the track. Lovely. The horrible busy road was a comfortable distance away on the other side of the tracks. The entire route ran through orange orchards. There were mountain views over the tops of the blossom covered trees. The only trafficked sections were leaving Oliva and also a short stretch in Gandía. In Gandía, the trick is to stay east of the railway line. We got this wrong for a few hundred metres and had to backtrack. The final half kilometre was also on a busy road but there was a wide margin.
We had one spot of bother. We approached the station at Xeraco from the wrong side exactly as a train was drawing in. As we had gained entry via an orange orchard instead of the ticket office, and assuming there was a ticket machine on the train, we got in without a ticket. The other trains we used near Alacant had such machines. Back at Gandía, we could not get past the automatic barriers. After a bit of apologetic grovelling, we paid the standard ticked price and were not hit with the usual penalty charge. Spain is a lovely place. In England it would be more than their job's worth to allow a stupid foreigner to get away with something like that.
Again we go to Altea to get on the bus. We have time. There is no market today and we don't see Pedro and his number 7 taxi. We had seen him yesterday waiting in Altea rather than Garganes. We are entertained by the school run - parents bringing their children to catch the bus sometimes by car and sometimes on foot. Older children with smart uniform were waiting on the other side. One was wearing a brighter red jumper than the others and without a school badge is obviously the rebel. She has to run back over the road to intercept her mum before she drives off having left her entire school bag in the car. Had her friends had asked where is it? may be she is just farfelue.
I have the right money for the fare today having done the ride yesterday. Ubesa and Alsa seem to be the same company. The bus goes by a totally different route passing through Denia which is a surprise. There is a big bus station there which we did not find on our walks through. We noticed yesterday that once we got to Oliva there were no more foreign cars. In Alicante (the province not the town) there were lots from all over Europe. We are now out of the tourist/expat belt.
Once out of the town we look for a disused railway line which has been turned into a cycle route. It is dead straight and runs through orange groves. It is also dead level so we really cover the ground. As we don't get started till 11 o'clock this is just as well. It is now hot and there is no shade. The orange trees are too small. We stop early for a break as it is a long time since we had breakfast. Here we see an interesting climber which camouflages itself in orange trees. It has not dissimilar leaves and grows a big pod not unlike a cocoa pod. We look for a flower but fail to find one. They must have flowered earlier. We'll need to look out for this when we are around in February. We take off our lergs and put on our hats. We have no ergs so we have some sultaninas - probably much healthier.
Each orchard has a semicircular chimney built out of breeze blocks so that prunings can be burnt on site without the trees being scorched. We see one of these being constructed as we pass along. There is a pall ahead of us. Is this the result of a fire or is it Valencia (town). Mont Gó is still visible and quite prominent in spite of being far away now and this explains the numerous references to it in "Spanish Lessons". I have often got hiccoughs on the walk and wondered why this was so. I have now discovered the reason. It happens when you tip your drink back and go gloo goo gloo without stopping. Neil says he has independently come to the same conclusion e.g. with pivo. I now drink my drinks with a space between every few gloos and this seems to have worked. To be completely sure though I must do a repeat gloo gloo gloo to see if hiccoughs result. Fais-moi peur Asterix.
Neil has noticed that the irrigation system for the orchards can be switched on by radio control. The pipes and taps have an aerial rising up from them. He takes a photograph for his electronics students. We discuss what people know and do not know. I am always surprised when I do talks about Congo that quite old children do not know what a pylon is or what it is for. Nor are they aware until they have been given a lot of prompts that have a light switch or a tap is not sufficient in itself to ensure a supply of electricity or water.
We cross the Riu Serpis. Our cycle track goes all the way to Gandía station. In Spanish lessons, it says you can scrump one orange from an orchard. We see a cyclist at the side of the track with three. We later see a couple with carrier bags collecting blossom. Is this for potpourris or for orange flower water or orange flower wine. We don't know. Have they asked for permission from the owners. Probably not as they look sheepish as we pass. We see some nispero trees and have one each. They are abandoned so there is no problem having one. With oranges too we try to scrump from abandoned orchards or from those which have already been picked but where the odd orange has been overlooked or left because it was not yet ripe.
Yesterday at the Oliva bus stop a lady was having trouble getting her bags out of the luggage compartment. She gets one bag out but can't get the other door open. She bangs on the driver's window. By now a boy has come along and gets the door open and finds her bag to give it to her. She does not seem to say thank you. The boy is black and seems unconcerned. Am I reading too much into it as I am reading the Lucifer Connection (check title) by Geoffrey Archer which all about racism and its consequences.
In Gandía we make a note of the train and bus times ready for the next holiday. As it is stil early in the day, we decide to walk a little further shortening our walk in May. There are lots of trains so we shan't need to use the Alsa bus again. This is good as it is in infrequent and usually late. It also has a very unpredictable route cycle which we haven't got to grips with. Trains always go from stations and usually stay on their tracks. By walking to Xeraco we won't even have the worry of whether our train goes to Gandía Town or Gandía Marine. Neil says we mustn't cross the railway line as the woos through are all to the right of it. We head out of town. Unfortunately the railway goes underground so there is no way pf knowing whether we have crossed it or not. We end up going through an estate of apartment blocks. Here we see a black and white pussy under a van. Some children have seen it too and one goes over and prods it with his foots. Esta muerto, he says. They are sad and so are we. We end up at a school with the railway on our right We ask a lady with a doggy if there is a woo through along the river and she says there isn't. We must go all the way back to the puente. Once over the bridge we make a second attempt and find now find ourselves in a second housing estate. We have the Valencia line on our right which is great but now see that the Gandía Marine line is on our right. We are surrounded by vlaks. As there is one every 20 minutes in both directions, we see a lot of trains. We work our way over to the second track go through some wire and end up on a track past the other side of the apartment blocks until we get to a level crossing. Once over this we turn left and our second half of walk starts in earnest.
It is very hot and feels hotter because we have not been going in the right direction. Neil has found a route on Google Earth during his session when he could get on the internet (many people with Broadband do not set up security codes so you can break in and use their connections. We want to get to Xeraco (called by us Jericho) as this is the first stop on the Valencia line. It is about 8km and we have done about 8km so the overall walk is still short. We had hoped to get a Valenciano tart when we were in Gandía or Oliva. I do see one suitable shop from the bus but none on our route through either of these towns. It needs to be a Bollería. A panadería or a patissería will not do. Tomorrow the focus of the rest day can be to find one in Altea.
The first part of this walk is along quiet country lanes. There are streams and ditches next to our route and lots of yellow flag irises. Otherwise there are are very few flowers and nothing unusual at all. We cause a stir as we go past farm workers. They have never seen the like. Foreigners have become unusual once more and will no doubt remain so until we get to the Costa Brava where there are once more plenty of resorts. When we get near to Jericho there is a right turn which might keep us off the main road but as it is getting late and we don't want to miss our bus, we go through a dusty dead end access road and then a few hundred metres on the main road before diving into an orange orchard to get to the station.
A train is just coming in and we leap on. There is no ticket machine so we ask a lady what you do about tickets. She says there are no machines in Xeraco so we assume it is like the Calp-Denia train with a ticket collector doing the honours. No one comes through and we assume now that we pay in Gandía on arrival. Everyone else passes their ticket through the machine and gets out. A man on a bench outside the barriers points behind us and says we should pay there. We fail to find anywhere to do this. We see a security man and ask what we should do. He points to the ticket office and we ask how we get through. He puts his card in and lets us out. He says he will come with us which he does. he explains to the ticket man that we have come form Xeraco and want to pay. He is surly and asks why we didn't get tickets in Xeraco. I said we had asked a woman and she had said there isn't a machine there. He says there is a man selling tickets. We look blank. We don't want to tell him we approached the station round the back through an orange orchard. He agrees to give us tickets and says next time we will have to pay 28 euros is we travel without a ticket. He says this several times and I say I understand several times and apologise and say thank you. He passes the tickets through and says they are for the journey we have just done. When I pass them back through to home he seems surprised. He was sure we were on a fiddle and was now reassured that we were not - but just blanks (stupid white people in Africa) who didn’t know what they were doing.
Now it was time to go to the Alsa cossack to get tickets back to Altea. Flustered after the train ticket altercation I ask for tickets to Oliva which is after all where we had come from this morning. She says that is another company. This surprises me because we know the bus passes through Oliva but just as well because this jolts me into saying not Oliva Altea. Neil says I have "agua en la cabeza" which is what a bus driver said to him when he asked for a ticket to where he was. She asks if we would like to go on the 6pm bus and I say yes. Then she says would we like to go on the 5pm bus which is retrarsed. We say yes.
Neil says we will sit n the back row so can have the rest of our lunch. I though he meant healthy bars and wondered why we needed so much room. As we are getting into the bus an Aussie asks us if this is the bus to Calp. Calpe we check. Calpe he self corrects although he is not wrong if he is speaking Valenciano. Neil says yes and when you show the ticket to the driver he'll tell you. The driver accepts his ticket and the laday from the ticket office who has now come out to see the bus on its way tells him to put his luggage in the luggage compartment underneath. I tell him to put his luggage in there. Then we get in the bus and go to the back seats. The Aussie sits just in front of us and I am pleased because it means we can tell him when he has got to Calp/Calpe.
Once we are under way, Neil gets out his box and asks if I would like him to set me up a sandwich. I would. I had eaten a piece of dry bread at an earlier stop because we were keeping going at that pint to get to Xeraco in time for a train that would connect with the bus - a forced march on iron rations. He made open cheese sandwiches and passed over a tomato. Delicious. he then made a second sandwich which was equally delicious. Then I got out the strawberries and we had those for afters. The bus was going by yet another route. It did however pass through Oliva. Perhaps you aren't allowed to use this long-distance bus for just one leg. The local bus would be more frequent and passengers doing short hops could clog up the long-distance bus. The driver had a lot of difficulty getting into the lay-by where the bus stop was. There was a huge delivery lorry in the way. Yesterday there had been just a small lorry delivering a wikwok settee and this had not caused a problem.
After Oliva we went to Verger but not to Xabia which is why the 6.15 didn't come when we were waiting there. The timetable did not make clear which buses went by which route except to indicate whether they went via Benidorm or Villa Joyosa. This bus also went right through Gata and along the main street enabling us to enjoy all the wikwok shops. The Aussie had by now moved away from the back of the bus perhaps because the ride is smoother nearer the front or perhaps because he couldn't bear our conversation or behaviour and wished to distance himself from it. Each time the bus stopped he leapt up to ask if this was Calp. At Teulada he seemed determined to get out. I rushed forward to tell him I would tell him when we reached Calp but he had already got off and was striding across the road. Had he changed his mind about going to Calp? Had he been going to Teulada all ling but said Cal because he knew it was on the route. Could he not stand the music on the bus. It was horrible - just very repetitive noise. Neil told me it was music that was very popular in night clubs at the moment. I would have preferred nothing it was grating on the ear and explains why I have not frequented any night clubs lately or indeed ever.
We get back to Garganes at 8pm so we are glad we have taken the earlier bus. As we get out a German lady asks Neil how you tell the driver you want to get off. I am by now off the bus and explain that there is a Knopf you can druck. She looks blank so I take her back to the bus and point to the location in the bus in front of the seats by the back exit. I said the Knopf on some buses is out of order but standing up seems to work. She says that is what she always does. She then asks where we are from and we say England. She won't believe it and says we don't look like Englander. I say Thank Goodness and ask what we do look like. She won't say. She then says she is German which I say I had ascertained. She then began to speak to us in English but I persevered in German. I hate the way English always takes over. Perhaps I should have left it because she now began to give me her medical history. She had had some condition which apparently kills 80% people but which had not killed her but had left her with a mental age of 12. I said I would not have thought it. I certainly hadn’t noticed it. She then became maudlin and said goodbye and wished us a happy life. I said goodbye and wished her the same. She seemed surprised and nonplussed. She obviously felt that access to a happy life was not consistent with her condition. I hope she reconsiders.
Why this obsessive desire to discuss one's ailments. The three women at Hungate on Friday mornings who do nothing else but discuss their conditions and their medication. Hearing them has made me resolve not to do this. Even if there comes a time when one's conditions and medications have perhaps become a major issue, it cannot be healthy to let them take over so completely that you are unable to talk about anything else. I have decided now not to allow myself to fall into this trap. When we got back having not crossed the road where we normally do because we didn’t want to prolong our conversation with the German lady, we had our soup and salmon and seeskweem. Mini has been down the shops and bought enough to feed an army for a month. How will we get through it in three days. I expect we'll make a good stab at it. There is fresh salmon, smoked salmon, pork and shrimps for starters.