Via pecuaria beside the autovia. Almond orchards and mountain terrain to our right.
The car drive to Benicarló at only 13.8 km was the shortest yet. We got the train to Alcalà de Xivert and set off walking in the dark. There were just hints of dawn in the east showing through the cloud and early morning mist. By the time the sun had climbed over the mountain range, it had clouded over and there was a very slight drizzle.
Our route crossed the railway and the N340 main road. It then ran between the autovia and the N340 for several hundred metres. We were far enough away from the roads not to be disturbed. The dawn was brightening and there were mists and low clouds. Soon we crossed the autovia and used the parallel road serving the fields and almond groves on the mountain slopes. This path was very nice and the autovia traffic was light and far enough away. The autovia, although noisy at times, could be ignored.
The farm access road eventually ended but a footpath / mountain bike track continued. This path rose and fell while the autovia had embankments and cuttings. There were almond groves, a couple of mandarin orchards and other unidentified fruit orchards. Perhaps these were peaches or apricots. They were all leafless for the winter.
Nearer Benicarló we had some good luck avoiding a walk along the N340. We crossed fields and found the disused railway, abandoned when the alta velocitat line was built. This got us quite close to Benicarló. Near our destination we got stuck and had to walk about 200 metres on the hard shoulder of the main road. It could have been worse.
Today it is much warmer. I am not wearing Ruth's hat which has kept me from losing 70% of my body heat on the colder mornings we have had up to now. When I was working with Ruth at Middlesex Polytechnic now University, I knitted her a hat made of mohair and Scruffs wool mixed. In the meantime, it has had a face lift but now she feels it lacks the sartorial elegance necessary for city wear (she still lives in London). I can't see anything wrong with it myself and am using it as a hat for the walk. I am in the process of making Ruth a new one out of Teddy's fur and mohair to replace it. I'll need to be quick because Teddy is over 14 and beginning to creak.
Because we always use the same train, our set-off time for the walk is getting earlier and earlier. Today it is 7.37 and pitch dark. Neil photographs a sign sating "Calle Peñiscola / Carrer Peniscola". We shall not be passing through this village but its name is memorable in other ways.
Today we pass many ruined vernacular houses. Some years before we started the walk Mini and I were staying in Montegordo in a little hotel run by an American woman. It was a lovely hotel with the most delicious food. Also at the hotel was an English lady and her friend. She was making a study of what she called vernacular houses. The American owner was pleased to have us as the weather was indifferent on some days and both we and she knew how to spend our time even when it was raining. Our vernacualr friend was quite outspoken on this and other issues. There is no such thing as bad weather only inappropriate equipment. I wish now I had kept in touch as I would be most interested to read her book. Nowadays we would no doubt have exchanged email addresses.
Today, on the wilder part of our route, we see just one car and three bicycles. On our first santa break we see English type lawn daisies but bigger. We have our second break in sight of Santa Magdalena de Pulpís. Neil calls this Saint Magdalen of the Octopi but I am not convinced. Wikipedia does not explain what the name means. I think it is just a place name. We are still walking in the delightful Serra d'Irta National Park. Yesterday we had a few ascents and descents but today there is some serious climbing 360 metres in all (Neil to confirm this). We are overtaken on our ascent by a vehicle patrolling the park. The driver and his companion are pleased to note Neil photographing some roses on the way up. We haven't had much completely wild scenery but this leg today is a wonderful exception. We are away from civilisation for all but the last few of kilometres. Once in Benicarló we look for a diagonal to take us to the station but have to left and right to get through the grid of streets. This failure to find the hypotenuse causes Neil to fail to remember mathematical the joke with the punch-line, "The squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sum of the squaws of the other two hides."