Thursday, 19 December 2013

El Rebollar to Bocairent

Next important stop was Cortes de Pallas where I had to resupply. In order to get there it was twice up a sierra, down into a valley and up a sierra again. I made good progress mainly because I could not find a decent campsite when it was getting dark and had to walk into the night with my headlamp. I admit I am a bit choosy when it comes to campsites but condensation that freezes over overnight is a big problem right now. So whenever possible I look for tree cover, preferably pine trees that provide soft duff. Another great help are the man made terraces (mostly abandoned now) that provide flat areas.

When I camped on top of the plateau before Cortes de Pallas under a lone pine tree I thought I had an easy walk into town next day - I just had to descend from the plateau into the valley with its huge reservoir. But you never know what you get on the GR 7. First there was no trail any more where it should have been according to my GPS track. I searched around and finally discovered some red and white blazes nearby that disappeared on a rock precipice. I searched around to find a trail down - but nothing. As going down the precipice and then follow a creek bed was the most natural way down from the plateau I finally threw down my poles and backpack and climbed down. And for sure soon the waymarking picked up again but ended in a bushwhack from hell. Although well marked the trail had not been maintained for decades and was almost completely overgrown. I had just recently discovered a nasty Spanish specialty: One species of shrub has needless that not only scratch you, but the tip of the needle breaks of and gets stuck in your skin. I had been wondering why the scratches take so long to heal. The reason is that the scratch festers in order to get the little to out. Once I discovered that I squeezed it out and the scratches heal quickly.

Cortes de Pallas Reservoir
The trail down the plateau offers fantastic views and it is a shame that it is not maintained better. Once in the valley it is quite a long road walk into town and I arrived just before the little shop was closing. As was to be expected the resupply choices were limited. In fact it was so bad that I had to buy chocolate of such bad quality that I could not bring myself to eat it later. Due to the reservoir there are plenty of energy companies and their workers in the area and therefore there are several bars and rooms to let in town, quite surprising for such a small village.

Full moon hiking
But I hiked on dreading another bushwhack from hell as the trail was routed where my map showed nothing. But surprise, surprise: the trail had recently been maintained and offered superb walking with an impressive mesa on one side and the reservoir on the other. I passed several great camping areas and entered agricultural land with olive trees everywhere. Now when I needed a good campsite the ground was rocky and hard. But there was a full moon and I just hiked on until I found a lone pine tree. The morning was so cold that the water from a nearby spring seemed to be lukewarm. 

But although very cold most mornings here are incredibly beautiful in an almost surreal way because of the clear sky, intense light and morning mist. Today's goal was the Mt Caroche which was easily reached via wide forest roads. Here I met a game warden of this public hunting reserve whom I quizzed for almost half an hour. From him I learnt about the private hunting reserve close to Chera and about trail maintenance. You have to do trail maintenance only every 5 years and it now seems to be even more of a shame how neglected some trail portions are.

The area up to Caroche was all scrub with no trees and I started to worry about camping that night. Luckily the descent was more wooded and I was looking forward to a nice soft campsite under a pine tree when I saw a sign about forest work. Forest workers had cut down all the lower branches of the pine trees and left them where they had fallen creating a huge mess on the ground. No way I could find a camp site here. Luckily I was on a good forest road and I decided to hike on until the end of the forest work where I immediately found a nice sheltered site under a pine tree.

On the way up to Caroche
Next day brought rain (only a slight drizzle) and the Rio Grande which was completely dry. Again up a sierra and into a bushwhack from hell. I had to descend into a passing through sheep pastures where I encountered a sheep with a broken leg. It was dying and I wished I could do something to help. After a steep descent I came to a dirt road and was already awaited by a woman with a dog. "This is private property" I was told but she mellowed a lot when I told my story in broken Spanish. She and her partner had only moved here recently and had not known about the GR 7. I told her about the sheep that belonged to her and then she relented even into accompanying me through her property - but sent me onto the wrong track. It took another bushwhack to find the real track once I was past their finca and out of the reach of her dogs. I hope these people will not block the trail in the future...

Next day it was down into the valley of Vallada. After passing under the motorway and railway line I entered orange country. Orange plantations everywhere and although it was a Sunday plenty of people were harvesting. I was showered with delicious oranges and kaki (persimmon). People were incredibly friendly and could not believe that this strange German woman was hiking all alone through Spain. I was offered so much fruit that I definitely won't suffer from vitamine deficiencies....

This was my last night camping out before Bocairent and a bed. I had been hiking and camping over a week without stop which is almost too long in these cold conditions. I was longing for a bed and central heating. This last night was also the hardest as the Sierra was high and shrub only. It was difficult to find a campsite and it was completely in the open. So first I had heavy condensation and then it froze completely over. It is hard to get up and hike at sunrise under these conditions. After shaking and rolling up the tent I could shake off a big pile of snow: frozen over condensation.... The morning was cold but again incredibly beautiful with views down into the valley. 20 km left to Bocairent which I passed through another hunting area with plenty of "Enter at own risk" signs.. And finally on a cold and overcast day I arrived in long awaited Bocairent, bought some food in the supermarket and collapsed in my room.

1 comment:

Juan Holgado said...

Nice to read your adventures Christine.
Now you will enter Sierra de Mariola and arriving in Alcoy and Monastery and Font Rotja a Natural Reserve.
A snow covered Font Rotja received me when I crossed to Obi.
Have a nice trek with better weather.