Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Chelva to El Rebollar or the great deer fence disgrace

Chelva valley
Chelva is a nice but not very exciting or interesting town. Luckily I had a nice room with excellent heating and therefore spent most of my time in my room preparing the rest of this trip including booking my flight back to Berlin. Chelva was much smaller then expected and even the choice in the local Consum supermarket was somewhat limited. I had a stretch of one week without resupply ahead: limited food choices here, no space in my backpack and little gas left for my stove made this almost impossible. But after some research I discovered that the little town of Cortes de Pallas in the middle of that stretch had a supermarket. Very relieved I now had to buy food for only four days.

Rio Turia
The first two days out of Chelva were the usual up a sierra, down into a river valley and up a sierra again. But I must say that the river Turia gorge was especially dramatic and even featured a water fall, a rare sight in dry Southern Spain. Then at the end of day two a long awaited and feared problem arose. I had read on John Hayes' blog and also heard from a German hiker friend that a huge fence blocks the GR 7 in this section. I had faintly hoped that the problem would have been solved by now but no: the GR markings suddenly petered out and then I stood in front of a looked gate and high fence. I even walked back to see whether I had missed the trail going somewhere else, but no: according to map, GPS track and blazes I was on trail. It was already late and I camped outside the fence to tackle the problem the next morning.

The whole thing worried me so much that I got only little sleep - and made the first mistake already when leaving. Instead of climbing the gate here where it was easy to get over I hoped to be able to go around the fenced in property. I found a good dirt road leading down into the valley - and soon stood in front of the same fence again, this time with signs warning me of dogs and 24 h camera surveillance. I still did not give up hope to get around the damn thing and descended into the river valley itself - and ended up in a bushwhack from hell. I even forded the knee deep Reatillo River which resulted in wet shoes and socks - and still only ended in front of the same fence.

There was no way around it: I had to somehow get across that fence but unfortunately now there was no gate in sight and I was afraid to tackle the fence itself. It is 2 m high, with metal mesh and wooden poles every 6 m. But would the fence support my weight? The steel mesh was sagging under my weight and I was scared to climb up it. (Also Grace and Elegance are not my middle names either....) Also this was a very professional fence and the lower part was doubled over so squeezing through underneath the fence was not an option either. By now I was desperate and shaking from cold and wet feet. Then I discovered that a little bottom section of the fence had been damaged but repaired with steel wires and wood. I removed the repair material and created a hole. Although it looked tiny I was able to squeeze myself and later my backpack through. Now I was in - but how would I get out again?

Hunting blinds
The fence belonged to a big private hunting reserve and created one huge deer high security prison. Inside there were hunting blinds everywhere and plenty of animal tracks, but luckily I did not see any hunters. I was not sure whether I was actually trespassing or not but tried to avoid people. It was a long walk through the estate and I hoped to find a gate where one dirt road emerged onto the road between Chera and Requena. No such luck - only insurmountable fence. I bushwhacked towards the main entrance and even saw a car coming in when I got closer. Should I make myself known and get through the open gate? As I did not know what the legal situation was I hid myself until the car was gone and regretted it almost immediately. The main gate was almost 3 m high and had spikes on top. But closer inspection revealed that it was not as difficult as I thought. The gate had a metal cross bar to climb up and the spikes were so far apart that I could get through between them.

5 minutes later I was back in freedom and wanted to breathe a sigh of relief - when I saw the same deer fence on the other side of the road as well. I was about to cry. The adventure had already cost me half a day and I could not stand it any more. But things were not as bad as they looked. I had not intended to join the GR 7 again now but wanted to continue on a shorter lower route. And right were I was now I discovered turnstiles leading into the fenced in compound next to the dry Reatillo. The signs said "Enter at your own risk" and "Pedestrians only". I squeezed through the turnstile and a short bushwhack brought me to the dirt road I was looking for. After about 3 km another nice surprise: Another turnstile let me out again. I eventually sat down to have a very late lunch and relax. Another 2 easy km brought me back onto the GR 7 and then finally into little El Rebollar next to the motorway.

A couple of days later I met a ranger in a public hunting reserve and asked him about this situation. He explained that the problem has been in the media for several years now. This posh private hunting reserve is blocking the whole valley and the local population has been complaining for years - but the local government has been unwilling or unable to come up with a solution. I think that the whole situation is a disgrace for the government of Valencia. On the one hand they are promoting and funding the GR 7 with pamphlets and signboards, but when some private company blocks this fancy trail they are not doing anything for three years! No pedestrian gates, no diversion, not even a warning on their websites and brochures.

1 comment:

Juan Holgado said...

What a pity Christine. I hope you will not have that bad surprise again. Anyway things will improve next days as the terrain will be better and more plain. You will cross the Jucar (Xuquer) river near Cortes de Pallas getting near Alicante and the coast.
Have a good days in front of you. Cheers.