Monday April 4th Elda to Castalla

After three pretty average days today's walk was a distinct improvement. The weather was a bit fresher and the route went higher. Not a long day, the walk was only 22 kilometres, but with over 600 metres of climb I was above the 1000 metre contour for the first time for a while.

After finding your way out of Elba, walking along roads for a couple of kilometres you then go through a slightly scary tunnel underneath the main Madrid Alicante motorway. The tunnel was slighty scary because it was long, pitch black, and in the middle, mysteriously parked was a black BMW with sleeping occupants. How the car got there and why the occupants considered a motorway subway a good place to have a sleep is question I would prefer others to ask.

Although not spectacular the walk got better and better and views looking backwards in particular got bigger. Walking along forest trails you were travelling through increasingly mature pine woodlands, occasional olive groves, fields of barley and open hill sides which perhaps had been the victim of forest fires. Not a lot or wildlife after the abundance of Andalusia but I did get a picture of a bird which is a bit of a mystery. My assumption was that it was a Jay, there are a lot of Jays here, but do Jays have a crest?
View back towards Elba

The last bit of climbing was a lot steeper than anything I've done for the last few days, made worse by the fact that Christine Durrant, who is walking with me at the moment, is a very fast walker. The stiffness in left ankle had completely gone but has reappeared in the right one. I'm a bit disappointed with the lack of advice from my medical team at home but I have been able to get huge Ibuprofen tablets which in the UK would only be given to a horse.

The top wasn't quite a pass and you had to walk for another couple of miles before the final descent into Castalla. On the way in we saw deer and boar but in strange place which seemed to be half zoo, half farm. Much preferred the glimpses I got in the Cazorla.
Castalla definitely fits with the emerging model that the more prosperous a place looks the more it's been hit by the recession. Relative to its size the extent of the development looks massive. The castle towering above the town looks completely restored, as does much of the old town centre but the huge housing development on the southern edge of town has come to a grinding halt.

We are staying in brand new hotel, the Don Jose. Got here in time for lunch and well set up for a longer walk to Alcoi tomorrow and the big game.

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