Had an accurate GPS trail courtesy of Bornem and my way was generally not a problem. Had found high level description on the route, in the form of a PDF, on the Valencian Tourist Board site and this gave me a stage breakdown for the walk and some timings.
The next day was better and the scenery varied from good to excellent for the rest of the walk in Valencia. No co-incidence I guess, as for the first time for several days the route though the Sierra de Castalla was again at around 1000 metres. Fairly short walk, 22 kilometres to the pretty little town of Castalla (surrounded by large amounts of new housing development) with, appropriately, a hill top castle. Stayed in the new and very pleasant Don Jose hotel.
Excellent 27 kilometre walk next day to the classic Spanish hill top town at Bocairent (just slightly of the trail). The first third was the best with a walk through an increasingly dramatic gorge followed by a steady climb to the top of Montcabrer, wonderful limestone countryside with huge views. It was then into the Sierra Mariola Natural Park and onto Bocairent where I stayed at the very nice Casa Rural Baretta.
The walk to Vallada was not quite as dramatic and nor is Vallada such a nice town as Bocairent, but still a good walk often on Moorish mule tracks. Stayed in the Giners tourist apartments which were fine.
After Vallada and for the next few days the route starts to get difficult in terms of accommodation.
|Borranc de Bocquilla|
If you have made it to and from Ayora than the next day to Cortes de Pallas is relatively straightforward, a good walk with nice accommodation at the end of it. You are entering a really important area in Spain for energy generation, huge reservoirs and nuclear power stations, but the scenery is great, with one dramatic valley meeting another one. Stayed at the Hostal Casa Fortunata in Cortes de Pallas.
|Towards Cortes de Pallas|
Another difficult day for accommodation - things went completely wrong as far as my schedule was concerned. Had expected to stay at Milares but the accommodation didn't exist and meant an unanticipated night out of doors. Avoiding my fate would involve either a 50 kilometre walk all the way through to El Rebollar and then a taxi or train to Requena or a short walk to Venta Gaeta and a taxi back Cortes de Pallas with a return to the same point the following day. The lack of accommodation is a shame because it's good walking, particularly nice stretch north of Venta Gaeta and the walk around the Pico del Mono. Requena by the way is a large pleasant town with plenty of accommodation, about 10 kilometres to the west of the route.
Next day's walk to Chera (which is about 3 kilometres of the route) was not without incident either. The route went through a large hunting estate and the management have decided to block it and cover the waymarks. Without an alternative I climbed the fence and followed the route. Chera has a hostal which was closed when I was there but there rooms above a local bar.
38 kilometres to Benageber but my navigational cock-ups and some confused waymarking just outside Chera added to the distance. Continuing to cross empty countryside, usually along forest trails, through dry Mediterranean woodland (Aleppo Pine and Holm Oak) with a thick undergrowth of cistus and rosemary shrubs. Savage if you need to go off the trail and cut through it. The countryside is absolutely empty although there were odd bits of cultivated land with locals coming up from the village and working the land in near traditional ways. Nice apartments to hire on a nightly basis in the bar in the small village of Benageber.
Benageber was the start of one of a really wonderful stretch of walking - comparable to anything in Andalucia - great countryside and lovely towns/villages.
|Down to the Rio Turin|
Less fireworks the next day but still a nice walk and the twin villages of Andilla and La Pobletta were really lovely. Stayed in a smashing casa rural attached to the restaurant opposite the church. Really friendly and helpful.
Really short walk to Montanejos but spectacular. The main feature is the Barranco de la Maimona, another dramatic gorge and a favorite venue for climbers and wild water swimmers alike. The only bit of the walk in Spain where a head for heights was needed. Montanejos itself is lovely, an ancient centre and a spa town with lots of places to stay. Stayed in the Casa Palacios, a nice hotel built around a Moorish tower next to the church.
|Barranco de la Maimona|
After what was almost a rest day I got back into the saddle with a walk to Villermosa del Rio. The first half was great, through woodland covering recently abandoned terraces, down a valley and up to the lovely old village of La Artejuela and then onto the small town of San Vicente de Piedrahita. After that the walk was dissappointing, a lot of road or near road walking almost until Villermosa del Rio where the scenary, with Penyagolosa (1815 metres) as a backdrop was once again spectacular. Another lovely old town and Hostal Ruta Aragon another authentic hotel.
Leaving Vistabella de Maestrazgo
|Ares de Maestre|
So the last day in Valencia and the province of Castellon. The GR7 continues north but the E4 heads down into Catalonia and the province of Tarragona. Definitely didn't end with a wimper though and the high quality trail continued through to El Boixar. Leaving Morella you have a bit of road walking to contend with but after that it's a steady climb up over a pass (great views back), along a ridge and down to Vallibona (lunch stop opportunity) before climbing up again to El Boixar where you leave Castellon. There is a casa rural in El Boixar or, if your staying on the GR7 a refuge a bit further along. I went down the E4 into Moli L'Abad (which was much too far).
For a day by day, real time account of the walk go to the following walk diary entries:
3rd April Pinosa to Elba
April 4th Elda to Castalla
5th April Castalla to Alcoi
6th April Alcoi to Bocairent
7th April Bocairent to Vallada
8th April Vallada to Casa Benali
April 9th Casa Benali to Casa de Callado
April 10th Casa de Callado to Cortes de Pallas
April 11th and 12th Cortes de Pallas to Requena
April 13th Requena to Chera
April 14th Chera to Benageber
April 15th Benageber to Chelva
April 16th Chelva to Andilla
April 17th Andilla to Bejis
April 18th Bejis to Montan
April 19th Montan to Montanejos
April 20th Montanejos to Villahermosa del Rio
April 21st Villahermosa del Rio to Vistabella de Maestrazgo
April 22nd Vistabella de Maestrazgo to Benasal
April 23rd Benasal to Morella
April 24th Morella to Moli l'Abad