Stage 4 - The GR7 and E4 through Valencia

The 600 kilometres through the region of Valencia (which includes the provinces of Valencia, Castellon and Alicante) involved some of the best and some of the worst experiences of the whole trip.  Although not a particularly fashionable walking area some of it, particularly the northern part, deserves to be much better known.

It took me 21 days to walk through Valencia, starting on the 3rd and finishing on the 24th of April.  Walking up in the mountains, on a trail that ran parallel with the coast,  I experienced the lows of multiple bee stings, the adventure of an all night walk, and the highs of a series of specatular Castellon towns.  The weather was also mixed - really hot at the beginning and extremely wet at the end.  Not quite sure what I was expecting in terms of scenery but I was surprised by how good much of it was -  more of those dramatic gorges I got a taste for in Murcia.

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 first day, from Pinosa to Elba, wasn't much fun.  A continuation of the fairly dull walking experienced since leaving Cieza.  If you are going to walk 5,000 kilometres you can't expect scenic fireworks everyday!  Elba was not a town I would choose as a destination for a weekend break - the hotel we had booked had closed down so others clearly shared the same view.

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.

Castalla
Excellent walk to the wonderful town of Alcoi, worth going there just for its amazing street lights.  Great walk through a gorge, up to the top of Menejador and through the Natural Park of Font Roja.  Beautiful and unique ancient woodlands including some trees which only exist in this part of Spain.  Lots of places to stay in Alcoi.
Montcabrer

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.
Bocairent

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
From Vallada, and after crossing the valley and the Rio Canyoles, you go through a wonderful gorge (the Borranc de Bocquilla) which goes on for mile after mile, a real surprise and a great walk.  You eventually climb out the gorge at El Chorrillo carrying on over the heath, drop down into a valley and back up again to Casa de Benali.  There is a Casa Rural there which might do accommodation later in the season but not in April and I had to get a 20 kilometre taxi to and from Enguera - a nice town but a long way off the track.

Next day is also difficult with no accommodation on the route until you get to Cortes de Pallas (55 kilometres from Casa de Benali).  The first metalled road to hit the route is about five kilometres after Caroche and this is the logical place to get a taxi to pick you up.  This was my bee sting day and other things also went wrong.  If you can get a taxi than the nearest hotel is in a town called Ayora and I afraid the hotel there is very poor and on Saturday the disco underneath went on all night.

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
The first day in this purple patch involved a short walk to Chelva.  Around 5 kilometres east of Benageber you hit an absolutely amazing gorge, huge cliffs, with the Rio Turin running through the bottom.  You go almost straight down one side of the gorge and almost straight up the other - about 300 metres from the top to the bottom.  Dramatic scenery.  After climbing out the gorge, it's a pleasant upland walk, through the tiny village of Bercuta, along a forest trail and then down to the lovely ancient town of Chelva (with its old Arab quarter) where I stayed at the Hotel La Pasada.

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.
Andilla

Short but lovely walk to Bejis next day, some great opportunities for outdoor swimming along the way and a couple of lovely villages to wander around (Arteas de Arriba and Arteas de Abajo).  The first part of the 23 kilometre walk you share with the GR 10 and I managed follow it instead of the GR7 before working out my mistake.  Bejis is in the province of Castellon (you have left the province of Valencia but you are still in the region of Valencia) and is one of a series of stunning hill top towns which now start to come thick and fast.  Stayed at the friendly and authentic Hostal Restuarant El Pita.

Bejis
My GPS route was a bid dodgy on this stretch and this, combined with poor waymarking, meant that I kept missing the route, frustrating on a hot day.  Still it was a good walk and the little town of Montan was a real reward at the day's end.  Stayed at Hostal Pilar, authentic, cheap and great fun.

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.

Next day was a special stretch of walking spoilt, when I was there, by bad weather. I really want to go back and do it again.  You go up a lovely long gorge (lots of wild life), past abandoned villages, high along the side of a cliff, past the old monastery of Sant Joan de Penyalagosa, onto a weird upland plain, before some more rugged country on your approach to Vistabella de Maestrazgo.  The rain was pouring down and I missed Penyagolosa but Vistabella de Maestrazgo was a great place to hide out in, another wonderful Spanish mountain town.





Leaving Vistabella de Maestrazgo           


The great walking continued next day (despite mixed weather).  Initially it's more high flat walking across yesterday's upland plain before heading down a long valley past more abandoned villages down to the dry Rio Manleon (dry when we were there).  It's then a steep walk up to Culla. where I think there is accommodation, but I stayed in the lovely little town of Benasal at the Hotel la Piqueta.
Benasal

Two stunning hill top towns in one day, Ares de Maestre and Morella, plus some great walking often along some remarkable ancient and really well preserved caminos. Accommodation at both places and the scenery and stopovers really justify going at a slower pace (particularly if you get better weather than I did).  Morella is the number one hill top town in these parts with a lot of tourists.

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










3 comments:

  1. I truly appreciate the content of your blog.. Keep going.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello john.
    Very nice site.
    I'm going one week to Alicante, and will walk from ( Elda -Castella - Alcoi . Bocairent - Vallada )
    Coming in to Alicante on monday the 20 october at 16:00 and take a cap to Elda for the nigth.
    Friday evening coming to Vallada, I will take a bus or taxi to Xativa. for the nigth and stay there te next day before geting to a place near the airport sunday evening, fligth back monday the 27 october.
    Do you how the weather is at that time?
    Grettings from Denmark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment.

      November is usually a wet month but you could be alright in October. I'm in Spain from next week for two weeks, and further north, so I hope that's right. Best of luck John

      Delete