Week 6: Mi Vuelta a España

03/10/22 – 09/10/22 207 km

I had an appalling night’s sleep in the tent. Partly because I could hear shots going off in the distance but more significantly due to the fact I had pitched in such a way that I kept rolling off the mattress. I was certain it was level when I had put it up! At 4am I packed up all my gear and set off into the darkness. It was still pitch black and I couldn’t see beyond the beam of my head torch but the stars were magnificent. Orion in particular.

After blundering my way down, across and back up the valley I was starting to get hungry. So as the path joined the road I sat down and ate the last of my cheese and salchichón. By the time I had finished the sun came up and I continued to Enguera. I arrived around 11am so I made myself comfortable in a local bar and ate a second breakfast whilst I waited for the Casa Rural to open. I had checked myself in for two nights so I could recover from the previous week’s endeavours.

On Day 34 I used a washing machine for the first time on this trip and my goodness did I need it!

I really struggled to get going again after the relative luxury of the last few days. I ambled out of the village eating the last of my grapes as I went, until I reached a damp forest full of microscopic frogs. It was a tough slog and the sweat was dripping off me. So much for the clean clothes. After passing yet another village with its customary ruined castle, I dropped into the next valley floor and walked endlessly towards the next mountain range in the distance. It was boring as sin. The only thing to note was the change from olives to oranges!

I was still off the GR7 after having made a slight detour to reach Enguera but would join it again on the other side of these mountains. Unfortunately when I arrived there the river had swollen to such an extent, after the recent rains, that it had become impassable. No problem, I would try further downstream. This time it was worse. I had no choice but to retrace my steps and take the less direct route west before heading south once more. As annoying as it was I knew I couldn’t ford the river. After seventeen kilometres I arrived at my initial destination in Ontinyent.

The next morning I was up at 7am and after spilling coffee everywhere I departed for Alcoy. I slowly wound my way up to a convent in Agres where I would begin the steep climb up to MontCabrer. Prior to the ascent, I stopped to eat lunch on the benches outside the convent. Accompanied by the rain. The climb took me up through the clouds and it was truly spectacular. The kind of walking that always reminds me of the hills back home due to the claggy atmosphere. It was eerie!

If I didn’t have to get to Alcoy I would have pitched the tent right there! Alas I had to continue, as I would be meeting up with Armand who would be joining me for a few days. I’d also sent myself a pair of new shoes to the hotel we would be staying at. I was onto my third pair now, at this rate I’d need at least ten more before I finish!

The next day we left Alcoy by road and rejoined the GR7 in time to climb up to yet another convent. This one had a scary walkway running around the outside that suspended you over the valley below. We ate lunch on the picnic benches whilst soaking up the views back to Alcoy. When we reached the plateau we walked until sunset where we had planned to camp in one of the many camping zones that we had seen that day. Unfortunately this one was locked, so with the moonlight guiding us we carried on until we collapsed with exhaustion and made camp on the side of the path.

A lone owl serenaded us through the night but it was hard to sleep due to the full Moon. At 5am we broke camp and made our way down to Elda where everything except for the churrería was closed. It felt like everyone in the town was there, the atmosphere was electric which was incredibly bizarre given that it was 7am!

After a few cups of coffee we made our way down the rambla to Monóvar where I would be seeing Cristina for the second time since setting off. It was another whirlwind visit but I wasn’t feeling as emotional as before as I knew I would be seeing her again next Tuesday and the following weekend. It was good to be walking so close to ‘home’!

After saying goodbye to Cristina we set off towards Cieza, where Armand would be catching the train the following day. The walking was made easier by the fact we could graze on the delicious Monastrell grapes growing in the fields around us. It was good to be back in the Region of Murcia, my Spanish home! We managed fifty kilometres before collapsing next to an abandoned restaurant on one of the old ‘nationals’ (the old road network which has been superseded by the motorways). Armand slept in the bus shelter and I took an abandoned sun lounger which seemed to have been left for this very purpose!

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