Thursday, 8 May 2014

Life in Altea La Vella

Morning on the patio

It’s Thursday 8th May and we’ve been here a week now. If I’m not too careful this is going to read like a ‘we’ve been on holiday’ entry and, while it does feel like a holiday to us, we have done some interesting stuff, but also a lot of relaxing, so I hope there’s enough to keep you reading….

That's Guadalest on top of those rocks. Can you see the buildings?
It’s actually been lovely so far, Richard and Elizabeth have been very welcoming and looked after us stunningly well. Coupled with the fabulous location of their house, the amazing views from their terrace and Elizabeths cooking, it’s an absolute joy and a great place to relax. It’s hot in the day (mid to high 20’s) and a little cooler at night (jumper and long trousers to sit outside after dinner), which it’s pretty much ideal.

Gearing up for climbing
We’ve had one day rock climbing so far, going to a crag at Guadalest, had a day of walking, which turned out to be not so good, another day of easy walking to a lighthouse by Benidorm, a day of tree cutting and a couple of days of walks round towns with R & E with cups of tea or beer/wine on the way.

Guadalest is an interesting place, high up in the mountains about 25km in from the coast, it’s a small fortified town built high on improbably high, craggy towers of rock, built during the Moorish occupation of Spain, some of it dating back to 714AD. 

It might not look much, but that route up left, through that recess was pretty hard!
It is now a ‘monument of historical and artistic value’, surviving these days on tourism and is a great tourist day out of interesting shops, bars, historic fortified buildings, requiring a bit of energy to scale the steps up to fabulous views over the surrounding mountainside. From a climbing point of view, the abundance of crags all around offer a great variety of rock climbs from fairly easy to very hard, with bolted and ‘trad’ routes. We chose a crag down from the main town and did half a dozen bolted routes ranging from 3 to 6a, finally running out of routes we could do as, from there they got really hard. In fact the 6a was pretty desperate and I backed off from it, leaving Jackie to lead it, who also wished she hadn’t halfway up. It was quite an old route and the many pairs of shoes that had scaled the first part had polished the limestone, making the holds very slippy! It was the polish that put me off, but Jackie got past that and found the higher holds were awkward and small. However, she did it and I went up on a top rope and was glad I didn’t try and lead it again, it was pretty hard – well done to Jackie!

An unexpected wait for resurfacing work on the mountain road
Our walk the next day was a bit of a disappointment. It had great promise, round the back of the majestic Bernia Ridge and down into an ancient barranco (canyon) and along the dry riverbed. It started with a 3km road walk, but the book we had didn’t explain the start very well and the road marking signs were different from those the book noted, so we ended up walking 1km too far (in hot sun!), before retracing our steps and deciding that this track must be the right one (we had no map, only the book!). We found the old Finca (house) and set off on a vague path heading downhill towards the barranco, but it was overgrown, difficult to follow and the bushes were very prickly. Jackie zipped on the legs to her shorts to protect her legs, I didn’t (it was hot) and we thrashed through the undergrowth. We were pretty sure this was the right track, but according to the book, there was another half hour of this before the track opened up at the start of the canyon. It was late after our mistake on the road and we were both demoralised by it all, so we gave up and came home to tea and cake!

The walk wasn't very good but the views were great. That's the Bernia Ridge from the back
The lighthouse in the distance
After a few days of not too much exercise, my body was telling me I needed to do something, so I was up at 07:15 the next day for a brisk walk from the house, up over the top of the town to the foot of the mountains. I watched the sun rise, took in the cool morning air and drank in the expansive views, fabulous! I was back for breakfast and ready for the lighthouse walk we did later on. Plenty of exercise, feeling much better! Pleasant lighthouse walk of about 5km round trip along a tarmacked path, but a high path hugging the coast with fabulous views down to the sea past hidden coves and with great views back to Altea and Calpe. It was a pity it was a bit cloudy from a scenic viewpoint, but great from a heat viewpoint as it was out of the breeze and would have been very hot had the sun been out.

Fossils in the rocks on the way
Jackie looks through the telescope for bottle nosed dolphins

Altea and, in the distance, Benidorms high rise buildings. That's Puig Campana mountain on the right, 1406m high
Jackie and her dad on a little walk we did one day
L to R: Michael, Elizabeth, Jackie, Marie, Jane and Richard behind
 I haven’t mentioned the BBQ we had at R & E’s on Saturday night. E’s sister Jane and her husband Michael (who we know) came, along with Marie, their friend (who we had apparently met some years earlier, but none of us could remember, so it was OK!). It was Maries birthday (or will be later this month), so I baked a coffee and walnut cake and we put some candles on it for her to blow out. Unfortunately E only had candles that said ‘70’, so we had to use those. Some said that was her actual age, but I still don’t believe them, she most certainly didn’t anything like it and if someone said it was her 50th birthday I’d have probably believed them!

Marie, Michael and jane
Richard, chef extrodinaire1

Jackie and Elizabeth
Elizabeth, Michael, Jane, Jackie and Marie

Happy birthday to you.... Do you think she looks 70?
Jane and Jackie

Why Richard has an axe in his hand I can't remember, it was late by now and lots of wine later
He seems pretty chilled out though
Marie repaid the compliment on Sunday by taking us all out for a meal in Altea, so we had luxury dining and high class food (the dishes were signed by the chef in some sort of edible drizzle, very posh!). Just a pity I had no posh clothes with me, but jeans and a casual shirt seemed OK!

And the sign on the wall that says it all: 'Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a normal family'

An evening walk in Altea 'old town'

The classic view of the old town

This walking round is exhausting!


Brian (up tree) receives instructions from Richard
Today I’m nursing scratched arms and aching shoulders and arms after tree climbing and cutting today in R & E’s garden. The fabulous views from their terrace come at a cost, as the surrounding trees that provide privacy need regular trimming so as not to spoil the view. Although the trees may not look that high, the ground in which they grow is some 5m below the terrace, so to climb to the level at which they need trimming, 
Ready to climb another tree!
I’m some 10m off the ground (or at least it felt like that!) The ladder took me only so far and then I’m climbing up through the braches, breaking off small bits here and there to get access. Donned with climbing harness, slings and an old climbing rope, I decided strapping myself to big solid branches was a good idea, particularly when I hauled up the petrol driven chain saw, electric extending chain saw, bow saw and other items. Oh what fun and a good few hours hard work, leaning out to reach remote branches and relying on either Jackie, who was belaying me from the bottom, or just the sling round a branch for support. It’s better than a work out or a trip to circuit training, so I’m feeling very well exercised and nicely tired now, just a pity about my sore arms (should have worn a long sleeved top!). Early evening beer or wine is calling now (already had the tea and cake!). Tomorrow? Who knows, maybe climbing again, we’ll see.
The 'before' photo....
The 'after' photo. Don't tell me you can't see the difference (there is more to be done though, but that's another day)

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