Saturday, March 31, 2012

Exploring the Province of Alicante One Hike at a Time

So things have been awfully quiet around here since I wrapped up the Christmas Markets theme... sorry about that! It's just that I've been really busy what with my number of students increasing and the fact that I've been heading out hiking around the Province of Alicante most Sundays! This results in being exhausted on Monday and what little creative juices I have left after preparing/teaching my classes have gone into transforming my hikes (via photo selection/editing + writing) into blog posts on my "main blog" (under the tag Hiking Alicante). I've been wondering if I should just import those posts here... but it kind of seems like cheating to post things twice! Plus in my view this is my "travel blog" and for me hiking around Alicante doesn't count as travelling... but since I realise it might interest other travellers I hope to see visiting here, I figure I'll at least dedicate one post to hiking in Alicante and do a short presentation on all the hikes with links to the original posts, and then keep updating it with successive hikes. What do you think? (oops!, turns out I have a lot more hikes than I thought... so I'm doing a couple of posts!)

Physical map of Alicante (wikipedia)
The Province of Alicante may be one of the smaller provinces of Spain (41 out of 50 for surface), but it is the fourth most inhabited in the country (probably has something to do with the 23.6% which are foreigners)! In spite of this there are some "empty" areas in the province, mostly abandoned rural spaces or mountainous zones, since most of the population lives in an urban environment. Most people who visit Alicante just think of the Province as one big beach, since the coastal area and sunny climate are the big tourist draw here. Surprise, surprise: the Province of Alicante is actually the third or fourth most mountainous province of Spain! And these mountains create some pretty big climatological differences between the north and central parts of the province (proper Mediterranean climate so more rain, greener) vs the south and along the coast (semi-arid so dry and brown). This means hikes in one area will be quite different from those in another part of Alicante! The three highest peaks in Alicante are the Aitana (1558 m / 5112 ft), the Puig Campana (1410 m / 4626 ft) and the Montcabrer (1389 m / 4557 ft). So far I've climbed the last two. :o)

I used to do a lot of hiking as a teenager (lots of my family holidays involved mountains), but hadn't done much since I came to Spain for college. I started up again in Belgium in 2010 and in New Zealand in January 2011. So when I came back to Alicante in February 2011 I was anxious to keep it up! Unfortunately I didn't know the paths around here, or who to go hiking with (almost none of my friends are hikers). So I did what most people do in this day and age... I Googled it! Yup, I basically stuck "senderismo Alicante" in Google and out popped the Centro Excursionista de Alicante! A hiking (and climbing, canyoning, biking etc.) group that's been around for 60-odd years and organises outings for its members (and "friends") on weekends! Only problem was... only 1 hike / month! I couldn't go to the first two after I got back, then had a damn cycling accident and twisted my knee in April, and so couldn't join them for a hike until September! Since then I've done most of my hikes with them (and I became a member in Jan'12), but also with another group I found, the Trenet Senderista. Also, the Provincial Government organises hikes in the Fall and Spring, plus I've been hiking with friends I made through the various hikes, people who know the trails well enough to choose a nice spot to go to and won't get us lost! :D

Now, without further ado, I give you: Hiking in Alicante 2011! (Clicking on the names will take you to the posts)

Cumbre Reconco: first hike among Alicante's mountains. (Sept 25 2011)
A 5h circular hike starting in Biar, which gave me my first sights of how green Alicante can be, with some beautiful little spots if you just know where to find them!


Hiking the Cliffs of Insanity in the Serra Gelada. (Oct 8 2011)
Sierra Helada cliffs
OMG!!! My legs were about ready to KILL me when I was done with this one!!! I joined a friend's hiking group (from Valencia) on what wasn't supposed to be a difficult hike along the cliffs of the Sierra Helada / Serra Gelada separating the bay of Benidorm from that of Altea. We had to do a lot of hiking UP and DOWN some very steep slopes (scrambling sometimes), and this only my second hike of the season! *gulp* A total of 11km (6.8mi) in 6+ hours... because we did it in both directions. I have since learnt that most people hike it one way, then walk to a bus stop and catch a bus back close to the starting point... Was absolutely insane, but wonderful at the same time! The views off the cliffs were breathtaking! :o)

Fire watch station in Font Roja

Colourful Hiking in the Font Roja. (Oct 23 2011)
The most famous Natural Park in the Province is the Carrascal de la Font Roja, with its natural spring, sanctuary and a great forest with some of the few trees around here which actually change colour in the Fall! A beautiful 10km (6.2mi) hike and paths which are well marked and easy to follow for anyone who wants to try it out...


Sierra del Cid

Hiking Up the Sierra Del Cid. (Nov 13 2011)
This was my first tough peak climb, and boy was I glad I had trekking poles! But I felt so proud when I reached the summit! Fabulous hike with great views and beautiful wildflowers. :o)




Hiking in a Cloud atop the Sierra de Bernia. (Nov 27 2011)
Altea peeking through the clouds
Hiking feels so different when you're forging through a thick mist most of the time... whenever the clouds begin to part it's like this spectacular view just jumps out at you out of nowhere! This was the first time I managed to get a spot on one of the hikes organised by the Diputación, and both enjoyed it and was disappointed at the same time! Enjoyed because it was a beautiful hike, crossing the mountains behind Altea. Disappointed because it was very "moderate", not much climbing (mostly descent) and no attempt to reach the peak or go visit a unique rock formation nearby... So a return trip to that mountain is necessary! (and I'm actually going tomorrow!)


A Sunny Hike Around the Sierra de Olta. (Dec 4 2011)
madroño fruit = YUM!
My first outing with the Trenet Senderista. Very fun group who like to take things easy! Which in Spain translates to as a relaxing mid-morning snack break and a long lunch, with siesta! Was a fun hike going around a little mountain just north of the tip of the Sierra de Bernia, with some magnificent views of the Peñón d'Ifach in Calpe, and made an interesting botanical discovery: the fruit of the madroño!!! Delicious juicy red fruit, but don't eat too much since its high sugar quantity and rapid fermentation properties might upset your stomach (and even make you feel tipsy since sugar + fermentation = alcohol! lol!).


Mission: Possible? Hiking up the Puig Campana. (Dec 11 2011)
Puig Campana from Benidorm Island
Alicante's second highest peak, a very distinctive mountain (it's got a chunk missing!) behind Benidorm, and one of the toughest climbs you can do in the Province. A hike I'd been fretting about since hearing it was on the programme! Was I (my legs) ready to do this? Should I try? Hell yeah! And it was AMAZING!!! Very steep climb up the backside, thank heavens for zig-zagged paths! Pity the cloud cover though... on a clear day you can see all the way to Ibiza they say. This was the Centro Excursionista's Christmas hike, so we had an added bit of fun by installing a little crèche up on the summit and uncorking a bottle of Cava (Spanish champagne) to celebrate! :o)

And that's it for the 2011 hikes in the Province of Alicante!  I'll work on the post for beginning 2012 in bits and pieces whenever I have time... First I've got to prepare a few Semana Santa posts for this blog, plus see what else I had "cooking" in drafts and publish them! ;o)

9 comments:

  1. I'll read your posts no matter where you post them, so post away! :-)

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  2. You actually did all that hiking? Incredible! The scenery is breathtaking.

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    1. That and more! As soon as I'm done with the Greek sailing posts I'm going to put together another one of these summarising the Spring hikes! :o)

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  3. I love hiking, looks like a beautiful area

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    1. That has been my biggest discovery in Alicante: the number of beautiful mountain areas in the province! I had no idea before...

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  4. Do you now where i could hike with my dogs in the mountains surrounding Alicante?

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  5. Im thinking about taking up hiking in Alicante, this article was very helpful.Thanks!.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! There are plenty of fabulous places to hike in Alicante. The province has much more to offer than just the beaches! ;o)

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