Friday, November 16, 2012

Spain 7

Despite the sunny landscapes visible in the pictures below, it's been a rough stretch of gnarly conditions around here lately. We've endured some terrific rainstorms, ones the locals say are very unusual. We've been forced to be creative with our time and dash out during the brief, sunny windows that occur between the fronts.

The beach in Villajoyosa is close by and always good for burning off a little steam. Elise loves the play structures more than the beach itself. Look closely at the top of the spider web...

Elise's creative talents continue to surprise us. Between making paper clothing for her various dolls and painting unicorns, she has built a Barbie mermaid surfing set on the living room floor, complete with a standing wave that the dolls can surf across using Elise' homemade surfboards. She is a magician with scotch tape - it's a sight to behold.

Last week, we hiked up the Penon de Ilfach, an impressive rock tower on the seaside near Calpe. Due to the steepness of the face, a tunnel had been blasted through to connect hikable slopes that led to the top of the peak. After half an hour of rock scrambling and dodging thousands of aggressive seagulls, we reached the top......and found a family of cats! Elise was delighted and we spent lots of time feeding, petting and holding them when possible. Unfortunately, Pam got bit by an aggressive kitten - the wound was deep.

Elise enjoyed the cat summit so much that a week later she insisted we go back and do the hike again. This is akin to a six-year-old begging her parents to hike up the Squamish Chief! I felt it was our duty to oblige her. If only I could stash kittens in strategic locations around British Columbia, then all my hiking and climbing issues would be solved!

The Penon...

Flamingo in the salt lake by Calpe. The lake was full of them. Apparently they change colour based on their diet. This one was white, but others were pink.

The tunnel on the Penon hike.

Cats on the summit. Who'd have guessed?

A few days later, we drove about an hour and a half to the city of Villena to climb a via feratta. For those that haven't heard this term before, a via ferrata is essentially a series of ladder-like rungs drilled into a cliff face that allow climbing on sheer walls normally reserved for those with technical climbing skills (and strong fingers). Via ferattas are popular in Europe as they allow "normal" hikers to venture up cliff faces, places they'd never likely go. The routes are typically protected with steel cables along which you run a leash, but we chose to use traditional climbing rope protection and belays. The route we choose was about 200 m high and consisted of many ladders, traverses and two cable span bridges! On the bridges, you tiptoed across a tight cable with handlines, which was protected from above by a second cable. It was exciting and Elise had a great time!

After the via feratta, we attempted to tour some local castles, but all were closed. Elise asked, "Are they closed for restorage?" She meant "restoration". Close, but no cigar. We did see one of the most bizarre sights on the trip, though, and that would be a flock of painted pigeons. A local artist captures them and paints their feathers with non-toxic paint before releasing them, which we witnessed. The purpose of this we never figured out.

Villajoyosa, the seaside city closest to Sella is a pretty spot with colourful homes. We've spent some time in the city beachcombing between storms and having the world's best hot chocolate at the Valor cafe! No kidding, it's like rich dark chocolate in liquid form. It had better be at four euros a glass!

As the storms finally cleared, we were awarded with some sunny weather during which we decided to hike to the summit of the Devino, the large rock face that looms over the valley in which we climb. The moist earth had sprouted many mushrooms in all sizes and colours. We wish we'd been able to identify them - a feast likely laid at our feet.

As always, eagle-eye Elise spotted a bizarre insect on the trail. Pam and I walked right over it, despite it being about 2-3 inches long and brightly coloured. It had a wicked looking stinger sticking out of its backside, so I opted not to handle it. I did get close enough for a good picture, though! It was very large.

Near the summit of the Devino.

Looking down into the valley. Wild Side, the cliff we've been climbing at, is visible in the shadow just above the centre of the photograph. It's orange with dark rock along the top. The cliff was absolutely soaked after the storms so we had to climb elsewhere.

We've seen very few fossils around here, but were pleasantly surprised to find thousands embedded in the rocks at the top of the Devino. 

The Cabezon de Oro is a cliff we travelled to during the rainstorms. Elise asked to climb on a 5.11 route while we were there, so we eagerly obliged. I pulled her through the crux sections, but she went about 20 metres up a gently overhanging wall without a complaint - her hardest attempted climb to date and a very exposed one at that. I finished the day by climbing a long route as darkness fell. We then had to quickly pack up and hike down the trail in the dark and rain; luckily we had our headlamps.

The countdown to the end has begun. Whistler is opening this Friday, but I see the snow base is actually quite minimal. Regardless, winter is not far away!


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