Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chulilla Wrap-up

We squeezed the most out of our final time in Chulilla. The weather forecast was poor, but we ended up with three good days and a single evening of rain, which was not bad all things considered. Some last photos from the trip...

Chulilla in morning light.

Cliff line above the Turia River gorge.

One of two bedrooms in our apartment at Las Cuevas. It was very comfortable and started to feel like our home away from home very quickly. The owner, Jesus, was very friendly, although he didn't speak a word of English, nor did his wife.

We saw lots of fish (some large) in the Turia River, but fishing was prohibited.

Another photo from the day in the thermal river near Montanejos. Elise gets full points for putting her head in that water and snorkeling. I didn't dare get my hair wet - it was too cold.

Restored castle above Sagunto, a pretty city north of Valencia.

Climbing route name tag.

Citrus fruit grew everywhere around Chulilla, especially oranges which were truly delicious.

Fishing regulations for the reservoir north of Chulilla. I guess using fruit as bait is okay!

Fooling around in the trees by the river.

On limestone, a water streak that builds up to form a protruding column on the rock is referred to as a "tufa". They form in the same manner as stalactites, and there were many in Chulilla. They're great for climbing!

We can always trust Elise to spot fossils on the trail. She has a keen eye and spots the details that Pam and I miss.

Market day in Chulilla. We were off to the Valencia aquarium and Elise wore her Christmas "stuffies" around her neck along with her purse. She wore this heavy necklace all day and it ended up chaffing her neck, silly girl!

The aquarium in Valencia, which is located in the riverbed that runs through the city. We spent a few hours touring the exhibits. My favourites were the glass tunnels, but Elise liked the dolphins best, of course.

After the aquarium, we went to a park for Elise to play. The playground consisted of a giant statue of Gulliver lying on the ground complete with ladders, ropes and multiple slides. The kids swarmed the statue, much like the Lilliputians in the famed story. It was really unique and Elise loved it. She's posing on Gulliver's fingers.

Valencia city beach at sunset.

For our last day, we gave Elise the choice of a few different activities. She choose a "via ferrata" adventure, which is basically a route that follows a series of metal ladder rungs up a cliff face. These are very popular in Europe, but have yet to gain much traction in North America, partially because they can be a bit unsightly due to all the metal necessary. The one in Chulilla was rated "experts only", but we didn't really know what that meant. I think my very words were, "A ladder's a ladder. How hard can it be?" Talk about famous last words. It turns out that "experts only" means the rungs are quite far apart, the terrain is steep and traversing and an ascent requires a mixture of ladder pulling and rock climbing. To make a long story short, we climbed two pitches which took us about half way up the cliff and then retreated, mostly because the rungs were too far apart for Elise. Regardless of the difficulty, she seemed to have fun and enjoyed spitting (!) off the belay ledges.

Looking up...

Still feeling optimistic.

Pam and Elise right before we turned around and rappelled back to the ground.

After the via ferrata "adventure", we decided to tack on one more activity, a hike to Las Cuevas. The weather was looking a bit ominous, but we had rain gear and it was our last day!

The first cave we visited was the long, horizontal roof near the bottom of this picture. It was quite interesting.

After hanging out in Cueva del Gollizno, we continued on to Cueva del Teroro.

This cave was far different, and kind of resembled a snake hole in the side of the mountain. Pam wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, but Elise was keen, provided I go first. It was hands and knees all the way and ended with a tight squeeze into a small chamber. Elise kind of panicked when we saw daddy long leg spiders on the walls illuminated by our headlamps. I had to calm her down for the return.

Here she is coming out, looking a bit worried after the spider sightings.


We spent our final evening socializing with our friends from Penticton. Our journey home was long, starting at 4:30 am in Chulilla and ending at about 9:00pm in Squamish, but we encountered no problems along the way.

The trip was short but memorable, and both Pam and I were sad to leave. Elise, however, was very excited to get home, see her friends and go back to school! Sometimes I just have to shake my head...

This is what greeted me on the truck in our driveway the next morning: two weeks worth of frost needles from a dry and cold Christmas break. That's the windshield wiper, by the way.

Back to winter...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chulilla Adventures

Our time in Chulilla is coming to a close. Although we've certainly been lucky to be here, two weeks has felt too short. It seems as though we're just getting our bearings and now we have to prepare for the journey home. Such is life, I guess.

Aside from the excellent climbing, we've spent time touring the coastline around Valencia and the countryside to the north. A couple of friends from Penticton are here and we've enjoyed the company of fellow Canadians. Meeting them was a nice treat.

Overall, the weather has been quite good - mostly sunny and dry - but our last three days look a bit more unsettled. We're crossing our fingers it's not too bad. Pictures from the last week...

Rose hips on a hike near Chulilla after a big rainstorm on Christmas Day.

A Christmas Day hike to "El Charco Azul", a beautiful pool in the "Las Hoces del Turia" below Chulilla. We've seen lots of fish (trout and catfish) in this river on our hikes.

Chulilla in morning light with the Arabic castle ruin visible above town. The castle is walled on this side, but the other three sides are naturally protected by massive cliffs that drop into the canyon.

Elise fooling around on one of two suspension bridges in the Turia River gorge. The hiking here is well developed and popular. These bridges are very modern and sturdy.

Elise climbing at the crag "Miguel Gomez", a kid-friendly spot deep in the gorge by the Turia River.

We visited "Playa de la Deversa", a good beach area just south of Valencia. We hoped to tour a well-known bird sanctuary called "L'Albufera" on the Saturday after Christmas, but it was closed much to our dismay. L'Albufera is a freshwater lagoon (the largest in Spain) that supports a healthy freshwater fishery and is the supposed location of the birth of the Spanish dice paella, since rice farming is plentiful in this area. We drove around, but didn't get to hike. The beach was a nice consolation prize, though.

Elise spent a lot of time building a very elaborate sand castle. We collected shells and wandered the beach. It was sunny but blustery.

Afterward we drove north to the ancient seaside village of Sagunto and toured a very nice castle ruin above town just as the sun was setting. The castle was of Roman Moorish origin.

Interesting artifact below the castle ruin in Chulilla.

Looking across at the Pared de Enfrente climbing zone in Chulilla. This is a sunny venue, good for cold weather climbing in the winter.

Tiles on a doorway in Chulilla.

A climber trying "Tequila Sunrise" (13b) at Balconito, the zone we've spent most of our time climbing at. The rock is excellent and the routes are very long.

Elsie hanging out at Balconito.

Beautiful flowers blooming midwinter by the Loriguilla Dam north of Chulilla.

A huge prickly pear below Pared de Enfrente. I think this is the biggest specimen I've ever seen.

Charcol Azul on the Turia River. We didn't venture too far on this rickety walkway.

Cat in the village of Montanejos, about 80 km north of Chulilla. We spent a day touring the beautiful countryside around the village.

The deep gorge just north of the village of Montanejos.

We visited a famous "hot" springs at Montanejos. It's actually a river with thermal activity underneath and the water remains a constant 25 degrees Celsius year-round. It was not really that hot, but warm enough to brave a short river adventure. Elise and I put on our wetsuits and journeyed upriver. She put on her snorkel and spotted lots of fish. It was a memorable adventure.

Afterwards we did quite a long hike across the rim of an adjacent gorge. We surprised a few families of mammals, which looked like a kind of mountain sheep. We think they might have been ibex, but we're not sure. Regardless, it was a real treat to see them - the large males had two huge horns on top of their heads.

Elise signing a trail register along the way.

The hike ended near Cueva Negra, the "Black Cave". The entrance wasn't that large, but once we poked our heads in we saw how huge the cave actually was. We had fun exploring it before dark.

Three more days before we head home to Canada. Happy New Year everyone.

Marc, Pam and Elise