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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Cave Systems and Speleology Spain!

The Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam.
Son Doong cave
Vietnam - largest single
cave passage yet found (2009)
OK - for those who know me they are probably going to think "What?????!!!!?!!?!??!.... She has NEVER got into caving!!"  Well don't panic, you are right!  Dark, often small spaces and where water might flow are most certainly at the top of my list of things I would be terrified to do, however, I greatly admire those who are able to go under ground and explore cave systems because some of them are stunning and very beautiful.  I am however, happy to see photos!  The reason this is here is because during my Camino walk through Moixent I noticed cave entrances and then later doing my research found a cave system (mentioned in the last blog) and having often seen people getting kitted up between Chella and Enguera, I thought I would look up caving in Spain and in particular Valencia.

It appears that the geology of this area is ideal for cave formation and there appear to be many wonderful cave systems to go and explore.  From what I read, it would seem like a great place for speleologists to come and visit so I thought I would put a little information here in case any cave enthusiasts see it and fancy looking into a Spanish caving holiday.  Check out the following as there seem to be 64 different systems listed which can be explored: 

It seems like the cave system past which I drive is likely to be the Sima La Moñigosa - a system of moderate difficulty and running 12.52 miles!!  No wonder I see so many people regularly getting ready to explore it.

Taken from Spanish blogspot of Jose Maria Simón including photos: 


Esta situada en la finca de la Moñigosa en la Zona de Benali, la encontraremos una vez pasada la Cruz de Galima y el camino de entrada de las Casa Flores ,a unos 1oo metros del camino principal a la derecha, antes de llegar al caserío de la Moñigosa.La Cavidad tiene un desnivel de 29 metros y un recorrido total de 116 metros.El desarrollo es vertical formada por disolución, compuesta de una gran sala de orientación E.Esta Cavidad constituye una gran sala de orientación E,"Sala de la Chiquetes"(foto derecha) de 48 m de larga y 8 de anchura,cuya base esta formada por una rampa que desciende hasta el E. El acceso se produce por una boca de 60 x 60 cm. situada en la bóveda de la galería,en su lado O,descendiendo por un pozo aéreo de 6 m cuya base la forma un bloquee gigantesco.Desde la entrada de la cavidad y a unos 12 m en dirección NE existe una segunda boca inaccesible que comunica con la misma bóveda de la cavidad.El material a utilizar sera: 1cuerda de 32 m,1 cinta de 3 m,2 rev,.1 aco y 4 m/c/s.
Para mas 
información sobre Cuevas y Simas en la Sierra de Enguera lo podremos encontrar en el Libro de Silvino Vila, se puede adquirir en la Casa de la Cultura de Enguera.
Foto:Silvino Vila Carrió, enguerino, autor del libro "Cuevas de Enguera"

Caves are fascinating places and I thought it might be nice to include a little information from dear old Wikipedia:

Caving—also occasionally known as spelunking in the United States and Canada and potholing in the United Kingdom and Ireland—is the recreational pastime of exploring wild (generally non-commercialcave systems. In contrast, speleology is the scientific study of caves and the cave environment.

Cave conservation

Many cave environments are very fragile. Many speleothems can be damaged by even the slightest touch and some by impacts as slight as a breath.
Pollution is also of concern. Since water that flows through a cave eventually comes out in streams and rivers, any pollution may ultimately end up in someone's drinking water, and can even seriously affect the surface environment, as well. Even minor pollution such as dropping organic material can have a dramatic effect on the cave biota.
Cave-dwelling species are also very fragile, and often, a particular species found in a cave may live within that cave alone, and be found nowhere else in the world, such as Alabama cave shrimp. Cave-dwelling species are accustomed to a near-constant climate of temperature and humidity, and any disturbance can be disruptive to the species' life cycles. Though cave wildlife may not always be immediately visible, it is typically nonetheless present in most caves.
Bats are one such fragile species of cave-dwelling animal. Bats which hibernate are most vulnerable during the winter season, when no food supply exists on the surface to replenish the bat's store of energy should it be awakened from hibernation. Bats which migrate are most sensitive during the summer months when they are raising their young. For these reasons, visiting caves inhabited by hibernating bats is discouraged during cold months; and visiting caves inhabited by migratory bats is discouraged during the warmer months when they are most sensitive and vulnerable. 
Some cave passages may be marked with flagging tape or other indicators to show biologically, aesthetically, or archaeologically sensitive areas. Marked paths may show ways around notably fragile areas such as a pristine floor of sand or silt which may be thousands of years old, dating from the last time water flowed through the cave. Such deposits may easily be spoiled forever by a single misplaced step. Active formations such as flowstone can be similarly marred with a muddy footprint or handprint, and ancient human artifacts, such as fiber products, may even crumble to dust under all but the most gentle touch.
The Federación Española de Espeleología is the Spanish Speleological Association. There are also twelve Regional Associations ("Federaciones Autonómicas" in Spanish), and people must be associated with one of them so they can do caving.
GERS de l'A.E. Muntanya is a group from Barcelona focused in the exploration of new caves in Pirineos mountains and urban speleology.
The largest cave chamber in Europe is the Torca del Carlista in the Basque Country. It measures some 520 metres by 245m. It is the fourth (not the second as some sources claim!) largest cave chamber in the world. Legend has it that a Carlist follower threw himself to his death here rather than be taken alive.

Longest caves in Spain
Ojo Guareña
110.000 m
Sistema del Alto Tejuelo
77.610 m
Sistema del Gándara
74.300 m
Cueva del Valle (Red del Silencio)
60.223 m
Sistema de la Piedra de San Martín
53.950 m
Sistema Garma Ciega-Bloque Cellagua-Sombrero-Mazo Chico-CruceroCantabria52.000 m
Sistema del Hayal de Ponata
49.000 m
Torca del Mortero de Astrana
48.000 m
Sistema de los Cuatro Valles
43.810 m
Sistema Arañonera
42.700 m
Deepest caves in Spain
Torca del Cerro del Cuevón
-1589 m
Sistema del Trave
-1441 m
Ilaminako Ateeneko Leizea
-1408 m
Sistema Arañonera
±1349 m
Sistema de la Piedra de San Martín
-1342 m
Sima de la Cornisa-Torca MagaliLeón-1330 m
Torca de los Rebecos
-1255 m
Pozo del MadejunoLeón-1252 m
Torca del Cueto de los Senderos
-1169 m
Torca Idoúbeda
-1167 m

Saturday, 27 October 2012

El Camino de Santiago - Levante Route: Stage 2 Canals to La Roda

Canals to Moixent 20km:

The stages walked on this blog are my own and not the stages as set out in the guidebook.  Stage 1 was the first 77km from Valencia to Canals and was walked as day trips from home, taking the car and train and walking back to a designated point.  From here on out, I will walk in a forward direction toward Santiago with the help of a support vehicle, so that I can walk both our younger dogs on each walk of approximately 20km.  The dogs will swap at a half way point but the initial part of each walk will be with our three dogs, Akina, Kaishi and Ndzilo - all Rhodesian Ridgebacks - and my husband Michael.  As I continue on, he will return to the car with two of the dogs and make his way to the half way meeting point where I take a short break and swap dogs.

The route has been planned out over the entire distance and swap points logged.  GPS helps with locating these points and also we have a tracking system so he can see when I am getting close.  In addition to this the vehicle provides peace of mind should we need to break the journey for any reason, in particular if one of the dogs needed a vet or the weather changed dramatically.  Ridgebacks do NOT like rain!  They have fine hair and it is not pleasant for them to walk in driving rain.  While I might have a purpose for walking El Camino, they do not, I just want them to have the most fantastic walks a dog could have and enjoy themselves from moment to moment.

Tile Canals Commemorating
the 750th anniversary of
King Jaume I of
the conquest of D'Aquestes Terres
Stage 2 will take us in day trips and two day trips from Canals to La Roda.  When we reach La Roda we will have completed a total of 265.6km of the Camino Levante, just over 1/6th of the total route.  Today's route, Canals to Moixent, was my first 20km day and the best walk yet, with tracks and scenery along the lines of what I had imagined for the Camino.  Michael walked for the first 40 minutes with me today and then turned back with Ndzilo and Akina while I continued on to our pre-arranged meeting point.  We easily found the marker in Canals where I had finished the walk from Xàtiva with Kaishi previously.  The town is lovely and 08.30 very quiet.  A few cafes were opening and a number of people called to us and the dogs and asked what kind they are or smiled and looked surprised at the three of them as they walked with us through the centre of the old town.

Our friend Wikipedia tells us that in the 19th century Canals industry started to developed, with 24 glass factories, a paper factory, metal workshops, flour mills, and cloth sellers. In 20th century this industrial activity increased with oil, furniture, construction materials, leather and cloth production.  Apparently the pottery was also very important, and gave the people from Canals the nickname of "perolers" (potters).  The Canals Ayuntamiento website ( tells us some of the history:

Outside the church where they build the fire to celebrate
Sant Antoni
Several archaeological remains, and in particular a tombstone that was in the old gothic church, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Valencia, suggest the existence of a Roman villa.  By passing the Via Augusta Canals, which later would become the way of Castile. 

In the times of the Arabs, Canals was the largest urban center near them, since it was the location that regulated the waters of the holy river. This matter of the water, so crucial in the agricultural world, has been represented in one of the barracks of the shield of the town. 

The Christian conquest by King James I was in 1244, and the tower and farmhouse Canals were given to Count Dionysius of Hungary. The Barony of Canals belonged successively to Ximes de Urrea and Raimon of Riusec, which sold it to the Juries Xàtiva City in 1352.  Moreover, the Barony of the Tower, owned by the Borgia family, was also bought by Xàtiva in 1506.   

The medieval Canals settled on the neighborhood renamed The Secanet, where there was a Gothic church demolished in the twentieth century.

There is a celebration of San Antonio on the night of January 16th where an immense bonfire is built by gathering wood from December 8th onwards and stacking it in a way that when it is set alight it collapses inwards onto the pyre.  It is apparently higher than the church and from the picture you will get an idea of exactly how high that is!  I have made a note in my diary to visit Canals during this period and on the night of the 16th in order to see it for myself and take photos for the blog.  It is said to be the highest bonfire of the many built in the Valencian community to celebrate the winter equinox.  There is a webpage for the Sant Antoni celebrations ( and on it there is a video clip of various photographs of townsfolk building it.  I have to say that it does not look as high as the church but it is enormous!!  As we pass from the church we also find the remains of the palace of the Borjas and where Calixto III was born.  There was also once and oratory here (now a chapel) and the remains of the tower which can still be seen today.

Remains of the palace of the Borjas and Borja tower
Heading out of Canals today the weather was cool and perfect for walking but still too hot for a jacket.  As Michael turned back I made my way along the river and into the countryside in the direction of Vallada, passing (on the opposite side of the valley) the castle of Montesa.  The Order of Montesa took over the possessions of the Templars Hospitallers (Wikipedia info follows):

The Order of Montesa was a Christian military order, territorially limited to the old Kingdom of Aragon.

[edit]Templar background

The Templars had been received with enthusiasm in Aragon from their foundation in 1128. King Alfonso I of Aragon, having no direct heir, bequeathed his dominions to be divided among the Templars, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, but this bequest was annulled by his subjects in 1131. The Templars had to be contented with certain castles, the chief of which was Monzón. Although the Aragonese branch of the order was pronounced innocent at the famous trial of the Templars, Pope Clement V's Bull of suppression was applied to them in spite of the protests of King James II of Aragon in 1312.
As we leave Canals -
monument bearing a green
cross - said to be a sign of
the Inquisition!

Montesa castle in the distance, with yellow arrow, GR
route marker and Via Augusta markers right foreground
Here we should be careful in following the route and hopefully the info on this blog will help others avoid the error I made in missing the route.  As usual, the guide is actually very accurate and helpful, but the placement of the sign, the lack of arrows and the fact that the head of the signpost was missing, did mean that I doubted the turn described in the book.  It asks us to turn left, but this muddy road looked like it might just disappear up to a farmyard.  I also learnt my lesson in being clear when asking locals directions because of course "camino" is just a way or road in Spanish and there are many hiking trails (ways and roads!) locally.  When I asked if this was el camino - everyone cheerfully said yes and pointed the way I was heading.  After some minutes, having had many arrows on route, I felt there was rather a lack of my yellow friends and turned back.

There was a group of orange pickers having a morning break and I asked them (this time) for El Camino de Santiago.  A tall and handsome young man leapt up to help - insisting his other friends leave this to him (!) as he obviously knew exactly the route of El Camino de Santiago and he confirmed that the muddy track which turned along the river was the correct way.  As I headed down the hill - waving and laughing with the original orange pickers who had waved me on the first time and explaining my error - I heard the group discussing "El Camino de Santiago"enthusiastically.  At this point, and on many others today, the lanes were quiet and often fairly broken and underused, so I could let Kaishi off the leash to run and investigate her surroundings.
Kaishi at a Via Augusta marker - stones
have been left on top - usually left
at grave sites, they honour the
memory of the deceased.  I place one
for the victims of genocides as marked
by this Camino walk.

On the left of the route is a finger-shaped peak known as "El Diablo".  It is unmistakable and pictured below.  After a few kilometres we could see the new road construction and high speed railway to our right.  Michael had sent a message to say that he had struggled to find a way across and had taken our poor, low to the ground car, on a bit of off road-ing through the orange orchards to get to our meeting point!  As I neared our rendezvous I met an old Spanish gentleman and waved and said good morning as usual, but instead of waving us on and exchanging pleasantries, he called me over and Kaishi ran to greet him.  He asked us where we were going and roared with laughter when I said Santiago - as this is rather a long way from Vallada, the town we were approaching!  He asked me if I would like a lift in his car as I was going such a long way and when I thanked him and explained that I must walk, he laughed again, grabbed my arm and indicated his car again and that really, was I sure I didn't want a lift?!  I explained that my husband was waiting for me a little further on - more laughter and a slap of the bottom (!) I'm not sure he believed me... and Kaishi was not helping by growling.  She simply wagged her tail and looked joyfully at us both.  I said I had to go and he smiled again and asked if I would leave him my dog because she is very beautiful and not dangerous!  No!  I said - and explained she knows who is a friend and who is not a friend.  Realising we would be on our way he pulled out two butterscotch sweets and thrust one into my hand - "no sugar" he cried "very healthy - I do not eat sugar and I do not smoke!"  That must explain his fitness, energy and enthusiasm at his age!  We waved and smiled and laughed a lot again and with another pat on the bottom he sent me on my way!
El Diablo - 689m

About 1km on I saw the car and Michael waiting.  As we approached I let Kaishi go ahead and she wagged her enthusiastic greeting all the way down the road to meet him.  The hunters were out in full force today, the sound of rifle shots ringing out across the valley and in each woodland.  Their dogs were running loose ahead of us and the dogs were a little engaged in this, barking from the car until I gave them an "ahah - down - quiet".  I am so glad we spent time with them getting them used to fireworks and loud noises, or they could have been nervous wrecks here!  We can walk anywhere or through any noise and they don't bat an eyelid.  The hunters appeared in their camouflage kit in the field above the car and we looked at maps and discussed where we would meet for coffee while they did their thing.  Once they had moved on and we were set with our plans, I gathered up Akina and we set off.
Through the oranges and olives
toward Vallada

M followed us part of the route and then headed off toward Vallada and we took the orange and olive grove route - absolutely beautiful, through the trees and along tracks all the way to the outskirts of town where the route was not too difficult to follow over the overpass and into the main street.  I think we missed a small path mentioned in the guidebook, but no matter as we encountered a scallop shell on the wall of a building further along.  Four old gentleman were sitting on benches and taking in the air on the other side of the road and they called and waved us over.  They thought Akina beautiful and petted her and greeted her and she took it in her stride.  One man arrived and asked if she was a boy - they are always amazed when I tell them she is a girl.  She is so tall and strong and muscular!  They could see I was a little tired and I said it was a long walk today. They invited me to "sit a while" and I thanked them and that it would be lovely but my husband was just along the road in a cafe waiting for me.  They understood and nodded approval and wished us well.  The car was just ahead of us and I peeked in but Kaishi's 10km must have sent her right to sleep as there was not a movement in the car when usually they will pop their heads up to greet us - especially if one of the other dogs returns!

Akina greeting Michael at the cafe - the Bon Dia right
on the main route that El Camino takes into town - just
before the Plaza Mayor and near the Ayuntamiento
The coffee was most welcome and it was lovely to sit at the roadside table, again with everyone admiring Akina, and take some refreshment.  The ayuntamiento was right opposite, so once I had finished my coffee I popped across the road and into what seemed like a deserted building!  I headed up the stairs and found a dark office with a very friendly gentleman who smiled and welcomed me and I explained my request for a Pilgrim Stamp.  He knew immediately and also dated it - Silla must have set the trend - and wished me well with my journey.

Coffe with Akina
Vallada ayuntamiento with shell
on the left wall nearest the
camera.  Lovely building with
it's town clock
Vallada certainly wins my award for best Camino markings so far!  The arrows were clear, the guide and streets matched perfectly and the scallops were easily found.  I added a picture here of the ayuntamiento because they deserve a special mention for having such a clean, well marked and welcoming town.  I think this is my favourite place so far and I want to go back and take some more time to look around.  Thumbs up and a big thank you to Vallada and its townsfolk.  As I left toward Moixent and just after I had photographed the medieval cross (there is one also at the entrance to the town on the way in as you cross the overpass) I was for a moment a little confused as to which direction to take as I had not noticed the arrow on a pylon just down the street, but a lady carrying shopping cheerfully asked if I was looking for El Camino and when I confirmed she directed me straight on and toward the river.  It is so nice that so many people have an understanding and knowledge of their local area and culture and are willing to help, even if one hasn't actually asked the way.  They just want to join in and their positive energy adds to the experience.

Vallada - a lovely town:

Akina with shell at lovely old
church in Vallada - the route loops
around these wonderful old places
and back into the town before
heading out to Moixent
Akina really is learning to pose well for the camera these days!  The route takes you around the town and through lovely old back streets.  It is so pretty and there are churches to visit, a museum of prehistory which is in an old house of 1789 and various points of interest.  Some of the streets were decorated with many plant pots giving the streets a cool and welcoming feel and making it feel totally unlike the usual bare town one experiences.    

Clean, neat, well kept streets of Vallada
I have included on of these streets in the photos on the way to the church of San Bartolomé.  Inside there is apparently an image of St James looking down from a column in the nave.  The church is 16th Century and outside is a fountain where I refilled my water carriers.  It was the sweetest and most delicious spring water!  I could not believe the taste.  Vallada certainly has much to offer.  Next to the church was the most spectacular "Tromp l'oeil" one of the best that I have seen.  It caught me by surprise and I almost thought it real for a moment especially as the upper half of the picture disappears into the clouds and the sky behind the building reflected and blended with it perfectly.
Akina admiring the streets
lined with plant pots heading
down to the church of
San Bartolomé

The wonderful tromp l'oeil in Vallada gives you lots of information on the town and municipality:

The existing archaeological sites in the municipality of Vallada are abundant, so are varied materials kept in the Municipal Archaeological Museum, with a timeline that covers about 14,000 years from BC to the 14th and 15th centuries.

It is in Roman times where we find the possible origins of the town.  In 1987 a discovery of building remains, ceramics and wall lines, indicating the existence of a settlement of this period was made - a "villa" of some entity, with a broad chronology, situated in the very Romanized Cáñoles river valley along which ran the Via Augusta.  
Quoted in the Chronicle of James I and in the opinion of the specialists the etymological basis of the town's name can be found in the Latin. 
The fountain of the most delicious sweet water!
After the Muslim rule, King Alfonso III of Aragon and I of Valencia, the old Christians repopulated the town by charter granted by Bernat of Bellvís, on behalf of the monarch, on October 16, 1289.

Vallada was incorporated into the Order of Our Lady of Cavalry Montesa, to whom its manor belonged, from its foundation in 1319 until the abolition of the military orders in the nineteenth century.

On September 14 of the year 1547, Fray Pedro Luis de Borja Galcerán, last Master of the Order of Our Lady of Cavalry Montesa and San Jorge de Alfama, segregated the location of the villa Vallada Montesa, granting Vallada its own jurisdiction giving him the deeds of Villa. 

Medieval cross - la cruz del Portal de

There are also many places of interest to visit around Vallada, many hiking trails and also caving activities.  More can be found about these on the town's website under places of interest:

One particular cave system seems to be of particular interest.  I have cheated and asked Google to translate the page about this so forgive any quirkiness or inaccuracy.  Best to check out the original site for clarity.

Túnel del Sumidor

Along the existing karst, cavities are numerous, but perhaps the most important is the consumer Tunnel, both for its originality and beauty.

This provisional cavity with a height of 205 m and a length of about 1300 m. the cavity is recognised as one of the deepest of world plasters.

The entrance to the cavity is positioned at the base of Penyó between "els Brollaors" and Saraella. The entrance to the tunnel divided into two parts, upstream about 500 m. length and downstream, with about 800 m.  The upper section is characterized by various levels and the existence of various chambers like the living room or Bancobao Cavanilles other more numerous and younger karst formations. 
One can see why there are great cave systems in this area
with the amount of water that can flow through it.  For
those wishing to walk the Camino during a wetter
time of year (like now - Sept/October) do check to see
if there have been floods as there are a number of ways
that would prove impassible for walkers if water was high.
This is just one area subject to flooding - note the sign.
A few weeks ago, it would not have been possible to walk

The lower section is characterized by a route much more abrupt and dangerous, with the presence of traps, small rooms and several waterfalls, some of them more than 20 m.   It ends with Siphon Terminal, which has explored to 40 m but no more.  This cavity has a substantial risk, since gypsum materials are quite unstable and collapses can occur. There is a continuous stream of water and therefore explorers should go with the right equipment and knowledge of the route.

If anyone reading this wishes to walk during the autumn/winter period - do check what the weather has been doing as it would be most frustrating to get to the points on this particular part of the route and not be able to pass - it's a looong walk back around!  Do contact me via the blog if you need latest weather reports for the area around this part of Valencia as maybe I can fill you in about what your walking
One of the old abandoned farms of the valley
 conditions may be like and if we have had any exceptional weather conditions that might make walking this leg of the route uncharacteristic of what might usually be expected.  The rain that we have had recently has made the valley beautifully green and there were some lovely old abandoned farm buildings that once upon a time would have been stunning properties along the valley.

Akina taking refreshment at the
When walking the Camino - take time to stop and admire
the beautiful countryside around you.  This is the valley
just before we start the climb along the road to Moixent
As we headed along the valley we planned to stop for our lunch.  I was feeling quite hungry by this point, but it is interesting to note how the body feels and how it responds on a longer walk and when one is exercising it regularly.  Most days we walk for at least an hour and a half at a fast pace and then do longer walks of a few kilometers between the very long ones of 15-20km.  At this time of year I set off around 08.30 (driving to the start point in the dark) and setting out as the sun rises.  Breakfast is then usually between 09.45 and 10.15, finding a nice place to sit and admire the view and where both I and whichever dog is with me can sit comfortably.  Usually half the food I have prepared is more than enough and then I can walk on until around 13.00 or 13.30 before I might feel hungry and then that will fully satisfy me until 17.00.  The body really starts to know how to process what it takes in and does not need more than necessary.  It also feels "re-fuelled" after a meal and the energy and satisfaction feels good.  Too often we blob around eating too much and exercising too little.  I usually take something sweet with me "just in case" I have the desire for a little sugar, but so far, I have not had even the slightest inclination to eat it on these walks.  I end up carrying my naughty treat home with me!  My bocadillo and cheeses, fruit, nuts and hard boiled eggs are perfect for the day.  The walking process has made me more mindful of the body working and enjoying its work.  There is also a time where the tiredness and some discomfort sets in (as just before Vallada on this walk) but then it changes and I walk through it into a renewed energy, what I guess is called the "second wind"!  I am sure that these rhythms will change too when I start the two, then three day walks and then the week long walks.  It will be interesting to see how the body and mind adapt.
Arrival at Moixent with Akina - Camino
Marker and town info signs

The church in the centre
of Moixent
Entering Moixent we heard the public announcement echoing around the town.  These are common and regular occurrences in the towns around Spain.  They are usually preceded by some uplifting music!  On entering the town however, it had become deserted - we arrived at 14.30 and pretty much everything shuts at 14.00.  Some towns still have active police stations where you can get your passport stamped, but Moixent was totally "shut"!  Towns start getting lively again around 17.00 so you can always take a break, have a rest and clean up if you are staying over and then head out for a bite to eat and to find somewhere to stamp your passport.  I will have to hope there is someone there when I start at this point on my next trip - or otherwise hope that Michael can get it stamped on my behalf before meeting me at the dog-swap point between Moixent and our next destination - La Font de la Figuera.

The tower above Moixent

Moixent (

The historical significance of the Moixent is very old - being a transit route for people and goods between the Castilian plateau and the Valencian coast.  The Via Heraclea - Iberian and Carthaginian, the Roman Via Augusta, the royal Islamic royal road to Toledo and Xativa all passing through it and today the railway to Valencia and Madrid, the N-430 road from Valencia to Albacete current high-speed (AVE) trains all follow the longitudinal route made by mother nature - the river Cànyoles.

In the Iberian era, on the edge of the plateau of Alcusses (meaning the most fertile and cultivated) was an important fortified town,  today called the Scaffold (circa 425-325 BC),  archaeologists dug up an iron figurine - the famous Moixent warrior, one of the most important jewels of Iberian art in Valencia.  Disregarding this settlement, the Romans continued on the Via Augusta and built at Moixent (on the same site or very close to it) a mansion or inn called Ad Statuas ("Near the Statues").  In 1910 the Garamoixent treasure was discovered in the lap of what was the Garamoixent Islamic castle - 60 silver coins minted in the Syracuse Empire.  It appears there was a garrison of the Castle of Moixent because of the border conflict between Byzntines and Visigoths in the 6th Century - they left ceramic remains which have been studied.
The Romans and Via Augusta Marker
from the Moixent website

The Arabic name Moixent, Muxän (pronounced Moxén), comes from the name of a major magnate Xativa Visigoth bishop - Muttu (circa 560-600).  The philological derivation: village Muttiana> town Mussiana> Arabic dialect Moxén (a).

In times of the Umayyad Caliphate (tenth century), there was also a garrison on top of Castellaret, which controlled the road and the valley. The Muslims of the village moixentina grew vegetables and in the drylands of Alcusses, cereals.  This was owned by an aristocrat surnamed Ibn Iattäb.  The name comes from when, in times of work and harvests, farmers or laborers built their improvised shacks called al-khüsa in Arabic and meaning "hut or shed".

During the Middle Ages, the manor was Moixent Maza de Lizana (barony since 1394), suffered the consequences of destructive invasions by Castilians, during the wars with Castile.  The Chain Bridge, which according to popular tradition is a Roman bridge, has actually been dated by historians from the fourteenth century.
The Robertson Mala - second 4 - beads from Anna
"A mother's love to you - take care; you are precious"

In the year 1510 there were registered 139 families in Moixent who by 1600 were around 360 (about 1,600 inhabitants) all thanks to the colonization of dry lands to plant vineyards whose wines were exported mostly to the Castilian cities.  Following the expulsion of the Moors (1609), there was a decline in many settlements but Moixent recovered, especially during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries due to its speciality in wine production and marketing. In the nineteenth century, Moixent suffered the effects of the struggle between Liberals and Carlists, like the rest of the region.  Then a further disaster happened in 1910 when the pest, phylloxera, ruined all the vines and many people were forced to migrate.  However, since the middle of the last century, Moixent has become an economically prosperous town with many attractions to live there.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Cid - Choc Lab x German Shepherd looking for great active home

Here's a quick update on Cid - a PEPA dog that you may have seen a few weeks ago when I went to meet him and he was new to El Eden.  He is doing so well!  What a fabulous dog, I so enjoy him and he has such enthusiasm and willingness to learn.  He engages with those who are enthusiastic and fun loving and once you start spending one on one time with him he looks forward to his special time.

He is sitting nicely now and polite when you open gates and doors, he runs nicely with the bicycle and is beginning to learn not to pull ahead.  His favourite thing is moving out and moving forward and when he is stimulated and exercising regularly he walks so politely by your side, ignoring loose dogs, not worrying about those barking around him and not pulling.  He is starting to realise that on leash time is on leash time and focused, but going for a sniff walk and nosing around is "his time" to choose where to go.  With someone to focus on him and take him to fun, new and interesting things I am sure he will be a loyal and fun dog to have and it will be great when he can play and have time off leash because he knows who his person is!

Here are some clips of Cid on one of his training sessions - showing how much he wants to try for a human who will love him.  If you can give him a home do contact the PEPA help desk on 650 304 746 and come and meet him:  

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Valencia to Silla - Camino Levante route

Well the big day finally arrived for starting the walk with the mala from Robertson South Africa and for Michael to do his first leg of El Camino.  We arrived in Valencia at just after 08.30 (the dawn only arriving just after 08.00) on a drizzly and overcast day.  We arrived at the Cathedral which was open for morning services and quietly entered the huge entrance doors.   All was silent except for the service and there was restoration work being carried out at the entrance to the Grail area.  Michael took his Credencial to see if there was anyone who might be able to stamp it and an elderly gentleman with an office in the depths of the cathedral was more than happy to oblige.  By this time the drizzle had stopped and the sky was a little brighter.  We took some moments to capture on camera the departure point of the beads. 

The journey begins with the first 4 beads, threaded by Mariano and accompanied by his very appropriate words to start us off:  "Safe Journey - surrender - just do it"

Me with the Robertson Mala outside the doors of the
Cathedral - Valencia
The pictures I think say it all - a momentous occasion.  Michael with his stamped Credencial and me outside the impressive Cathedral doors and carved entrance.  I have never been here at this time before and usually there are many visitors making their way in to take an audio tour.  We had the front of the Cathedral all to ourselves!

Photos taken, we headed off along the Calle San Vicente Mártir and through the city toward today's destination, Silla.  The yellow arrows were soon to be discovered and there were many newly stenciled ones next to the older faded ones along the streets, on lamp posts and on curbstones.  

We had to capture Michael finding his first arrow!  For this he was "allowed to pose"!  The route heads out of Valencia passing a statue of El Cid and also the old hospital and monastery of San Vicente Mártir.  The buildings are beautiful and of course very old and currently are undergoing a lot of restoration.  It's nice to see that Spain seems to care so much for its national monuments and that there are skilled workers putting the buildings back to how they once were.  Many of the buildings on this route are clad in scaffolding so it was not possible to take pictures of them as they remained hidden.  The 15th Century stone cross known as the Cruz Cubierta which marks the edge of the city was one such monument, reminding me of the lovely old wayside cross I had passed outside of Algamesí.

Church on Plaza de San Agustín, which is the image of the
Virgen de Gracia - carved (according to legend)
by a pilgrim
El Cid in the Plaza de España

We had not gone far this morning before it was almost 10.15, having left late from the Cathedral, so after the city boundary and almost in Alfafar, we mopped the raindrops off a bench and had some breakfast - minus a dog today.  From here we could see the first scallop shell of the day and the first one of Michael's Camino and what a beautiful tile - it had El Camino de Santiago written on the border!   

I had expected today to be a very city based and had expected much of the walk to pass through industrial estates on the outskirts of each of the towns.  However, we had a pleasant surprise as we actually passed through a number of green areas and even followed a couple of dirt tracks.  The most amazing sights of the morning were both next to the railway entering Alfafar, one was an enormous green field of flat leafed parsley being harvested and the other was a kind of "field of cats" which on seeing us all ran out to greet us!  The most strange experience, but it must be down to someone feeding them and them assuming we too might come bearing gifts! 
Harvesting perejil - just outside Alfafar

Alfafar is Arabic in origin and comes from the words Al Hofra - according to the Pilgrim guide to the Camino Levante - meaning a deep place full of trenches or holes!  A clearer explanation of this is given on the Alfafar Ayuntamiento site (copied below).  You'll have to forgive Google's quirky translation!  For the original go to:

It is a lovely little town, with a beautiful square and church and the most delicious coffee and cakes at the pasteleria in the main square and to the left of the Ayuntamiento as you enter on the route.

Alfafar was once a Muslim farmhouse. The name comes from the Arabic "Al Hofra" deep meaning place of holes or Village Square from the Belfry. 1921.pits. These graves have been found in fairly recent times in the process of carrying out various works in the center of town. In one corner of the square galleries Pais Valencia appeared at a depth of four to five meters, in which were found several pieces of pottery believed to date from the ninth or tenth centuries
The name Al Hofra was becoming successively by corruption and speak in Alfolfar, and the current Alfofar Alfafar.En the "Book of the Repartiment" of James I, no record of donations in June 1238-before Conquest of Valencia that was conducted in October-houses and lands, people from his hosts in "Alqueriam d'Alfofar." In January 1347 the King Pedro IV Ceremonious donates all lands to Don Pedro Boil, principal gentleman of this United, of all lands, making Lordship in his favor on February 14, 1363, and his family held until the disappearance of the feudal system in 1812. Although few remaining old buildings, it is assumed that these people ran the Via Augusta, and that there was an ancient center of population engaged in agriculture and fisheries, due to the proximity of the lake Albufera.

The town apparently has a special stamp for pilgrim credenciales and we asked in the ayuntamiento for our stamps.  They were delighted and, as in each place so far, knew what we were going to ask as soon as they saw the passport.  The stamp however looks like a normal one for the town hall and not a specific pilgrim stamp - but that was fine, the smiles on the faces of the ladies at the desk was worth more than the stamp, they were so cheerful and welcoming to us.

The beautiful square in Afafar with
the pretty church at one end and
the ayuntamiento opposite
From Alfafar we headed on toward Massanassa, another town taking its name from its Arabic origins - coming from the word Manzil - meaning hostelry or inn.

Field of cats!

According to the website of the local government of Massanassa, the history runs as follows:
Massanassa is a town located in the region of "South Horta". Its origin is found in the Muslim era. The first documentary we have our people back to some verses of the poet Ibn al - Abbar, (1199 - 1260) where he laments the loss of Muslim Valencia against the troops of King James I the Conqueror, in 1238. In these verses call our population as Manzil Nasr Nasr meaning farmhouse and then a group of houses designated as an agricultural center.

The following statements refer to as Massanassa Christian period and are in the "Book of Distribution", which we know is a record of the donations made by King James I conquered lands, written probably between 1237 and 1252.

Tile detail on the
Church in Alfafar
Before the occupation of the city during the siege of Valencia and the same, King Conquistador repartix lands and houses to help him in this war, and thus appears mentioned in our population between donations made.

Specifically, on March 16, 1238, Martin gives "3 jovates farmhouse in Massanassa." On May 15, gives "Fray Mateo Commander of the Order of Calatrava, Farmhouse Massanassa with mills and bakeries." Day 13 We leave in August of hope: "8 jovates in Massanassa" and 23 March Fray Gerald Prado, commander of Alfama, "30 jovates in Massanassa."

These two texts, the poem of Ibn-Abbar and the "Distribution", confirms that Massanassa was in the first half of the thirteenth century a farmhouse with some beauty and body.

Christians are their first masters of the Order of Calatrava, who had also Bétera peoples, Xirivella, Massamagrell and Castell de Castells.

Another document, this of 1278, we reported some early Christian settlers Massanassa, citing their names and allowing us to watch for the first time in detail, as was our nation 700 years ago. Probably had a central village, where he lived most of his neighbors and surroundings, cultivated both rainfed and irrigated. The crops are traditional at the time, cereals and vines, some orchards and olive grove area.

For more information and the original text check out

The best coffee and cakes!  The people next to us
all started chatting about the camino and discussing
what we were doing after we sat down.
From Massanassa we headed into Catarroja where the traveler has to be a little alert!  The guide book takes us up the Calle Calvarí and around to the church of San Miguel.  The map also follows this route, but there is no sign for the left turn onto Salvador Pechuán but the municipal market (mentioned in the guide book and where you turn left onto Salvador Pechuán) is obvious and "Municipal Market" is written on the tiles above the main door.  There are no yellow arrows are markers here, although it is not too difficult to track the street names after the market.  The reason that there are no arrows becomes apparent when you reach the underpass that takes you under the railway - they have been drawn straight along the road you first come in on - the Ronda de'Est.  It cuts out winding through the town and is more direct but nowhere near as attractive.   From Catarroja we started to enter the industrial area, interesting in its own way but not quite so pleasing on the eye.  Here we encountered a few more drops of rain, but today we were so lucky and really only encountered these few rain drops just before we arrived in Silla.  We finished our breakfast/come lunch snack on a wall of the industrial area (we were not going to find a nice park bench here) although there was the most amazing little bar in a lovely building right in the middle of the industrial estate!  It was quite astonishing, in England or RSA this might have been a roadside caravan or boerewors stand but not an actual restaurant and bar!

There were still factories and warehouses in operation but there were also a number of empty buildings.  One of which sported an airy outside privvy - just in case a pilgrim gets caught short???

Finally entering Silla the route brought us into the square with the ayuntamiento and police station.  Just as in Xàtiva the police seemed delighted to stamp our passports and the best part - they really DID have a special pilgrim stamp and they were the first to actually date the passport!  We celebrated our collection of sellos, Michael's first 15km and the completion of my first section (77km) with an ice cold beer opposite the church of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles.  Both it and the ayuntamiento with its moorish tower can be visited.

Outside the church
of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles 

The photo with the flags was taken outside the police station - they have the most amazing "lion mask" outside - which reminded me of the movie "Roman Holiday"!  You can just about make it out on the photo.  I had to take a picture as the police were so friendly and had a special pilgrim sello!

Today's sellos - Alfafar and the special Silla police
stamp for peregrinos on the Camí de Santiago

 Ice cold beer celebrating the start of Michael's camino and his first 15km and the completion of my first section - 77km, Valencia to Canals.  Saturday will be Canals to Moixent - 20km and the first "two dog day"!