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.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoyed this Tamasine! It looks so picture perfect in places and Akina looks so at home on the walk! Look forward to following your journey over the next stages! Paving the way as always for us! Lots of love Txx