In the Hills Around Navajas – Cycling on the Via Verde and the Salto de la Novia Waterfall

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Friday 5 December 2014

In the Hills Around Navajas – Cycling on the Via Verde and the Salto de la Novia Waterfall

After pounding the streets of Barcelona on Tuesday and arriving back at our motorhome close to midnight we were up bright and early on Wednesday ready to head further south in search of warmer weather. Our aim was to cover around 200 miles to reach a campsite close to Valencia where we hoped to enjoy a few more degrees of warmth and much more unbroken sunshine than we'd seen for the past couple of weeks. However, after our previous day in the big city we decided that instead of heading straight into Valencia itself, we would instead travel to a campsite we had found in the ACSI scheme that lay in hills to the north west of Spains third largest city which we hoped would give us the chance to try a few hikes and cycles in the winter sun.

Setting off around midday after a bit of morning exercise in the Vilanova campsite gym we were soon chewing up the kilometres on the relatively pleasant and quiet Spanish road surfaces to reach the hillside town of Segorbe some 40km or so north west of Valencia. Although this wasn't our final destination (the camping was in the town of Navajas another 10km into the hills) it was late in the day and we had decided to have our first experience of a Spanish aire! Arriving in plenty of time to enjoy a beautiful sunset we were relieved to find ourselves joined by another 5 motorhomes in the quiet parking area close to Segorbe train station so elected to stay the night and travel to the campsite in the morning. (We even met a lovely couple from Durham and it was nice to recall familiar places with them).

By 10am the next day we found ourselves arriving in the small village of Navajas on the fringe of the Sierra de Espadan Natural Park and checking into Camping Altomira, a pleasant terraced camping overlooking the dusty rolling hills for miles around. The friendly campsite staff had provided us with lots of leaflets and guides for some walks and cycles in the local area which we were eager to test out. Although most of the trails were undemanding (e.g. 3-4 hours with 140m elevation) we did consider that we could easily enjoy a week of peaceful hikes in this quiet hilly setting.

The only problem was the weather. It felt cold, very cold! The sun was shining brightly in the sky and looking out of the motorhome window it felt like it should be lovely and warm, but outside a strong, gusting wind bought a wintry chill to the air taking making it feel much colder. Not ones to give up because of a bit of breeze (we told ourselves) we decided that as this was only our first day we would leave our hiking boots and go for a relaxing bike ride instead. One of the best trails in this area is the Via Verde (The Green Way), a converted narrow gauge railway line which runs for just under 200km, passing through dozens of picturesque villages as it travels from the sea at Puerto de Sagunto to the inland village of Ojos Negros at 1200m elevation. Better still it passes right through Camping Altomira and so in no time at all we were back in the saddle for the first time since our very different ride to the 2001m high Col de Pailheres almost 2 weeks beforehand.

After some long drives and the hustle and bustle of Barcelona it did feel amazing to be outside in the fresh air and riding our bikes in the sunshine one again. Choosing the inland direction we had no fixed target except to ride for as long as we felt before turning back. The only problem was that ever present wind blasting into our faces and forcing us to shout to each other as we pushed hard for every metre. The scenery was beautiful, with distant rolling hills revealing exposed cliffs whilst the lower slopes closer to us were covered in twisted trees and shrubs baked by the summer sun and the pretty Pantano del Regajo reservoir shimmering in the afternoon light. However, after 10km and passing the town of Jerica and the impressive Torre Mudejar de las Campanas tower standing tall above the rest of the village we decided it was just a bit too cold to really enjoy the ride and so we turned back to take the much swifter trip to our motorhome and rethink.

But there was still some sunlight left in the day and after a quick snack we reasoned it would be much warmer moving on our feet and set off to take a small hike to a the nearby Salto de la Novia waterfall, a 60m water cascade set amongst the red rocks of a shallow canyon. Following the Fountains Way (las Fuentes route), a loop which leads straight out of Navajas and passes numerous natural springs, we soon reached the nearby Salto de la Novia. Looking as though the surrounding rocks had melted in the sun, with bulging curves and running stalagtites twisting together and framing picturesque waters plunging over the top was stunning. As the sun began to set we felt a deep sense of peace in this near silent gorge, with just the sound of the water in our ears and the evening warmth slowly fading away.

Arriving back at our motorhome as the sun set we felt very pleased to have found this lovely location, however, we reasoned it was still a bit too chilly at the moment to call it “winter sun”. Although we had initially planned to maybe spend a few days here it felt better to mark this spot as a place for the future and travel on a little further south the following morning having very much enjoyed our brief experience of the Sierra de Espadan Natural Park and the Via Verde.

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