30 Nov 2011

Hiking in a Cloud atop the Sierra de Bernia

Well that was different! I was wondering when Alicante would catch up with the rest of the world season-wise, and it turned out to be now! I can't say I mind much having to put on a few extra layers... I actually prefer the weather to be cooler when I'm out hiking rather than warmer (within reason). In this case instead of just my merino t-shirt, I also had on my merino long-sleeve shirt and a fleece-lined wind-stopper vest as well as a merino beanie on my head. I even pulled out the gloves at one point, but just for a little while! ;o)

It was particularly hard getting up at 7h30 this past Sunday for the hike, my whole body was begging me to stay in bed and continue recuperating from Saturday's Thanksgiving extravaganza! Yes, yes I know, the big turkey day was supposed to be Thursday, but what else can you do when you live in a country where it isn't a holiday? When my mom gets home from work she just wants to eat and rest (not necessarily in that order), so no way were we go to submit her to the crazyness that is a Thanksgiving feast! Then there's the fact that we've never celebrated Thanksgiving with "just" the family, it's always been a friends and family deal, probably because we only lived close enough to our American family to celebrate with them for a couple of years and so made up for it with dear friends who are like family to us! And of course, we're back to Thursday being a work day! ;o)

So, up bright and early for a hike, still stuffed like a turkey. Wait! Did I say "bright" and early? Hmmm... let's make that dark and cloudy and kind of scary! As the bus we were on got closer and closer to our chosen mountain, the Sierra de Bernia, part of me was going "gulp! get ready to get wet!" (plus thinking I finally had a reason to be lugging around my rain jacket in my backpack).

southern face of the Sierra de Bernia

Nice cloud huh? Just sitting there. Right on top of our mountain. >:(

That's actually the side we climbed down. We drove around it and up the coast so the bus could drop us off on the northern face, but the view didn't look much better from there. Ah well! Clouds and mist and fog it is then! Variety is the spice of life, right? ;o)

northern face of the Sierra de Bernia

I actually have a map of our route this time! We started off at the mark on the upper right-hand corner, then climbed up for about 200m (it was a "light" hike for me, only 10km) up to where that number 5 is, and then down, down, down for about 600m until the Algar River at number 1. The circular trail around the summit is very well marked and now I know I could do it on my own some day... preferably with sunshine. :p

This hike was organised by the Diputación de Alicante (i.e. representation of the central government here in Alicante). Apparently they've been organising a hike every Sunday this Fall, and I only just found out! I knew they did it in the Spring, I tried to sign up twice but missed out (only 50 spots available, enough to fill a bus), and I also missed out on getting a spot for their final hike of the season next Sunday. snif! Anyhow, government involvement means well organised with several guides and first aid kits:

All wrapped up we headed across the fields and towards that big cloud sitting on the mountain-top.

Working our way through and around all the mud on the trails (it's finally been raining in Alicante!)

Occasionally something interesting would pop out at us in a break in the fog, like this fascinating rock formation:

Or we'd just be able to distinguish critters like these hidden in the mist:

Mooooo! Just beware of the friendly gifts they leave behind:

cowpie anyone? ;o)

It's a good thing the trail was fairly easy to follow, because if you got a bit distracted and fell behind it was nearly impossible to see the people further ahead on the path to see which way they went! (fortunately there was also a guide at the tail end of the group making sure no one got lost)

We reached the first rise

to discover not much of a view!

but as the cloud lifted a bit we could get a feel for the incredible rock formations and the lovely valley below:

As we continued our way on up,

This lonely tree caught my attention:

How is it just sitting there? At such an angle?

What was also amazing was how fast the mist moved in and out! Check out these two photos taken 10 seconds apart!

Now you see me, now you don't! ;o)

Just over that ridge was our highest point, about 800m above sea level. You're supposed to have this absolutely stunning view of the coast from here... the whole bay of Altea, the Sierra Gelada, Benidorm, the Puig Campana... See for yourself (click it bigger):

Uh-huh... So much for the view! When the clouds lifted briefly, I could just make out Altea and the mouth of the River Algar (for once with plenty of water!).

Altea and the Algar River seen from the Sierra de Bernia

Will definitely have to come back. Anyhow, I was just happy to be up on a mountain! ;o)

We stopped for our mid-morning snack at an old abandoned fort nearby, the Fuerte de Bernia built in the late 16th century to help protect the coast from pirates (and abandoned in the early 17th century, wasn't used for long! The king had it dismantled so it couldn't be used by bandits).

Fuerte de Bernia 16th century

As you can see, not much left!

But enough covered spaces to protect us from the elements while we ate our sandwiches, and while some people passed around a bota. Wine anyone?

The cold and clouds made it a very short break and soon we were heading down the mountain.

I had already been admiring the brezo (Mediterranean heather - Erica multiflora) on the way up, it was much more abundant than on the previous hike at the Sierra del Cid.

But this hike also gave me more thyme (Thymus vulgaris) than I'd ever seen before! Combined with the rosemary this hike had a gorgeous smell!

And new for me, these lovely little blue flowers called Gitanilla (little gypsy girl), which try as I might I can't seem to find the scientific name for it online! I've got a few candidates but the photos don't quite match up. Anyhow, pretty!

Of course, you know that the moment you start heading down those clouds are going to clear up, right? Right. Well, not completely, but enough so that the views started getting better and much clearer. Here's the bay of Altea with the Sierra Gelada/Helada limiting it to the south (on its other side would be Benidorm):

I told you about the Sierra Gelada/Helada few weeks ago, it was my second hike of the season, and quite a killer for the legs! :p

Once we left the fields for a bit of forest,

 these things started appearing! I hadn't seen any since Belgium last year! :o)

This shot's for DJan (can you guess why?):

We also came across more abandoned constructions, like this old shepherd's hut and corral for the winter months:

Bancal Roig (4 on the map)

This one was even harder to spot, can you make out the walls in all that vegetation?

Cova del Bardalet (3 on the map)

If you climb down into the bowl (and try not to get too scratched by the brambles) the you can see this little cave:

The rest of the hike was all rather gently down hill, in sunshine! We made our down to the river Algar, surrounded by net-covered fruit tree groves.

There's our mountain, seen from the other side of the (bloated!) river. Another time I need to make it to the top!

Sierra de Bernia with the Algar River below

It wasn't a difficult hike, I don't know how much it will help me train for the "big" hike in 2 weeks, but better that nothing! And it was quite fun. :o)


  1. Fun hike with great pictures, Cris. Is that one picture for me because of the trekking poles? It's the only thing I could think of! Anyway, it looks like it was a really perfect hike, distance and weather wise. :-)

  2. Not the poles DJan. That guy in the back reminded me of you and your hiking tales... particularly one of your fellow hikers. Take a closer look at what he's got strapped to his backpack! ;o)

    And it was a lovely hike in spite of the weather! (for here that was pretty bad weather)

  3. Thank you so much for putting up these fantastic photos. It looks like a wonderful hike. I would love to explore all those ruins and the cave. How long did it take to do it round trip? I'm hopeless with (200m) Can you convert that entire hike to miles for me please? I really like the picture of you at the top of the mountain. Your part of the world is so beautiful. Why isn't your little buddy clipped to the back of your pack? Whats his name again??

  4. Sure thing Kim! We climbed up about 200m so 656 ft, down 600m so 1969 ft. And walked an approximate total of 10km so that would be about 6.2 miles. Not much but an enjoyable outing!

    I'll try to remember to include the conversions in my next post ;o)

    I finally managed to find a group heading out this Sunday, but organised by an ecotourism group so more expensive, and it's probably going to be "light" but anything to help me get ready for the 11th! :D

  5. I'd be scared to even approach that cloud out of fear of getting being roasted like a stuffed by a bolt of lightning. o_O Good God...


  6. Barb, the thought did cross my mind... ;o)


Hey there! Yes you! The quiet one in the back... I'd love it if you hung out for a bit and shared your thoughts!

I might stop by your place with an answer, but I'm more likely to reply right here so click on "email follow up comments" if you'd like to see what I and others have to say and come continue the conversation! ;o)