8 Dec 2011

A sunny hike around the Sierra de Olta

Well this Sunday was the complete opposite of the previous one weather-wise! Gorgeous sunshine and temperatures near 20ºC (68F) in the middle of the day! A perfect day to hit the trails! :o)

This time I joined up with a new hiking group, one I'd found mention of online last Spring, but could never manage to get hold of! Finally someone in another group helped me locate them and after a couple of weeks I finally joined one of their hikes! They're called "El Trenet Senderista" (the hiking train) because originally they would take people up the on Alicante's small coastal "narrow-rail" train and then start the hikes at the train stations. Now they go by bus. Not as "romantic" but much more practical (plus it allows them to pick up people at several points along the route)! The downside of this group is the fee, 15€ each time I want to join a hike? Once in a while ok, but if I went every week with them, ouch!

Sierra de Oltà, seen as we approach from the North on the bus

This weeks hike was around the Sierra de Oltà, an very interesting round/flat-topped hill (I can't find it in me to call it a mountain, only 587m -1925ft- above sea level) that's between the Sierra de Bernia, where I hiked the week before in that big ugly cloud, and the sea.

Gorgeous day, isn't it? So this group (like the previous week's) isn't interested in making things "too difficult", i.e. no intense climbing! But at least they do plan on relatively long hikes... so although we probably totalled only 200m (656ft) in climbing (no summit, sniff!), we did walk about 15km (9.32 miles). I found this map online (at a great hiking page Apatita) which pretty much follows the green line of the PR-CV 340 which is what we hiked (minus the climb to the summit in the centre). Only difference is instead of completing the loop we went down into town after the Ermita (we started at the campsite):

map by Santiago Gonzalez from Apatita.com

Actually we started a bit below the campsite (the bus dropped us off on the side of the road) and we had to follow a local trail through the woods for about an hour to reach it.

trail markings

We ran into some interesting obstacles:


And got a chance to admire the mushrooms hidden amongst the vegetation:

un-interesting (gastronomically) Amanita ovoidea

try one on for size?

Up at the campsite we had a fabulous view of that flat-top summit, made for a great backdrop for our mid-morning snack!

Funny thing happened during that break... a woman comes up to me and says "You're Cristina, Miguel and Pablo's friend, right?" woah!!! Turns out she's the Aunt of one of my best friends! Small world! :o)

Short break and then up through the woods again, this time following the PR-CV 340 counter-clockwise around the summit.

It was mostly easy going (albeit constant climbing), but a few spots were a bit trickier than others (thank you hiking sticks!!!)...

hikers of all ages!

At one point I looked back and caught my first glimpse of the Peñón d'Ifach and Calpe:

Continuing up, up, up...

and then LOOK UP!

Only way up there from here would be with mountain climbing gear. Man that thing's impressive! We're at the Pas de La Canal, at 402m above sea level.

Walking just a little bit further along the path, I was greeted by this sight:

The Sierra de Bernia in all its crested glory! Where were that sunshine and blue skies last week, huh???

As we continued our way around the summit, on the Southern Face now, 

We finally get to see the sea! 

With the sun in our eyes the photos are mostly silhouettes. Could you make out the old watchtower on that rock? They dot the ridges all along this region!

Here's the path up to the summit, I'll have to come back and do it on my own! (unless I can brainwash a friend to join me)

The big botanical discovery for me on this hike was this tree, the madroño or Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo, much more info in Spanish):

or more precisely its fruit:

Luscious, isn't it? Pop one in your mouth and it's sweet juicy goodness! But trust me, you don't want to eat too many of those! They're known for the high possibility of fermentation (both on the tree or in your gut) so you could get drunk off them! The guide told us a really fun tale about tipsy cows he had seen around there! :p

Here, let me pick one for you!

Sorry, mine!!! ;o)

I can't help but notice the very different vegetation on the much sunnier Southern face of this "mountain"... rarely any trees, mostly shrubs and grasses...

As we get closer to the coast we can see a bit further south "round the corner" of the tip of the Sierra de Bernia, and I can clearly see the Sierra Helada (crazy hike!) and even make out the high rises of Benidorm!

Oops! Time for another madroño stop! No wonder we lost sight of the rest of the group...

Aha! Finally a decent view of the amazing Peñón d'Ifach!!!

Impressive, right? But it's really just this teeny-tiny thing! See:


Damn thing's even more awesome when you're down in the water at its base! Which reminds me, I still have a snorkelling post to write from there!

We finally made it to the Ermita Vella's picnic area for our lunch.

 Had this great view while I was eating:

Lunch was a very leisurely time... no hurry whatsoever. Some people had even brought maps to take a siesta in the sun! Welcome to Spain! But after a while it was time to hit the trail again and start downhill.

Which gave us a much better view of Calpe, the Peñón d'Ifach behind it, and its Salina (lagoon) which used to be connected to the sea until some 'genius' built up the area and now they get flooded from time to time!

Out of the forest and into an neighbourhood of chalets...

Then finished by meeting our bus at the train station, where we had a chance to stop in the café for a cup of coffee, and more importantly catch up with the decisive match of the Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina!

Rafa Nadal vs Del Potro, in the 4th set... very stressful! We saw about half the set then had to leave on the bus, so I called my dad up and had him give us a point by point on the rest of it! The bus cheered each of Rafa's points, and even louder when Spain's victory (5th in the Davis Cup) was announced! :o)

Thus ends another fabulous hike! Great group of people, I think I made some new friends! Will definitely join them for future hikes in the New Year. :o)


  1. This sounds pretty perfect, except for that stiff fee. And it's just about the right distance for me. Looks like you had a great time, Cris. Thanks for all the pictures and description! :-)

  2. Loved this post! Your day had EVERYTHING - great hike, nice weather, good people, great photos and I'm happy to see Pol getting in on the action! I SO want to come to your part of the world. Hmmm, I wonder how many geocaches you are passing by?

  3. Glad you guys enjoyed it! It was a great day, notwithstanding the fee. I'll probably go out with them again, but not too frequently because of that.

    Kim: if I had some kind of GPS device I could have looked into the possibility of those caches! ;o)

  4. Nice post Chris. And lovely pictures to add to the story.

  5. Cris, this is a fantastic post and your photos are incredible! Those berries look delicious. Sounds like there's a lot of smart cows on this planet - getting drunk on fruit in one country or getting high on vehicle exhaust fumes in another! :D

  6. Hi Chris,

    Just got back from a month in Calpe where I climbed the Penon twice. Its been closed for a while and its nice to get back on it.

    I enjoyed your page on Olta but what caught my eye was your reference to the strawberry tree. I have never seen a reference to it anywhere but I have one in my garden in the UK. Its now 16 years old and as you know its one of those rare plants which bears last year's fruit and this year's flowers at the same time. I didn't know you could eat the fruit. Well now I know that I can't wait until next year, especially if they turn alcoholic!

    Best Wishes Neal

    1. Hi Neal!
      Are this called strawberry trees in English?! I never knew! Love the name! :o)
      They're very tasty, but definitely to be consumed in moderation.
      The Peñón is still one of my pending assignments... one of these years I'll get around to it!


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)