After yesterday’s dismal weather, today looked much more promising with a little high, wispy cloud cover in a relatively clear sky and no cold wind. The light wasn’t going to be great for panorama photography but these were excellent conditions to introduce Steve and Rosemary to the occasionally challenging walk around the Bernia.
Walks in Spain are, in our admittedly limited experience, rougher than we are used to in England. The walk around the Bernia is about five miles/eight kilometres of terrain varying from an unmetalled narrow road, through something resembling a goat track, to indistinct paths across, and sometimes up, various scree slopes of loose rocks and boulders, these having begun their long geological journey from the 1000 metre high peek of the Bernia to its base. One or two areas require the use of hands and are more like climbing than walking. These clambering sections are the reason I postulated a new “minimum leg length” categorization for walking routes. Enough of this easy/moderate/severe classification – what does that mean in practical terms? Surely it would be much more practical to point out that persons with an inside leg length below, for example, 25 ins/63 cms are in danger of getting stuck. 🙂
The most spectacular feature of the walk around the Bernia, and the one that catapults it into the realms of greatness from our point of view, is the natural tunnel through which one has to crawl to cross between the north and south sides of the Bernia’s ridge. The tunnel is only about three feet/one metre high and it is necessary to remove any rucksacks and crawl. It is about 100 feet/30 metres long and, going clockwise, the south side of the tunnel opens out into a cave with creepers dangling across its mouth revealing spectacular views of the Mediterranean coast beyond, including the blue-domed church of Altea, complete with a few fish farms of some description just off its coast, and the skyscrapers of the oft-maligned Benidorm. (Benidorm is OK when viewed from a distance. We have yet to risk it in close-up.)
Rosemary is very close to my newly postulated “minimum leg length” requirement for this walk and had a little difficulty on one or two of the more arduous sections. Nonetheless, she stuck doggedly to the task in hand and conquered the route. There were times when she may have been wondering why she was there but I am sure that her sense of achievement will win out and that she will look back upon the Bernia experience positively and with fondness; it really is worth it.
Having eventually returned to release our canine and feline charges from captivity, I was in the midst of cooking a dinner using some of our gathered wild rosemary (the herb rosemary rather than friend Rosemary) from the slopes of the Bernia, when Carol received a most unwelcome text message. For the last eight years or so, my mother (90) has had a devoted friend and companion, Tony Hodsden (83). Together, they have shared day trips, shopping trips, lunches out, and generally just been there for each other. They have shared holidays and Christmases away to English destinations such as Devon and even, on three occasions, summer holidays at Lake Como in Italy. Pretty damn good for people of their vintage. Tony has been much of my mother’s mobility and has been an absolute saint. Beatification really would not be too great a reward for him. On Sunday last we had heard that he was in hospital having broken his leg in a domestic accident at his own flat. Now we received the devastating news that, while we were struggling with the Bernia, he had died in hospital after what was said to have been a very successful operation to repair his leg.