Mountain Procession

Yet more rain was forecast for later in the day but the morning was relatively pleasant so Carol and I dragged ourselves out for a long-awaited walk. Yesterday would have been good, too, but our extravagant birthday lunch took priority. We’d really have liked to walk to the top of the Montgo, a coastal hill near Dénia, but we were a bit late out and weren’t sure how long the weather might take to arrive. So, we picked what looked like a straightforward 2km each way there-and-back walk starting from Murla, just a few miles up the valley from Jalón. Appearances can be deceptive.

Having found a suitable parking spot in Murla, the path started easily enough following a paved path up out of the village passing the traditional Stations of the Cross. I always thought that there were 12 Stations of the Cross but here there were 14. Curious. The paved path became a forest track and led us to a quaint little chapel, the Ermita de Sant Sebastià. We couldn’t get in but Carol managed to grab a flash shot of the interior through the gate/door.

The forest path continued upwards for a while but it wasn’t too long before both the path and the weather began looking a little iffy. Spanish paths aren’t always the clearest – in fact, they are never the clearest – but I took heart as I spotted two red T-shirts heading back down the mountain towards us. Eventually we met a couple heading back down. They had been to the top and advised us to “just follow the small cairns and red markers” and we’d get there. As a parting shot the lady finished off with, “not for the faint-hearted, this path”. Ah, good.

Some of the red marks seemed to be strangely white and not all the cairns were obvious but, resorting to only a little hand-over-hand scrambling, we made it to the Cross … which was not at the top of the mountain (Penya Roja, 792m). We continued for a while but decided that discretion would be the better part of valour given the deteriorating sky and began heading back down.

Wildlife produced the highlight of the day when, about half-way down, we spotted a curious nose-to-tail line of caterpillars. Chris told us the Spanish name for these beasts which pretty obviously translated as processionary caterpillars. He apologized for not warning us about them. They are quite nasty apparently, particularly for pets, ‘cos they are covered in irritating hairs. I think these are the caterpillars of the Pine Processionary Moth. According to various Internet sources, they strip a pine tree of its needles, then set off in a  line in search of another pine tree to strip. One source claimed that research had shown that, if you put the lead caterpillar up against the trailing caterpillar (risking those irritating hairs), thus forming a ring, they would wander round in circles and die of starvation. I kid you not.

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