Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Penyal d'Ifac

DATE: Tuesday, May 8, 2018
DISTANCE: 2.8 miles
TIME TAKEN: 3 hours
SUMMIT: 1089 ft.


Since we had a day off on tour between Murcia and Valencia, I suggested we stay near Calp. I had peeped out the tour itinerary before we had even left the States, and was keen to see the coast of Spain around that region (the Costa Blanca), and ESPECIALLY check out the towering limestone monolith known as Penyal D'ifac. As it turns out, I got my wish. The afternoon that we arrived from Murcia, we took a walk along the beach, which led us to the giant rock. We considered climbing it then, since we still had some good daylight left. I was keen to do it right then and there, but not everyone was sure if they wanted to, so we decided to save it for the next morning. Before we left, we witnessed the phenomenon of the stray cats that live around the park. In the clearing where we stood, they began swarming in, hoping for some food I expect. They kept coming, until finally there were twelve! Then a THIRTEENTH came in, and it was the ONLY BLACK CAT! I found this very profound at the time, but there is a possibility that I was under the influence of some mind altering substances. We walked back to the hostel. The rest of the evening, as far as I can remember, consisted of smoking hash and eating at an Indian restaurant, which is the best conditions to eat at an Indian restaurant, of course.

Sometime the next morning, we decided to all go up The Rock. I was fully prepared to do it by myself, I figured maybe some would prefer to just lounge on the beach, but I pulled off the unexpected: I led the entire band and one crew member to the top! I could have done it much faster alone of course, but oh well! 

I'm under the impression that not only this town, but this whole part of Spain (Benidorm especially) becomes infested with drunken, sunburned, British tourists on holiday in the summer. At this point in early May however, the town seemed sleepy, and we were able to easily park in the dirt lot near the entrance to the Penyal d'Ifac Nature Park. This area is part of a detritic ithsmus that connects the rock to the mainland. On the Northern flank of lies the foundations of an ancient Iberian village dating back to the third century. Just past here is a visitor center with bathrooms and drinking fountains. The park is free, but you pass through a turnstile on your way to the trailhead, which amused me at the time. I figured out later that during busy times, they cut off the entrance after 150 people are on the trail, to alleviate crowding. 

A well maintained, stone paved trail begins to switchback South up the massif, and here's where views of the coast really begin to open up. To avoid what would probably be some serious climbing to get to the East side of the rock, a tunnel was drilled (I'm not clear on if it's a modern or ancient production, the informative sign suggests ancient) through the limestone, so the trail dips into temporary darkness, then pops out in a steep rocky landscape. This is the end of the almost wheelchair accessible trail that came before, as the path becomes an open scramble over smooth limestone, a realm of rock, coastal scrub and the ubiquitous sea gulls. The path is marked with spray paint to help you stay on it, and there are chains installed to help you climb some of the sections. I would put it at the difficult end of class 1.

It's all rocks and chains at this point until you reach the summit, where AGAIN there are a lot of stray cats hanging out. I can't believe they hike all the way up there! The view was stunning, and a great photo op as well. Unfortunately, the sky was getting a little bit hazy by then, and the view of the other coastal mountains was not as clear as I had hoped. We hung out around the top for awhile, it was not terribly crowded, but we were far from alone. On the way back down, Ryan and I, being the most intrepid of the pack, decided run on ahead, and take the other path that leads out the Southeastern edge of the rock, the historical lookout point, where you could watch and see if any Phoenician or Greek or Viking ships were sailing in with intent to maraud. The view was great, more towering limestone cliffs and whirling clouds of seagulls over the stunningly blue Mediterranean Sea.

We caught up with the rest of the crew as they were headed back towards the tunnel, and easily made our way back down through the visitors center, and back to the van. All agreed, even those with little hiking experience, that it was a fine outing.


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