Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Pico del Bartolo walk at the Desert de les Palmes

The first thing you should know about the Desert de les Palmes is that it is not a desert. The second thing you should know is that there aren't any palm trees. Shoddy pre-visit research can often lead to disappointment! But at least we enjoyed a good walk out in (finally!) hot sunshine.

Desert de les Palmes is actually a 3200 hectare nature reserve covering a fairly narrow mountainous strip just in from the coast. The area got its name from a Carmelite religious order's use of the term desert to describe places dedicated to spiritual retreat. There are also apparently plenty of fan palms hereabouts, just not along the route of the Bartolo walk. The Carmelite monks arrived in 1697 and their two monasteries - one in ruins and one modern - are some of the most interesting buildings to be seen in the natural park.

Our walk began at the Information Centre which is set back from and above the single winding road and pretty easy to miss. We had to turn around a few hundred yards further on and return. There is a car park up the paved drive, but it closes at the same as the Centre itself (2pm in winter) so we were lucky to get parked just outside.

Looking down to the ruined monastery 
The Pico del Bartolo walk begins on rough footpaths of dark red sandstone, one of three walks leading away from the back of the Centre. It is well signposted all the way, but was worth picking up the yellow guide booklet from the Information Centre because this also contains interesting details of local flora and fauna, history and geology. We were mostly surrounded by rosemary bushes and smaller pine trees.

Looking up to the new monastery 
Footpaths soon become wider tracks and the road up to the 729m high peak is actually tarmaced. As well as the huge concrete cross pictured above there are are numerous television and communication masts up there which need maintenance. We stopped for lunch and magnificent views up at the top (our new highest lunch!) before returning back to our starting point. The whole walk only took about two and a half hours, an almost relentless uphill for the first half and an equally relentless downhill for the second. It is worth it for the views though and they are the reason this walk should be done on a clear day. We could see for miles!

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