Friday, April 24, 2015

Charco Azul

As I may have mentioned, we are currently in Chulilla, Spain.

That's our balcony highlighted in red.  We are at the north end of town, on the only road that actually goes north out of town.

Chulilla is small.  I believe the population is roughly 700 people.  You can tell it is small from looking at a map.  What you cannot tell from looking at a map is just how three dimensional the layout of the town is.  As you walk through town, two parallel streets can be as much as 50 feet or more apart in elevation.  The town is on a saddle between the backing mountain to the east, and a peak to the west which has an old fortification on top.  This can also mean that down could either be northwest, or southwest, and on the right street corner, you can choose two downs that are actually away from each other.

Down to the southwest leads to farmland, and a clear view of the valley for miles and miles.  Down to the northwest, well that is why Chulilla is a prime rockclimbing destination.  You see, to the northwest is the gorge.  Sheer cliffs of rock, often overhanging, and none of it more than a single pitch high.  (If you aren't a climber, this means it isn't taller than a single rope can protect you all the way to the top.)  Many interesting features, and most, if not all, of them are kitted out for sport climbing.  There are even some areas, like the wall directly across from our balcony, that are kitted out with top roping stations you can walk out to before you climb.  It's like a natural climbing gym, but on a huge scale.

As you descend the saddle to the northwest, you pass from the white streets and buildings of the town, first to dirt road and switchbacks, and then to loose rock and dirt trails.  Slightly before you hit the bottom, you cross an aqueduct.  This manmade, slightly elevated channel of water presents a straight course of mostly unobstructed waterflow, and is carved through the meandering gorge, running in and out of tunnels through the stone without ever deviating from it's course.  The water inside is deep, beautifully green, and perched right in between inviting, and frightening.  If I had to guess, I'd say it looks like 60 to 80 percent of the water passing through the gorge is in the aqueduct instead of the Rio Turia.

Descending the saddle, you hear the Rio Turia burbling and babbling through stones, across woods, and around all manner of plants.  I love the sounds water makes when it interacts with its environment.  I can think of no other thing in nature but water which sings or hums to itself quite so much or so often as it goes about its day.  The sounds invite you down to the base of the gorge, and draw you to the water.

Once the trail reaches the bottom of the gorge, and fulfils the promise of discovering the source of song, it turns to follow the river both towards its past and towards its future.  The past of the river at this point is Charco Azul, and what a past it is.  Charco Azul is Spanish for Blue Pond.  Google it, and you will find dozens of pictures, nearly all of higher quality than what I've taken myself, but here are a couple of mine anyway.

If you look closely, you'll not only notice the board and rebar structure precariously clinging to the face of the cliff, but you'll see that it has literally fallen off the face at the far end.  Only the adventurous swimming can find out where it used to go.

The water here is deep.  Rocks below the surface disappear completely from view a mere five or six feet deep.  Particularly by the cliff face, the bottom is hidden in its green depths, conjuring the fear of the unknown monsters that could lurk below.  You could imagine a leviathan from loch ness taking refuge here, away from the bustle of paparazzi plaguing its home.

If you are brave enough, you too can traverse this rickety structure and peer down into the scrying surface of Charco Azul.  I followed in my friend's footsteps, crossing swaying planks and holding rusted metal, but was not brave enough to take my camera with me.

The most amazing thing about Charco Azul to my mind is not how beautiful it is, but how close it is to Chulilla.  Round trip, without running, but without including all the time you'll spend enjoying your location, the whole hike from town to blue pond, and back, will probably take less than an hour.

There are actually two trails wending their way through the gorge on the way to Charco Azul.  The first, as you would rightly expect, is along the side of the river.  The second has just as many twists and turns as the first, but they are up and down, and not left to right.  It runs along the aqueduct, and where the waterway is open to the air, you walk a path along its side, but where it passes through tunnels, the trail clings to the side of the gorge, and though more direct, and shorter than the trail at the bottom, I would probably call it the more challenging of the two for all the elevation changes.  Where you are alongside the water, it is quite beautiful to behold.

1 comment:

  1. Sean, please keep the pictures coming! I love seeing them, your going to places I will probably never ever visit in my lifetime. How awesome that you are getting to experience this new lifestyle (although I'm sure it doesn't lack challenges).