The 6th and final day of this trip, was one to savour and I had plenty of time on my hands to enjoy it. This final stretch of the journey actually barely grazes the Mediterranean coast, and I never ventured onto the shores of the Costa Cálida of Murcia. Instead, it would be a series of roads passing through the lesser known areas and I was excited to get going. I decided to make the most of the early morning though and check the city centre out one more time, in particular, the port and Alameda. I was worried that I was going to be encountering things that a resort town like Benidorm would, but no, I was pleasantly surprised that Alicante was not like that, though it is more cosmopolitan than the other provincial capitals I had visited on this trip. I left at around 10:30 to start the 82km final stretch.
Elche/ Elx was my first stop of the day, and the other major city of the Alicante province 25km away on the route I decided to take. The first part was on the old friend the N-340 that you took me along the Playa de las Aguas Amargas, which would be my last association with the sea on this trip. 4km or so in, and it was time to go inland towards the airport, and is largely uneventful until you reach a roundabout that directs you to Elche via Torrellano which I didn’t do, but instead took the CV-86 to the north of the city and enter from there. This was the point I realised how arid this part of the country was, it felt surreal and like this was not the same country.
The reason I took the road north of Elche, was that there’s a road that takes you to the city centre via the famous palm tree plantations that dominate the scene. You have to turn off via the CV-8615 towards the university, which directs you to the train station and city centre. The road is barely a kilometre long, but such an experience, especially as once the palm trees end, you are slap bang in the middle of the city centre after passing Elx parc station. The crown jewel is a little square that opens up to the Palacio de Altamira, and the narrow streets on all sides of the city.
There was definitely a notable difference between the architecture of Elche and Alicante, and would say that it’s a big melting pot between old and new in Alicante, whereas in Elche, it’s more old and early 20th century new for the most part, and most of the attractions are on the eastern side of the Río Vinalopó. I really wish I had time to visit the Palacio and check out more of the palm forests, but I had to continue to the next town, Crevillente/ Crevillent. This was just a stretch of road to get through, nothin special at all, passing mostly industrial parks and commercial areas.
10km separated the two places, but actually presented some minor climbing through a rather busy road, though I was lucky that it was almost lunch time and there were few cars on the road. I guess also being Good Friday at the time, that also helped, but making it to Crevillente was another good resting point, and one that I really didn’t do much research about. There wasn’t that much really going on at this place, but there were some nice cobbled streets leading to the Plaça de la Constitució, where the main church of the town lies.
I was swamped with people preparing the Easter precessions, none of the museums were open at the time, and I couldn’t access the church. I did notice that this place looked like a typical worker’s town and had real buzz to it at the time. I later discovered that this was a popular town for hikes in the local mountains to the north, to the peak, La Vella, and the Pantano de Crevellente was also a popular place to visit, Nevertheless, it was quite a run-down place, and I decided to move on fairly swiftly to the next town Albatera, 9km away.
Back on the N-340 again, but this stretch, was probably my favourite of the whole day. It was really enjoyable seeing the mountains to the north, a few notable hills straight ahead, and being greeted with views towards sea, all be it a little hazy at that time. The road was dead straight, heading towards some hills in the distance, and Albatera was about halfway along. A very typical worker’s town, it makes total sense to follow the Calle Mayor to see the main church on the Plaza de España, where I experienced one of the friendliest and generous encounters of the whole trip. Walking up to the square, there was a family preparing to have lunch at the bar, and were very inquisitive and conversation ensued. I guess visitors were few and far between here, and they weren’t looking for anything off me, and even bought be a drink for the road. In all honesty, I remember the conversation more than the town! But relaxing with the 7up that was given in recognition of the trip I was on, sat in that square to admire the Parroquia de Santiago Apóstol was a nice memory.
Orihuela was the next stop on the journey, and the last town I would visit before leaving Alicante Province, 13km from Albatera. The straight road would traverse a small range called the Sierra de Callosa de Segura, the climb barely registered on my legs, as I was still on high gear. Service stations were present on this stretch, but barely any cars most importantly, and as you approach the edge of the next mountain, the Sierra de Orihuela, you approach yet more extensive fields of Palm trees. Having been quite exposed to the sun all day with little shade, (I wouldn’t go out so late in the day in summer) I welcomed the palm trees leading me the last kilometre up to the city.
Orihuela really did take me by surprise, and I would go to say it was even nicer than Elche. The Río Segura, that also passes through Murcia, my final stop, cuts the city in two, the older part to the north against the hill. Though I lost my photos of this place, I remember it being full of really ornate towers, and walking the bike along the river and the Calle Mayor really were something special. The Iglesia Parroquial de Santas Justa y Rafina and the Castle ruins were also highlights. it’s also the point where I realised that Valencian is practically non-existent in this area, no two languages to think about and confuse me.
It was time for the final leg of the trip, Orihuela to Murcia. 24km to go, and I rejoined the N-340 towards Santomera, and within 5km, I finally cross into the Región de Murcia. It felt surreal, given I had travelled nearly 400km through the whole of the Comunidad Valenciana, and now that stage was over. The Segura valley dominated the scene, with dry rocky hills surrounding a relatively green depression. Arriving at Santomera meant being on the home straight, and there is almost nothing really of note there barring a church wedged between relatively new buildings. Very much an industrial and agricultural town, it was safe to say that it is for the services and nothing more. The smallest hill climb will take you to the point where you can see the Castillo de Monteagudo with the Statue of Christ prominently placed on top, and I knew that was the city limits of Murcia.
Getting to Murcia felt like such a marathon, but I was excited to enjoy myself, and most importantly, relax. My hostel was located on Calle Trapería and was aptly named The Cathedral Hostel owing its location, and I made it with plenty of time before the precessions took place. I helped myself to a pastel de carne, a can of Estrella de Levante beer and took it all in. Murcia was a worthy place to finish, and I had a whole day to relax and enjoy it, and enjoy the tapas of the Plaza de las Flores of course.
So that concludes Day 6 of 6 of a journey where I learned a lot and saw a mixture of the most amazing and forgettable places, but mostly the former. The transition from my former home of Reus to the far southeast certain gave me an appetite to check out more places that I didn’t get to see, and certainly revisit a few. While there were some places that were a haven for brits and the negative stereotypes emerged, there were many more where local culture shone through. It really hit home, that if people of my country want to get out of their comfort zone and their full-board bubble they booked from the travel agents, they don’t have to go far, and if they go inland it’s almost an instant change. Reus – Murcia 597km, 6 days, completed it mate.