For 3 days in June I had the pleasure of providing a guided biking trip for an international group of doctors, scientists and medical experts from Australia, USA and Italy. They´d attended a conference in the city of Valencia and wanted a short break afterwards that would be based on cycling but would take in some of the local culture. After a welcome drink at the Casa Rural Casona de Ferrando in our home village of La Drova, we discussed the plans for the trip.
On Sunday we travelled to the Natural Park of Albufera de Valencia. As this was their first day on the bikes, and the weather was hot and dry we opted for a flat ride through the rice fields and on to the visitor centre where I provided a brief summary of the history and ecology of Albufera. The timing was perfect in that most of the riders were able to watch not only the beautiful Flamingoes but actually witnessed the birth of a Black Winged Stilt!
We then rode on to the old fishing and rice growing village of El Palmar where we enjoyed a traditional Valencian Paella and a Seafood Paella. Having had our fill, we used the carbs to pedal our way back across the Natural Park to the van.
The next day dawned bright and sunny so we set out on a route directly from the Casa Rural to explore the beautiful surroundings of La Drova and Barxeta. A short ride through the valley took us to the view point overlooking the spectacular valley of Valldigna, home of the ancient monastery of Santa Maria in the village of Simat. After a short steep climb we then descended into the Barxeta valley, a verdant citrus growing area.
We enjoyed lunch in the shade and a coffee in the village square. The heat was increasing by now so a steady pace and a determined effort took us along agricultural tracks through olive groves back to the small village of Pla de Corrals. Those who wanted to face the sustained climb over the pass back to La Drova did so whilst others chose to rest in the shade and admire the views of the surrounding mountains, being collected a little later by minibus. In the evening, the group very kindly invited my wife Carolina and I to dinner at Bar Nuria in the village of Barx, where enjoyed a great home cooked meal of local steak and swordfish.
Our third and final day together was designed to offer something for everyone… Once again, we set out from La Drova, heading through the Barxeta valley but this time out further towards the historical town of Xativa – birthplace to the only two Spanish Popes and the first place in Europe to produce paper.
We arrived in Xativa around midday and once again in hot dry weather. Most of the group opted to spend the afternoon exploring this beautiful old town with its churches, squares, narrow streets, museum and mountain-top castle. However, two group members opted to return to La Drova with me. As they were experienced off-road riders, we took a different route, along the superb riverside trail of Cova Negra, then along another rocky trail back to La Drova.
Having collected the other group members from Xativa, we enjoyed a drink in the pretty gardens of the Casa Rural before saying our farewells. For me the trip had been a pleasure and the group had proved to be great fun to be with. They´d seen some of the diverse culture and surroundings of this beautiful corner of Spain and hopefully had taken away some fond memories.
Written by David Warrington.