Todsy, Bernie and Lyn are taking us up to the Desert de las Palmas (Desert of the Palms). It seemed funny driving in a car again. We drove out Benicassim past table-top roundabout and out to the start of the desert road. We climbed up for more than 20mins (up 1:6), around deep hairpin bends. Passing as we went an elderly man on a push bike. We felt for his legs and thought little or no more about him at the time.
The name of the comes from the presence of a religious order of Carmelita Mendicant. This order calls spaces that are dedicated to spiritual retreat “deserts” (los “Santos Desiertos”). The second part of the name comes from the abundance of palms (Chamaerops humilis) in the area. Chamaerops are the only palm endemic to Europe.
We finally reached the viewpoint and car park near the monastery. Took a breath and felt the sun on our faces. The air was crystal clear and we felt happy to explore some of the paths and walkways. We noticed that this was also part of the St Jacques de Compostelle route. We started this journey discovering St Jacques, and on the final expedition we find the signs again.
There is a short walk along the road and then across a ridge (regular signposts point the way) to the ruins of Montornés castle. easy walk with rugged scenery, the almond trees are easy to spot with their black trunks, we cannot see their splendour in the Spring when the almond trees are in pink blossom. We walked down the track where the scent of wild rosemary is heady as we brush past the woody bushes, the aloe vera plants grow in abundance. There are small shrines along the way and we place flat stones as a mark of respect.
We were unable to explore the ruins as the fences and gates were locked but we spent a pleasant hour wandering around. The views over Benicassim and Castellon are spectacular, although it was a little hazy today.
Back at the car we noticed the old gentleman who was cycling up the mountain when we started driving up. He had reached the top… we applauded him and he took a bow. I think he was secretly pleased we had noticed him.
Getting back in the car leaving the peaceful scene was hard but a cup of coffee and tapas beckoned down at the bar. So we drove back down the other side of the mountain towards Benicassim.
The day was perfect and one day we’ll go back and see if we can find the road to the top.