Friday, December 19, 2014
When I leave work, just after eight, it's dark. This will surprise no-one living in the Northern Hemisphere. Fortuna has Christmas lights. Not bad for such a small place on a tight, building bubble hit, budget. The traffic in Fortuna is pretty mad for a village of just under 10,000 population. Cars and vans, or at least their drivers, behave in erratic and unfathomable ways. I'm always relieved when the car and I clear the last set of traffic lights and drive out of the built up area still in one piece.
Sometimes, just by the lights, the Barinas bus, which comes up from Murcia, is pulling out as I get to the stop. We are going to share the route for a few kilometres. Why there is a bus from Murcia to Barinas (population 946) escapes me.
Baños de Fortuna is the first population after Fortuna, it "belongs" to Fortuna. It has a thermal spring, Victorian style hotels and a modern housing estate full of us foreigners. The street lighting peters out just after Baños. The landscape is pretty barren anyway, desert landforms, a bit lunar even. It's a steady climb up to Salado Alto on a road with an 80 kph limit which nobody sticks to. There are a couple of bars and restaurants in Salado. The posher one isn't open in the evening but the bar is. As I pass I often think that the clientele, who stand out in the lit interior Edward Hopper like, look like Brits. Maybe we have a little outpost there.
More of a climb, quite a steep climb, on a road that snakes to just the right degree to be able to enjoy cutting the apexes of the curves. Soon after cresting the top of the climb there is the Repsol garage on the left just by the junction where the bus will turn right to Barinas. The petrol station is pretty brightly lit but the light always seems a bit feeble set amidst the blackness of the Murcian countryside. There's a bar by the side of the petrol station too. They do a set meal at lunchtime for either 6€ or 7€.
Bit of level running, sharp right hander and climbing again up towards Algorrobo which means Carob tree. It's one of those roads with three lanes so that you can overtake the heavy heaving lorries. To be honest with the amount of traffic that there is on the RM 422 road it's hardly ever necessary.
We're on the level for a while now. In fact I think there's even a touch of downhill just before some incredibly bright street lights and a signpost which says that the single row of houses is called Los Fernandos. Still on the level but then a bit of a hill with Cañada de la Leña off to the right (Firewood Drove) and Cañada del Trigo (Wheat Drove) to the left. On the Trigo turn there's a cement works or gravel processing plant that paints the nearby landscape with dust and shines out in the dark.
Over to the right we can make out the huge lighting rigs that illuminate the largest open cast quarry in Europe at Monte Coto. We're still in Murcia but the quarry is in Alicante. Sometimes when the cloud is low it can look quite demonic. The road is flat and level again before one more hill that crests out by the Volver Bodega. We've just crossed into Alicante and the RM 422 has become the CV 836. The letters show they are regional roads - CV for the Valencian Community and RM for the Region of Murcia
The road drops down from the bodega towards Rodriguillo, one of the villages that makes up Pinoso. A quick zigzag to go through a couple of roundabouts and out past the garden centre and up the slope into Pinoso. Pass the cemetery and now we're in Pinoso proper. 50 kph speed restriction with the Co-operative bodega to the left and the marble and wine museum, tourist office and sports centre to the right. Into town with some splendid Christmas decorations twinkling away for now. There's a new bar to the right too - it opened about a week ago. It's owned by a German chap.
Only a right on the Badén and then out on the Monóvar road to get to our house in Culebrón. Fortuna is at 198 metres above sea level and Pinoso is at 474 so we've only climbed 276 metres or 905 feet but it's usually good for knocking off around 3ºC from the temperature. The car is nice and warm but it's not so warm as I step into the fresh air to open the gate. Good to be home though. Time to get the kettle on.