If you are looking for a fantastic walk with breathtaking scenery, you could do worse than to head to Aspe, just 25km inland from Alicante. On the edge of town, find the Santa Cruz Hermitage and start from there. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a linear walk through very colourful countryside measuring around 5km each way, leading to two ancient aqueducts named 4-eyes and 5-eyes. It’s downhill most of the way, but bear in mind that means a lot of uphill on the way back! It’s not too steep though, so take your time and enjoy the views. If that sounds too much like hard work, you can drive the entire journey and despite it being a rough road, you won’t need a 4×4. Full credit must go to the ayuntamiento of Aspe for maintaining this route so well.
The hermitage is reached following a series of stations of the cross. These graphic depictions of Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion can be found all around the Catholic world. The hermitage is resplendent in ochre red and white, but the doors were locked when I visited. You can get a peek through a grill to the image of Christ which gets paraded around the local area in early March. Indeed if you are there after the 1930 mass on 7 March or after the 1130 mass on 13 March, you are sure to witness something spectacular.
The PR-CV 169 footpath begins from there and the yellow and white flashes, combined with the occasional signpost, should ensure that you don’t get lost! There are some other footpaths and bridleways around, so keep your eyes peeled, but there are not too many places where you can take the wrong route. The first part takes you out past the olive fields towards a built up area but you’ll be turning off before you get too close to the houses.
At first the scenery is simply beautiful. As you go further along it changes to stunning and occasionally amazing, and the colours develop dramatically. The yellows and browns gradually transform into every shade of red you could imagine.
After climbing the specially diverted road over the tunnel for the new Murcia – Madrid AVE train line, you’ll soon notice an old bridge across the valley to your right. Another kilometre or so along the way a small diversion takes you up to a viewpoint from where it becomes obvious why this bridge is called cinco ojos or 5 eyes. The upper tier of the supports consists of four arches with on further archway underneath. It’s a fabulous sight but the trees in the valley obscure it in places. Also at the viewpoint you can look over the dried-up riverbed of the Vinalopó. Nowadays it is a giant field of reeds and their movement in the breeze can be mesmerising.
A little further along the footpath is an old Arabic-style water cistern. With red rocks in the distance behind it, this construction is rather picturesque. Nearby there is a short walk to another valley where you can find the quatro ojos (4 eyes) bridge. If you follow the signpost to the viewpoint you may be surprised that there is no safety fence preventing you from getting to the bridge itself. Surely the viewpoint should allow you to see the bridge in its full glory rather than the vertigo-inducing sight of the narrow aqueduct track across the valley. Luckily it’s not too difficult to get a safer view!
From there the footpath does continue in a circular route but according to an old guidebook, this goes past the municipal rubbish tip and isn’t too pleasant. With this in mind I retraced my steps, but a worthwhile diversion is along the riverbed to stand underneath the 5 eye bridge. It is a stunning piece of architecture and very photogenic.
One thing that did puzzle me though: I often listen to Radio Aspe in the car or on Tune-In. The station calls itself la voz de la valle de las uvas (the voice of the valley of the grapes), but where are all the grapes? I didn’t see a single vine all day!