We’ve done quite a few walking trips (8-ish) in small groups organized by Explore! – up to 16 folks and a leader in each group. Now we’ve been out a couple of times in similar sized groups with the Costa Blanca Mountain Walkers. For those interested in taking their time to photograph either scenery, in a considered fashion, or wildlife in a patient fashion, depending on the lack of cooperation of the critter, is that you simply don’t have time. Given a “proper” camera, by the time you’ve extracted it, thought about your shot, lined it up and pressed the shutter in an unhurried way, the rest of the group will be about 100m ahead. Wait for a butterfly to settle, or think longer about a landscape shot and you’re even further behind. Oh, and you have to put the cmaera away again, as well.
Francine had read about a walk involving “Els Arcs”, a couple of natural rock arches, which was supposedly a decent place to find orchids. The thought of doing a walk by ourselves in our own time was quite appealing. The walk sounded relatively straightforward, certainly by Spanish standards, with a start point just beyond Castel de Castels, about 30 minutes further up our valley We set off looking forward to time by ourselves.
We parked at the start of the track. Before I was ready, still preparing my rucksack, Francine had found a Bee Orchid in the rough ground by the “Usted esta aqui” [You are here] map. We set off up the track.
Very soon an fabulous critter crawled quickly across the track in front of us. It was black with striking red bands across its abdomen and had trouble hauling its bulk up some of the stones. Beetle sprang to mind but it looked more the shape of a larva than a fully grown beetle. It was big, though, at about 3cms long. Francine’s swift search on the Internet back at home base quickly revealed our critter to be a red-striped Oil Beetle (Berberomeloe majalis). This is a full-grown one – they’re wingless.
Continuing our path we played leapfrog with a Dutch family, alternately in a car and then walking. Where the track eventually became a footpath, they had to abandon their car and let their two blasted King Charles Spaniels run along the path disturbing any wildlife. fortunately they were slower than us – the people, not the spaniels – and we managed to give ‘em the slip. The “easy” path became a little more Spanish, rough and a tad slippery, as we approached Els Arcs themselves Unless you’re looking at, it takes a while to realize that you’ve arrived. Eventually, though, you see sky and the ground beyond through the two arches. It’s quite a spectacular natural formation.
The slightly trickier path to the arches is a “there and back” side-excursion from the circular route. we retraced our steps to regain the main track.
Approaching the end Francine found her highlight. Nestling beside the rough road in a patch of grass she spotted what looked like an orchid, yellow in colour. I know just what she felt like. This was a new orchid ofr her collection and I’ve been similarly excited when I first see a dragonfly that’s new to me. She knelt and snapped away, incurring a blood-letting injury for her pains. The bleeding soon stopped and we returned for her to consult the books. It’s pretty self-descriptive, really: it looked like an Ophrys and it was yellow – a Yellow Ophrys (Ophrys lutea).
It had been very pleasant being able to take our time over what we wanted to do, and we’d got a new orchid, to boot.