Weekends. The good weather and the search for an open space where to carry out an activity have made the inland hiking routes the best scenario to escape from the crowds and disconnect from the current health situation. However, the “fever” that has been unleashed to search for a unique enclave has caused many places to collapse with the arrival of vehicles and users who previously did not go to those places. The most positive part: the local hospitality industry finds a respite after very difficult months.
Open air and, in theory, few crowds. Go out to the mountains for the weekend, to be able to walk between the nature in small groups and being able to remove the mask at times it has seduced thousands of people in recent weeks. Places that barely received visitors before are now overwhelmed and those who were already a mandatory appointment to spend Sunday seem rush hour roads. A situation that benefits the hoteliers of the towns around those Natural spaces who close Sundays of 100% occupancy and waiting lists for a table.
The province has an infinite number of spaces to take a route through nature that, in addition, in this month of October, is accompanied by very good weather that encourages “going to the mountains.” And a good reflection is how places like the Font Roja in Alcoy, the Guadalest swamp, the Source of the Partegat from Benifato or the Puig Campana in Finestrat they receive each Weekend thousands of visitors in search of fresh air. So many that in most cases there are those agglomerations from which it is intended to flee at the weekend.
The Font Roja Natural Park is one of those that registers a significant saturation. According to the address, “We are between 60 and 70% above the usual average”; a figure that reached an almost historic peak in September and October, a time when “the colorful autumn scenery makes the park more attractive.” The car park has 70 spaces, and it is common, especially on weekends, for “people to get on and leave their cars on the road”, which is “a serious danger in an emergency.” So, when the parking lot is full, they put up a billboard informing about it but “people keep going up. They jump over the fence and when they get to the top, and they see that they can’t park, they leave their cars in the gutters. This situation leads them to have to call the Civil Guard, which has had to penalize badly parked vehicles.
The figures of the Font Roja speak for themselves. In September the interpretation center has registered up to 500 visitors on some Sundays, a figure that could be doubled with people who know the place and do not pass there. And although less, from Monday to Friday they have also increased: «Obviously overcrowding is a problem. We are above the park’s recommended capacity, and that also has a negative impact on the environment.
Places like La Font del Partegat experience the same situation every Sunday. The mayor of Benifato, David Blanes, explained that “many more people are showing” and that 80 vehicles have been recorded in the area, a very high figure. The municipality has been caught with the recreational area in full swing and with a project to have a guard that precisely controls the influx of people. In Orxeta, Mayor José Vicente Ferriz said that they are also receiving many people who go up to make the available routes from the town who have the same problem: “You see many people walking around trying to park.” In Sella, the situation repeats itself and the town fills with people every weekend. In Guadalest, the swamp route is one of the busiest these days. Parking in the area of the reservoir to make the circular route is practically impossible on Sunday and many leave their car where they can. In Finestrat, the Font del Molí or the Puig Campana are also receiving more visitors than usual for these dates. However, there is a recurring problem: the garbage that is left and the attitude of some walkers who do not collect it. Thus, the towns emphasize that they are the ones who have to face the cleaning and maintenance costs of these natural areas.
But there is a very positive part, that of the hoteliers. Getting a table on a Saturday or Sunday in the towns around these routes is practically impossible at lunchtime if you haven’t booked or arrived early. Those that also have a terrace fill up right away. There are even those who did not open on Sundays and have started to do so in recent weeks. “During the week we work very little but on Saturdays we are at 70% and on Sundays there is ‘overbooking'”, according to Francisco González, owner of “Sa Canterella”, in Tàrbena. “We are in similar numbers to last October,” he added, and all taking into account that the current capacity is much lower than a year ago. “People want to move and they want to spend, walk and eat well,” he added. Rafa Sales, chef de cuisine of «Nou Salat» in Guadalest assures that «we are working well, no more than before» but that they practically fill the weekend. The hotelier says that “people now book more and prefer the terrace.” Thus he ensures that there is more movement of people who go to the mountains and hope that the numbers will be maintained. For them, this “rush to go to the mountains” is a breath of fresh air.
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