Normally, when we hop on bikes and leave Valencia for the south, it’s to visit one of the many beaches stretched out along the coast. But today, we had a different destination in mind: the rice fields between the city and the lagoon of Albufera.
Our route started in the town of Pinedo, but soon brought us into the heart of l’Horta Sud, or “Southern Garden.” The city of Valencia is ringed in by such districts: l’Horta Sud, l’Horta Oest and the l’Horta Nord. These regions have long been dedicated to agriculture, and provide Spain with much of its vegetables, citrus fruits, and horchata. In the section of l’Horta Sud which we’d be touring, the focus is squarely on rice.
It was toward the beginning of May, a time of year when the farmers have just sowed their rice. We biked along narrow paths, on either side of which were flooded fields, and saw men using long sticks to clean the water of the algae-muck which continuously accumulates along the banks. Even today, this is work best done by hand, requiring endurance, patience and, apparently, a good sense of humor. While we were taking pictures, a few of the farmers couldn’t resist joking with us. “I can’t believe the paparazzi found us all the way out here!” “Hey Manny, hide your face. These guys are trying to take pretty pictures!”
We stayed on the path all the way to the edge of the Albufera Lagoon, and then cut back towards the north. Along the way, we saw the old store houses in which rice used to be kept, and a few cranes, who would lift off the ground and gracefully glide away as we approached. The roads were smooth, though we occasionally had to dismount and push our bikes over sections which were too muddy.
The rice grows all summer, until being ready for harvest in September. It’s worth returning back for that, as there are festivals to celebrate the annual cosecha. But this is a lovely area at any time of year.