BALEARICS

GR223 MENORCA: 10/11th OCTOBER

It was nearly dark as I followed the track between resorts across rock and scrub looking for someplace to pitch my tent. At the southwesern tip of the island with the lighthouse of Cap d’Artrutz flashing at me I made do with a flat patch of rock beside a civil war gun emplacement. I figured if the forecast rain happened and the 15€ Aldi tent didn’t stand up to it I could hunker down in the bunker.  

 In the morning I was still dry but clouds were brewing.  

   The last leg up the west coast was a cliff top hike across lumpy limestone, once I’d cleared the holiday hotels and lighthouse.  

   I passed the nodding seed heads that had greeted me on my first day on the trail and another ageless stone shelter with its gravity defying roof construction.  

     

Before I knew it I was in Ciutadella. At the ferry port there was a boat due to leave in 20 mins but I was too late to buy a ticket apparently so I had a day meandering the narrow city streets probably clocking up as many km as I would on the trail. It was photogenic though so forgive me any overexposure.  

                             I was puzzled by this completely walled in boat.  

 

The sun was shining again so before my ferry left I had a final swim with the fishes from the little city beach.  

   

Back in Port Alcudia the shining morning sun slowly drew out the beach goers.  

     Walking to the bus I reflected that you can look all day for a phone box and then along come 5 at a time.  

 Driving in an hour past the mountain range it had taken me 8 days to hike I got to Palma where my funky and busy hostel was smack in the middle of the old quarter.  

 I dumped my rucksack and floated off 12kg lighter to explore. Again the street scenes demanded recording so bare with me.  

               The cathedral by the way was 400years in the making, started after the re conquest from the Muslims on the site of the mosque. Gaudi did a load of stuff for a finish. The rose window is the largest in Europe I think but unfortunately being Sunday the cathedral was shut (?) so I didn’t get me admire the multitude of stained glass.  

         

It struck me again how wealthy and sophisticated this island is, particularly compared to its neighbour Menorca. Even the ice cream parlours are pure class.  

 And the lap dogs have carriages.  

 

I walked down to the marina to be a voyeur on an alien life form and lifestyle. Who are these people? 

   Raoul was “entertaining” in full view of us rubbernecking tourists but didn’t seem to be pulling to me.  

 Sated by the boat porn I returned to the normality of a 6 bed dorm in a back street hostel to prepare for re entry. 

For I decided to postpone the remaining 2 Spanish islands (actually I’m sure I can find more) for another time. I’ve been a deserter from the Homefront for long enough and I’ll be flying to Ireland in the morning. 

These two routes have been good. I missed out the highest and possibly the best of the Mallorcan route due to weather conditions and missed out the worst of the Menorcan route due to time constraints but both were special and recommended. But there’s no place like home.  

 

                      I’m outta here. 

  

Ps  Stay tuned for more adventures in December  and I’d love to know who is the avid reader in Italy  

GR223 MENORCA: 8/9th OCTOBER 

Two of the best days hiking so far have brought me along the south coast of this surprisingly unspoilt island. The south is easier going than the rugged north and thankfully flatter. 

After leaving the monumental stones of Torre d’en Galmes to their timeless slumber I retraced my steps to the Cami de Cavalls and wove my way through the wild olives ( of which there are thousands but no cultivated ones ?) pines and juniper.  The track was blocked in places by tree fall from last weeks storm. 

      There is a gin distillery on the island, a hangover (!) from the British colonial days but I read they import the juniper berries as there are none on the island. The way went passed white limestone cliffs sporting brave little trees starting out on a tough life, and down to a little cove at Caleta Llucalari.  

     

Then came the shock of civilisation.  

 Now that’s what I call sensitive development. To be fair it’s few and far between and after walking nearly all the way around the coast I’ve been pleasantly surprised how little of it has been touched at all. It could be down to the fact that MENORCA was the last province to hold out against Franco and so was left out of any tourism development money during the 60’s and after. 

Anyway the holiday villas have some lovely floral displays, sometimes getting out of hand.  

   Some buildings have features you couldn’t get away with in the rain sodden North.  

 Some developments never made it.  

 And some you might wish hadn’t. I wonder what the Irish Republican boys would think of their flag flying with this lot.  

 Still I was soon off down the trail with other oiled up sun seekers 

 into a pastoral countryside of white cows and white birds, black horses and white birds and reed rich wetlands.  

       The coast featured many islets and many walkers ambling between resorts.  

   And as this Camino was originally for horse riders unsurprising to find them also.  

 More development at Sant Tomas and then the wilds again.  

     At this point the Cami de Cavalls heads inland but an alternative route sticks to the coast and passed beaches I didn’t want to miss. A lovely cliff top path through pines and over jagged limestone.  

       There were steps and cave houses cut into the rock.  

     And interesting remains of former lives trapped in the stone.  

   The boating crowd found safe anchorage.  

 Then came adventure. I got to Cala Trebaluger where my guide mentioned a river crossing. It wasn’t as I imagined.  

 After watching a couple strip off and wade neck deep across the channel I was wary. My phone could get wet. Everything else, down bag, tent, clothes, food, clothes etc could also end up in the sea. It was a Bear Gyrils moment. Channeling my inner Ray Mears I stripped off stuffing everything in bags, in bags, in waterproof sacks. Hoisting my 12kilo rucksack on my head I gingerly followed the route across indicated by my fellow intrepid adventurers. It got tricky on the last leg across the deepest dip but luckily they were there on the rocks to release me of my load and I scrambled ignominious and naked up to join them. We can be heroes. 

No way horses could follow.  

 So off through the woods again to find a place to camp. I thought the next beach, Cala Mitjana, might be nice and so it was.  

 I found myself a sheltered hut set amongst civil war defences and an old limestone quarry overlooking the beach.  

       As I settled in about 15 kayaks paddled in and set up camp for the night. So much for the 4000€ fine for camping.  

 A nice night spent listening to the lapping and flapping of water on the rocks. 

More pine woods in the morning led to the resort of Santa Galdana a 5 hour walk from my destination for the day at Cala en Bosch on the southwestern tip of Menorca.  

   One feature of the domestic buildings on Menorca I hadn’t seen before are the zigzag tile downpipes.  

 I was tempted to swim here as there were beachside showers but it wasn’t hot enough so after a cafe con leche and wifi chat with home I headed off into more pine woods on a wide track and long and winding steps to a succession of beautiful access free beaches.  

         Some rocky stretches and interesting scat for the admitted minority interested in such things.  

   I came to what I knew was the last nice isolated beach on my trip so had to don the goggles one more time.  

   Refreshing. 

There were a lot of civil war emplacements in the following stretch that I explored as well as some much older structures.  

       

I met up with Birgit again on her journey in the opposite direction. It’s amazing how after meeting briefly once fellow travellers can seem like old friends. May the road rise to meet you Birgit. 

Speaking of fellow travellers, I came across the cave/ house mentioned by Olof back in Cala Morell but it was too early to consider staying there and also too busy with tourists.  

     A little later the sights and sounds of the resort of Son Xoriguer drew me to the bar where I write this. Tomorrow is an easy 4 or 5 hours back to Ciutadella where I started this odyssey. 

But now I have to find somewhere in resortville where a man and tent may go unnoticed.  

 

GR223 MENORCA: 6/7th OCTOBER

After breakfasting like a king at the buffet table in Arenal d’en Castell and a brief chat and info exchange with Birgit who I meet checking out and is going around the Cami de Cavell the other way, I cast a somewhat jealous eye over the holiday makers getting ready for another day poolside, and load up for the trail. 

Just out of town I bump into David, with his thumb out hitching. He said he needed to get down to Es Grau tonight for some reason I couldn’t quite follow. He’s been finding it tough and is carrying a lot of kit. I said I’d see him there if I made it that far. 

I soon entered the Parc Natural de S’ Albufera D’Es Grau with views across the waterways and old salt ponds.  

     The rules as to how to behave were very specific.  

 I think I got the constant pace right and my movements were not too erratic but I’m afraid I cut a swath through the wildlife with my red backpack.  

 The surrounding farmland looked rich with fresh grass or grain appearing after the rains and some strangely coloured rocks.  

       Then the way travelled over a high plain of stones fields and bushes before joining a road to the coast at Cap de Favaritz with its barbershop striped lighthouse.  

   That was a stage end but there were no facilities there or more importantly water. Paddy’s guide said strong walkers could carry on to Es Grau. Red rag to a bull. 

But first a swim to cool off at the lovely cove of Cala de Morella a couple of km further on.  

 Tearing myself away after an hour I had another couple of hours up and down the headlands between coves thankfully some shady paths through scrubs and woods and some open farmland.  

       A lot of the bay’s had thick piles of washed up sea grass and reed flower heads. I wondered if it could be composted or used on the land. By the time I crossed the last bay and Es Grau came into view I was ready for a cold beer and satisfied my need admiring some of the old school architecture.  

     I ran into David again, who was trying to do his video diary and film the sunset so I left him to it and headed for some woods near wetlands and a lake to camp. There were lots of big fish repeatedly jumping out of the water, probably after the mozzies of which there was an abundant supply.  

 After my swollen bites I’m a bit sensitive about mozzies so zipped myself in tight. Unfortunately I kept feeling things land on me and when I turned on the torch was disturbed to find a trillion (at least) ants marching everywhere.  

 The picture does nothing to reveal the true horror of the situation. I couldn’t go out or the mozzies would get me. When panic subsided I realised they weren’t biting so I drew deep on my zen attitude and acceptance and let them crawl over and in everywhere. 

More high acceptance levels were needed in the morning when I rolled my tent up good and tight squashing down hard with my knees….. with my glasses still inside. Well bent with one side open and screw less and a luckily intact lens popped out. 

More rugged coastline down the east coast in the morning sun led me up and down on sandy and rocky paths between little coves often with simple fishermans houses and boathouses.  

       The plant and animal life were colourful and hardy.  

  

    

 I came to the headland at Sa Mesquida  

There were some nice waterfront houses in the little village, there can’t be much of a tide here.  

     From here there was a 5km slog along hard Tarmac followed by a cross city hike. 

  I lost heart after awhile and stuck my thumb out at the only car I’d seen. Nice man from Mao drove me into city centre. 

   

I’d heard from a few people that the next stage, around the southeast corner below the capital was not very nice with one urbanization following another. So I’d decided to get a bus to the next section at Cala n Porter. This would free up enough time to get the boat back to Mallorca from Ciutadella on Saturday night rather than Sunday. After my previous experience with cancelled ferries and a flight first thing Monday morning it seemed prudent.  

 

The short (at bus speed) ride bought me to the resort where I stocked up on food and sat on the beach for a bit 

 before heading up a deep gorge filled with isolated fruit growing fincas.  

 The way lead through shady cliff paths up to higher level ground of small fields and past a water collection and storage structure.  

  

  

 There was a detour to a high point where the Talayotic settlement of Torre d’en Galmes seemed worth the extra effort. And so it was. Unique to MENORCA these enigmatic sites from between 850 and 200 bc are scattered around the island but this one was the nearest to the Cami de Cavalls. The scale was impressive as was the size of the construction stones.  

           I was very taken by the atmosphere of the place and decided to spend the night nearby and watch the stones dissolve into the dark.  

  The few visitors went bit by bit leaving me alone with the ancient stones. Apart from when a man approached me not to tell me to go but to asked if I had seen a couple of geese that had flown off from the neighbouring farm where I had seen some happy free range pigs whose grunting were the only sounds.  

 No mozzies buzzing up there.  

GR223 MENORCA: 3/4/5th OCTOBER

With the weather set fair for awhile I set out for the wild northwest and North Coast somewhat weighed down by a pack full of provisions, and stopping at the last mini market to load up on sugary pastries. At the end of the tarmac 

 i met a couple of middle aged ladies coming back from the wildzone in sandles and flip flops so figured I’d be ok. I don’t know how they got far cos the track was rough across sharp and jagged limestone. The first point of interest was a nice rock arch.  

 The track made its way up to an old fortification though from what conflict I don’t know. It meandered across a landscape very similar to home on the western seaboard of Ireland. To the Burren or the Aran Islands, denuded of trees, with wind shaped vegetation  

 and a labyrinth of dry stone walls. But there was a lot more heat here which made it even less hospitable to plant growth.  

   Although the seed pods of Amarilis (?) showed that they liked the conditions more than they do in my garden. 

The sea cliffs and views were pretty stunning and the azure blue of the water tempted some high diving.  

       The way was well signed with very frequent posts that even had reflective strips for anyone out after dark.  

 Another feature on the route are the self closing gates, hinged on slant with beautifully crafted latches.  

 This section was littered not only with miles of drystone wall but also unique animal shelters known as baracas and looking like fantastical towers of Babel.  

       They obviously had a lot of rock to clear. But suddenly it was no longer clear and the scrubs had taken over for awhile with the path hacked through the undergrowth an attractive  environment for exotic creepy crawlies.  

   In the afternoon Cala Morell, the only little settlement on this stretch came into view, nicely situated above a sandy cove and with a fantastic necropolis that I’d have been tempted to stay the night in if I hadn’t wanted to push on further.  

       I met Olof here, a German living in Barcelona for the last 10 years, who was also hiking the Cami de Cavalls but in the opposite direction. He’d just come from where I was going , the empty quarter , and was able to give me some handy info. He warned me it was hard going and not to underestimate how long sections would take. I had been pondering this as Paddy Dillons guide had timings of 2km per hour hiking time, not including any photo, eating or exhaustion breaks and the man is no hiking slouch. Anyway Olof was a nice guy to spend some talk time with after the lonely trail. 

The rock had changed completely as had the house style with everything, including the roofs painted white.  

   On I went up and down along the rocky shoreline and even though I had filled up with water in Cala Morell by the time I came upon some little fisherman huts and a spring I was glad to resupply.  

     

Again there was a dramatic change with rock giving way to fields of sand and pine trees.  

   It was along this undulating area of forest and little sandy fields that I caught up with David, a Spaniard who had given up his job as fitness trainer and football ref to embark upon the project , a life of adventure eventually and hopefully funded by his youtube offerings. We carried on together, back over rocky shores again until just before dark making camp at a little house high above a bay.  

   

A long day completing nearly 4 official stages and nearly 2 of Paddy’s. It was more of the same the next day made even longer by the fact that we missed a signpost through concentrating on our mutual Spanish and English lessons and not on the route. This meant we climbed a long long hill needlessly, had to retrace our steps and then climb the right long long hill. And we had to spend half an hour fixing my broken pack Macgiver style. Still the effort was rewarded with nice scenery, another holy spring and interesting geological stuff.  

     

We came to a signboard at an official stage beginning indicating the rather off putting profile of the way ahead.  

 It was much worse than that. The graph had evened out all the short but very steep up and downs. 2 km a hour started looking like the stuff of champions. 

But efforts were eventually and continuously rewarded at peaks along the way.  

   

It was way too hot for that kind of effort and when we came down into a particularly attractive isolated beach I had to cool off braking my own rule of not swimming in salt water if I can’t wash off the salt afterwards for fear of chaffing.  

 Refreshed we were able to carry on, up and down again,and again on cliff top and level ground till we came a glorious beach that had a road to it. Glorious not only for the colour of the sand but mainly because there was a restaurant there. Sunday Lunch.  

       

After satisfying the craving for food and drink I couldn’t resist the sea again before we carried on for another 3 hours and finding home for the night, a simple shelter with level concrete floor on a beautiful clear water cove where I yet again could not resist its allure. Later David also had to go diving to retrieve his dropped saucepan.  

 

We were joined by a couple of gents from the mountains of Alicante where me and Sally had once wandered. The place looked nice at sunset.  

 And similar at sunrise.  

 

With the foreseen salt rubbing a reality I hurried on in the morning past beaches of driftwood and nice rocks 

  

 hoping the little resort an hour or so further on would have a freshwater shower on the beach. It did but only one for washing feet. So I had to perform Houdini like writings to hold the button in whilst getting my body under the low tap. Felt better. 

The place was obviously in the process of shutdown with amusements(?) of all kinds being taken away.  

   The others caught up with me at the supermarket and David and I carried on while the rest went for coffee   There was too much road walking for my liking but eventually we got off road again.  

 Passed some lovely dragon trees  

  and down trails that could have been borreens.  

   We hit another beach resort and stopped for a drink and admired the mornings catch.  

 David was suffering for salt chaffing badly and stayed for a shower so we made our farewells and I carried on.  

 

More sandy paths, more woods and then more resorts. I decided to join the holiday makers in a place right on the trail and attend to domestic affairs again. I’m gonna avail of the Buffett breakfast. Reckon I can gat enough in to last a day or so. 

How the other half live eh.  

 

GR 223 MENORCA: 2nd OCTOBER 

There’s been some serious clouds but luckily they have contained some good silver linings.  

 Hiking to the ferry port at 5 am I’m not too pleased to find it’s delayed again, only by 1 1/2 hr but it’s enough to throw my schedule off.  

 Arriving at the old Menorcan capital city of Ciutadella at 9.30 means there’s no way to get to my intended destination in a day.  

 There’s a bit of tricky planning involved in this hike. The GR223 traces the route all around the islands coastline on the Cami de Cavalls,a centuries old boundary trail made mainly for speedy defence. There are some long day stages, especially as officially it’s split into 20 and I’m trying to do it in 10. 

  Anyway there’s a bit coming up with no shops bars restaurants or anything for a couple of days so I have to be in the right place at the right time. And as it happened I was. After negotiating the cities squares,streets and harbour  

       I make it out of town, though the way was fraught with danger.  

  There were amazing narrow rocky inlets along the route with little swimming places cut into the sandstone rock and where villas lined the shore they seemed to try to outdo each other carving terraces and steps.  

   

I passed an interesting old Toyota Landcruiser camper and stopped for a chat with the German owners of the 30 yr old motor they’ve spent 4 years going round the world in. ( next project) 

  

 After awhile out of town I came to the first suburban strip leading into the resort towns of Cala en Blanes and Calespiques. Some of the old style villas were lovely in their simplicity.  

   But before too long I descended into proper British Beachholiday tack, quite a lot of it empty and forlorn.  

     

With skies darkening and shopping and clothes washing needed before ‘civilisation’ ran out I found a room with hot water and settled in to the orientation and preparation process. Just in time too, as the thunder grew in volume and the torrents started again. Luckily my balcony had a canopy so all my washed clothes could still dry in the strong wind. 

So fingers crossed for dry weather for the next 2 or 3 nights camping. 

  

GR221 MALLORCA: 1st OCTOBER

The last leg of the 140km Ruta de Pedra en Sec, the Drystone Route, has been successfully completed in Pollenca. 

Although the rain continued to lash at the windows of the full dormitory and the wind whipped the shutters backwards and forwards all night by morning only scudding black clouds remained of the tempest. 

I returned to the monastery pharmacy for medication for my still swollen and painful bites to find they didn’t open till 10. It was going to be tough to make the 4.30 ferry to Menorca 18km and 2 bus rides away but it gave me a chance to have a look around the basilica.  

   and the medieval statue, found beside a stream by a shepherd boy who showed it to a monk who took it to Escorca. It had disappeared the next day and was found again by the stream. This happened 3 times. They took the hint and founded a chapel there that grew into the big and famous monastery that has drawn pilgrims for centuries.  

 I also admired the mysterious sun dial that reveals, when the sun shines, all manner of ?? 

 

Finally the chemist opened and she was happy to sell me a tube of hydrocortisone to lash on my bites. And so I continued on my way, climbing up yet again through holm oak woods past more sitges to views of the refugi and the mountains.  

 

  The walls made for tall stiles that were tricky with a full pack.  

Over a Coll at over 600 m then it was down hill all the way, past steam beds no longer dry.  

   and into more open country with fresh growth and a celebrated 500 year old holm oak.  

      

The rains of the previous day and night had produced a fine crop of mushrooms and I met up with a couple of proud foragers.  

   Coming down through the woods on the old stone walled and paved tracks I stopped to admire the workmanship one more time.  

  Then I entered villa zone again with some fine gates hiding the secret world within.  

  

  

 One more tricky riverside stretch  

  

 and I was in Pollenca where the storm defences were still up in the fine back streets.  

  

 Straight to the bus to the coast, and straight on another to port Alcudia. Just in time …. Except the boat was cancelled due to rough seas caused by the storm. Next one 6 in the morning. Be there by 5. No sleeping in the terminal. 

The silver lining is that summer season prices for rooms ended today so I got one near the ferry at a bargain price. It’s all good.  

GR221 MALLORCA: 30th SEPTEMBER

What a difference a day makes. 

It was indeed a world of pain out there today and not all from the expected direction. After a good dinner in the refugi I shared with a nice Danish couple and about 20 others I retired to my dormitory still the only occupant. I couldn’t decide if the hospitalario was doing me or the others a favour. 

Actually the others , as I was sorely bitten time and again and on waking discovered I had really swollen up in numerous spots and my skin was tightly stretched and throbbing.  

 Not good. It had been a very restless night, not only because of mozzie vigilance but because of heavy rain making noises not often heard. Everybody was very weather wary at breakfast, discussing the infinite variety of forecasts, none good. A few were getting cabs out of there, others taking shortcuts to Lluc or the refugi at Son Amer. I was still hoping to complete the route over the high(est) ground. I dressed in my swimming togs and raincoat with nothing underneath reasoning to keep clothes dry in my rucksack. I was able to take a few photos before the rain started and rendered my phone and camera inoperable.  

 I followed a family out on the trail but soon found them returning, not fancying their chances with the lightening. The way was dramatic but unfortunately the rain put paid to much photo documentation.  

  

 I’m not sure you can make out the extraordinary aqueduct built through the mountains.  

There were frequent flashes of bright ultraviolet and loud crashes of thunder as I made my way up the old cobbled path through the holm oak. I got to a signpost pointing one way to my route into the big stuff (4 1/2 hrs) and another back to the reservoir and road at Cuber ( 1 1/4 hr). I hesitated, waiting maybe for something to make up my mind. On cue, a frightening series of lightening flashes and almost immediate CRASH of ear splitting thunder.   Message received I turned towards the road in the knowledge that you don’t go up on the highest ridges in THAT. 

Water water everywhere as I followed a big aqueduct delivering water to the reservoir whose levels must have been rising rapid. At last I could make out the road below and I wondered if there would be covered space at the recreation area down there. Unfortunately not, apart from the porta toilet that I briefly occupied whilst considering options. There was a bus at 3.30 but 5 hours sheltering in a toilet seemed a bit desperate. I heard a car approaching and burst from the plastic box and ran to the road throwing out my hand in a desperate hitcher gesture. It worked. Two angels from Zurich sped me the 12 or so km to Lluc and seemed not to mind the fact I flooded the back of their hire car. A 10 minute walk up to the refugi and I was safe, although unable to get a bed for another 3 hours. I spent most of the time drying my kit under the hot air hand dryers in the toilets, getting nice and warm in the process.  

 It continued to hammer it down, flooding the front door, as others arrived, bedraggled, from their taxis, hitches, buses and even hikes.  

 The views of the monastery below slowly began to clear and I discovered there was a pharmacy there where I thought I could get something for my painfully pulsing swollen bites.  

 At last the rain slowed to a drizzle and thinking they would reopen at 4 after siesta, struck out down the muddy and mossy path.  

     Arriving just after 4 imagine my surprise to discover they CLOSE at 4. World of pain. 

I had a brief look around this world heritage site, writing postcards and having a “drown my sorrows “pint.  

 I had hoped to catch the famous choir who perform twice a day but the timing was wrong for that too. You can stay in the old monk cells here which I would have liked to do if I’d known, saving a couple of walks. In my mood I might have been tempted to stay in a life of quiet, and dry, contemplation.  

   There were many platitudes on display concerning the righteous pilgrim that I struggled to fit into my current situation.  

   

Enough. I’d have to return in the morning for pain relief. The sky was looking ominous again and I made it back up the hill just before the heavens opened. A silver lining of sorts but I’m hoping for better tomorrow.