GR221

GR221 MALLORCA: 28/29th SEPTEMBER

They say history has a habit of repeating itself and I certainly suffered from Deja Vu as I staggered up the trail out of Deia into the blue sky and dehydrating heat yesterday. It could as well have been 8 months ago when a similar scenario played out on the Camino Mozarabe. The common ground between events was 3 days hard partying and the debilitating effect it has on a 60yr old hiking body. 

Ah well, mustn’t grumble, no gain without pain and what goes up must come down. Best thing to do is sweat it out… So I did. I’m sure the toxic droplets burned themselves into the limestone as I climbed on narrow tracks between villas old and new.  

 

  High above the rugged coast.  
 Some of the ancient terrace walls were tumbling over but I did pass a 4 man crew who were working on restoring a section so they hopefully will survive another few centuries.  

   This section between Deia and Soller or Muleta was well signed and fairly gentle so was popular with day trippers who I did my best to shield from the toxic sweat.  

 The hills became well wooded again with sitges or charcoal burning sites and impressive cobbled tracks leading down to Soller. 

     The largest town on route so far the main square had the tram way to the port and a wooly tree.  

     Although at the end of the day’s stage I had decided to carry on for a few hours. The forecast was for thunderstorms so I wanted to cover what ground I could in the dry. The dryness was relative of course as I was still dripping. More toxins to shed yet. 

The climbing began pretty quickly and lasted for 10km. At Biniaraix I passed a lovely wash  house but the bar where I had hoped to get supplies was shut. Luckily there was an abundance of Fuentes so I was able to stock up on water before heading up the Baranc de Biniaraix, a fantastic example of cobbled and buttressed trail climbing to over 800 m through countless terraces. So fantastic in fact that it’s designated a site of cultural interest.  

   

   
 

   
 Finally reaching beyond the olives and entering wilder holm oak country I looked back in wonder at some of the old houses that have been restored in this place hours of hiking from anywhere.  

  

 It had been spitting with rain and grumbling with thunder while I had climbed the countless steps and I was glad to get to flatter ground with its possibility of a tent pitch. There was an unmanned refuge ahead but still a couple of hours away and after 8 hours of effort I was ready to rest. There had been a no acampar sign and another warning of big game shooting and not to leave the trail so when I found a discreet little spot I made an effort at camouflage.  

   And so with a very nearly full moon shining through the canopy above and the constant jingle jangle of a hundred sheep bells ringing around the surrounding peaks I fell into fitfull sleep. The animals were not bothered by the tent and binged and bonged right up to me in the night. I couldn’t imagine what they were eating.  

 The morning broke clear and dry and I headed still higher up into the limestone gryikes and groines, or whatever they’re called.  

 

  Whilst peering at the landscape below( that’s Port de Soller in the sunshine) I heard the clattering of a helicopter and could then see it circling around high up the Baranc de Biniaraix. A little later as I headed down the more open level valley towards the , fairly dry, reservoir at Cuber it came roaring overhead and then continued to make dozens of delivery runs with building materials, wether for the trail or the houses I couldn’t say.  
     Approaching the little refuge I past a little shed sporting a sign designed to keep the campers out. Pretty successfully I would think.   

  There were a lot of trees planting in protective netting which made for interesting sheep eaten topiary.  

 I stopped at the refugi for a rest and watched the groups of walkers coming down from the main road.  

   

It looked pretty busy which decided me to take the less used more rugged route which involved a head for heights and nimble agility. Pushing it in my condition.  

   There was, yet again, a whole load of climbing of steep zig zag paths only to go down steep zig zag paths. Passing a chopper that hadn’t made it on the way.  

   A lot of tiring scrambling along around and over and then came the tricky part.  

    Lengths of chain fixed to the sheer cliff to cling to.  

 The landscape was dramatic and after more ups and downs the Tossal Verds refugi roof came into view.  

    Soon I was down there admiring the flowers, water tank and building that contained bed, shower and food and drink.  

   

   
 

   
 So far I have a room to myself and I may have a lie in. The forecast is for heavy rain on the morning so I might put off moving till as late as possible as tomorrow’s route is the highest and most rugged of the route. 

Could be a world of pain out there. 

GR221 MALLORCA : 21/22nd September

No sooner had I started to settle back into the domestic bliss of homestead living, gathering winter fuel, cutting the grass, and floating in the hot tub than I found myself queuing up for a Ryan air flight from Shannon to Palma.

Abandoning my good wife yet again I took advantage of a wedding invite on Mallorca to reason it made sense to hike all of the Balearics while I was out there. It made even more sense when driving to the airport through squally rain under leaden skies with a promise of 23* awaiting me in Palma.

Sure enough, when the plane doors opened, a familiar blast of heat wave brought grins to passenger faces. Most folk were on a sun holiday to the resorts on the south coast and I joined a bus load to the end of the line at Peguera, where I could start the GR 221. Otherwise known as The Drystone Route this 140 km route makes its way from the southwest corner of the island across the rugged Serra de Tramuntana to finish at Pollenca at north end. From there I intend to get a ferry to Menorca to complete the 190km GR223 which encircles the island before devising a route across ,around or over Ibiza and Formentera.

But one step at a time. In order to fulfill my plans I will not only have to survive the Tramuntana but a three day wedding party at Deia, halfway along the trail.

It was odd to be walking the shorts and sandles filled promenade of Peguera with a full kit rucksack on my back and as soon as I managed to dump it in my cheap and cheerful room I joined the last of the days sunworshippers for a sunset dip.


They were back in force the next morning when, in full hiking gear, I set off from the beach heading inland on the wrong road immediately. Quickly and easily remedied but a reminder to stay focused- it may be a small island but it’s big enough to get very lost in and without my GPS and good maps I need to keep a close eye on my whereabouts.

IMG_3133

I was soon away from the resort traffic on a recently created footpath to Es Capdella with views reminiscent of the Camino Mozarabe in March, with white stony land, crumbly holm oak dotted hills and carob, almond and olive trees.

I soon passed by D’en Boira medieval tower house, the first of many structures strongly built to withstand pirate attacks. As I roamed the island of the next couple of days I saw there was a lot of wealth to protect from them.

A Spanish omelette in Es Capdella fortified me for the trek over the mountains towards Estellencs. The first signage for the “drystone route” appeared as did the first wall, although this effort was nothing to the constructions to come.

 The limestone also gave up signs of ancient life.

The peak of Galatzo loomed larger as I passed almond groves with earth grazing sheep on my way to the vast Finca Galatzo estate now in state ownership and being restored to its former glory.


 Set in a beautiful secluded valley, ringed by mountains, this mighty property, very seldomly visited, boasts miles of terracing and towers,

 gardens and forests

 and a collection of old agricultural edifices scattered across the land. Like the old granary for the storage of tithe grain, tax to the church and state.
 and lime kilns restored and not.

   and charcoal burners huts and pits.

A steep and rugged climb up through the tough and prickly vegetation and then on old cobbles was rewarded by fine views back down the valley to the sea in the distance, a reminder of the journey so far.

   until finally climbing through a stile onto the high plateau at about 800m and then heading down with the northwest coast now visible.

A few km further I reach the restored mountain farmhouse of Sa Coma d’en Vidal, all ready to go as a hikers refugio but for some reason stalled a while ago and sitting idle. It was a good place to stay anyway, making my bed in an old lean to shed with a view of the mountains and moon.

 I climbed the rocky hillock beside the Finca to watch the sun set turn the mountains pink and met Tom a young German out on his first long hike and finding it tough going.

  

In the night I heard some strange animal cries that could have been this critter that I later saw a warning poster for.

 Tom had gone in the morning by the time I had done my ablusions with the help of the well, a weight and a plastic bottle, but I met him again on the outskirts of the village of Estellencs below near the coast.

  

The original GR 221 route had been blocked by a landowner some time ago and now the official route goes along the coast road for quite a way. To avoid the road an alternative is used heading through higher ground and we used that.

Passing more lavish houses and estates it seemed that the cheap and boozy resorts of the south Coast were from a different planet.

  

The government has bought the massive Planicia estate that we eventually, and by separate routes, found our way to.

  

From there a cairn marked trail led up into woods of holm oak and arbutus that reminded me of the cloud forest of the western canaries.

  

Another fine old Finca at S’Arbossar

 was followed by the Cami des Correu, a fine ancient cobbled highway through the woods at times with massive walls alongside.

    

Hoping for a filling meal and a few beers I headed for La Granja, another big estate on route but although a lovely place with many interesting things in its museum the prices in the cafe/restaurant matched the general ambiance of high class and was no place for me and my sweat drenched clothing and odourous presence.

  So I carried on to the town of Esporles, got some crisps, bread and tuna, said farewell to Tom and sat on a park bench drinking cold cans. Proper job.