Smokin’!

Driving down the lane from a trip to town yesterday, The Boss spotted an unfamiliar elderly lady walking with the aid of sticks, who paused near our old holm oak tree. Sadly we’ve experienced an elderly person – suffering dementia and wandering vaguely – before, so The Boss stopped the car and wound down the window to greet her and check that she was OK.

It transpired that the lady was visiting a neighbouring finca, where a younger woman was busy attending to a bonfire in the field. At the sound of conversation, this fire guardian came out into the lane and joined in the chat. Spotting that the woman’s hat was smouldering on top of her head, The Boss immediately alerted her to the fact. She threw the offending hat to the ground, stamped on it and proceeded to pat the top of her head urgently to extinguish any possible flames.  (All was well up there, in case you’re concerned).

This little incident was over in a matter of minutes and certainly wasn’t captured on camera. It’s a lesson to anyone though that bonfires can be dangerous things. Indeed, The Boss once set light to his own trousers without noticing, until things got a little warm down there. I didn’t get a photo of that either … but here’s a shot of our own finca’s now more-cautious fire-starter in action.

Bonfire

Smokin’ but no flames yet

 

 

Finding Mallorca’s “loneliest area”

The best-known walks and hikes on Mallorca are in the Serra de Tramuntana, but you don’t have to head to the magnificent mountains to enjoy great views and decent walks.

This morning began very windy but mild. The thermometer in the shade on the terrace was already registering 18 degrees C before breakfast, so we decided to brave the hoolie that was blowing and check out a walk we’d read about in a book I bought recently in Palma.

As we parked the car on the side of a quiet country road, near the small town of Sant Llorenç, the sun was shining out of a bright blue sky. It looked perfect, but for the trees waving from side to side like a swinging pendulum. I figured the few extra pounds gained over Christmas (which this year’s walking effort has not yet shifted) would act as a kind of ballast and stop me flying off like an umbrella-less Mary Poppins.

Old stone drinking troughs - a marker for the route

Old stone drinking troughs – a marker for the route

Our walk to the Muntanya de Calicant started on a dirt track leading up to a manor house with old stone drinking troughs beside it. Despite the fierce wind, a bonfire was burning in the garden – with nobody in sight anywhere it.

After a while we crossed a dried-up river bed and then began the more challenging part of the walk, as the path up to the Calicant mountain is pretty indistinct in places and, at times, we were pushing our way through long, almost pampas-like grass, to follow the path. It’s a really stony route and I recommend using walking poles. Actually, a machete for all the vegetation obscuring the route would have been useful…

Bucolic beauty

Bucolic beauty

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

Cairns to mark the route are not always obvious in such stony surroundings

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

The nearby mountain known as Es Telegraf

Gone were the blue skies...

Gone were the blue skies…

"Humans! Didn't they see the weather forecast?"

“Humans! Didn’t they see the weather forecast?”

Our goal was the top of the Calicant mountain, from which we had read that the Bay of Alcúdia is visible, but we didn’t make it today. What had started as a beautiful spring-like (albeit very windy) day had turned into one threatening rain. Shortly after we reluctantly turned back – to avoid getting soaked – the rain began to fall.

Our book describes this as “one of the loneliest areas on the island” and we didn’t see any other people for the duration of the walk. They probably all have a better weather-forecasting app than we do…

 

 

Floods and high winds on Mallorca

It’ll be hard to believe if you know Mallorca only as a sun, sand, and sea holiday destination, but the island has had some pretty awful weather this January. We moved here in April 2004 and the recent spell of winter weather was the worst we’ve seen during our time here: snow, hail, thunder and lightning, wind, and rain. The timing of the bad spell of weather couldn’t have been worse, resulting in several of the events scheduled for the two main January fiestas being postponed or cancelled. So no animal blessings to photograph this year in Manacor…

Shut out the world

The worst of the rain, and wind came over this last weekend, when AEMET – the Spanish met office – warned people on Mallorca not to go out unless essential, as high winds and torrential rain were due. We shut the shutters and hunkered down, like two little moles in the gloom. The Boss sketched a few simple plans for building an ark – large enough for the two of us and our eight cats.

Rain hammered on the roof but only a small amount seeped into the house, under the front door. For some reason, front doors on Mallorca always seem to leak. (If you see a wooden board leaning at an angle against the door of a house on Mallorca, it means rain is expected and the board is to deflect the flow of water; that’s the hope anyway).

The results

The Serra de Tramuntana had almost 200 litres per square metre on Saturday and many other areas of the island had between 60 and 90 litres, resulting in large amounts of flooding in the central area – known as the Pla. Winds of up to 120 kilometres an hour battered Mallorca and caused quite a bit of damage.

At one point 34 roads on the island were closed because of flooding and the Coll de Sóller mountain pass was blocked by fallen boulders and trees. The two reservoirs in the mountains – seriously depleted of water after last summer’s long hot dry spell – overflowed.  Coastal areas – particularly in the north and northeast – were battered by winds and alarmingly high seas, causing some structural damage in places.

The new-look Son Serra de Marina

Yesterday, a brief pausa in the stormy weather gave us a couple of hours of late-afternoon sunshine, so we drove to Son Serra de Marina to breathe some sea air and see what devastation the weekend’s storm had unleashed. The sea was rough, but nothing like it had been over the weekend.  This virgin beach has been completely remodelled by the elements and it may be some time before it’s possible to walk from the car parking area near the restaurants Lago and El Sol towards Colònia de Sant Pere without wading through water from the engorged Torrent de na Borges.

Stormy Mallorca

The new-look Son Serra de Marina beach

The apparent ‘cliff’ on the right is sand, sculpted by the wind and sea

Mallorcan torrente

The swollen Torrent de na Borges has joined up with the sea

Walkers' signposts blown down along this popular hiking route

Walkers’ signposts blown down along this popular hiking route, now littered with debris

 

©Jan Edwards 2017

 

Winter drawers on!

The Spanish meteorological office AEMET is forecasting strong winds, low temperatures, and snow for Mallorca over the coming days, for areas as low as 300 metres above sea level. That means that even parts of the capital Palma could see some of the white stuff. Apparently Mallorca is suffering the coldest January since 2005; we remember that one well (and not with fondness): it was our first winter here – and we had a leaky roof without insulation and no central heating.

On many winter days the temperature is comfortable enough to have our coffee and/or lunch outdoors on our most-sheltered terrace, basking in the warmth (sometimes even heat) of the winter sunshine. Our cats also like to feel the sun’s rays and take advantage of any warm places to snooze. Best not tell them what’s in store for the coming days.

Snoozing cats

Room for three cats only in this particular sunny spot

The Boss has just returned from the wood supplier we use in Porreres with a fresh load of logs for the woodburner, so we’re well prepared on the heating front. And we’ve just received a goodie-packed food parcel from our lovely Oxfordshire friends Kristina and Duncan – who visit us every year from the UK.

Fortnum & Mason goodies

Fortnum & Mason comes to rural Mallorca

No, they weren’t expecting us to be snowed in and unable to go out and buy any food; our box of Fortnum & Mason gourmet treats was their generous Christmas gift, which was somehow delayed in transit. If, by any chance, we do become snowed in, we won’t be going hungry…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Rat came a-calling

We spotted a dead rat in the lane near our home a day or two ago and it reminded me that we hadn’t seen a rodent – dead or alive – for some time. Thankfully. Having seven outdoor cats around the place is the best rat or mouse deterrent going.

Before the cats took up residence on our finca we tried a few measures to deter the rats and mice that we often saw around. The first was the large plastic owl (brought over with us from the UK) which we suspended from a branch on one of our almond trees. Our Mallorcan neighbours must have had a chuckle about that…as did the rodents, we imagine, since they weren’t the least bit put off.

There were electronic gizmos emitting an  unpleasant sound that only rodents could hear – allegedly. If they did hear anything from these gadgets, they didn’t seem at all bothered.

The Boss blocked up any inviting gaps and holes in the structure of our house and, eventually, we stopped hearing the creatures scuttling within the thick stone walls or under the roof tiles. We still saw them occasionally outside but I stopped worrying about them coming into the house.

rat

An unforgettable night

Look away now if you’re of a nervous disposition because, in spite of the various measures taken to make our home rat-proof, we had a four-legged, long-tailed visitor one night. I’m shuddering now at the memory of it.

I woke up suddenly in the depth of the night to the sound of scratching. It wasn’t The Boss – who was sleeping peacefully (little did he know …) – and it wasn’t our Birman cat Minstral, who sleeps at the other end of our one-storey home. What could it be? The noise became intermittent but closer so I shook The Boss until he groggily came to.

Silence had returned by then, of course. “Go back to sleep, you must have imagined it,” he replied after I’d explained my fears. “Nothing can get in here.” Minutes later the noise started again but The Boss didn’t stir. I listened carefully, trying to work out where the sound was coming from. The sitting room! Feeling brave, I climbed out of bed, grabbed my bedside torch and went to close the sitting-room doors. Whatever was in there could stay there until morning.

“What are you doing?” groaned The Boss when I slid back under the duvet.

“The thing. I’ve shut whatever it is in the sitting room,” I said confidently. “We can sort it in the morning.”

“You’re imagining things,” he replied sleepily, “just try and get back to sleep.”

And I did manage to drift off again. I know that because I was woken by The Boss yelling out some time later. Whatever I thought had been in the sitting room hadn’t; something had just run right across The Boss’s head! Yes, a rat.

We both jumped out of bed and scarpered to the guest room for the rest of the night – having made sure that the creature was confined to our room. All I remember of the next day was a lot of banging and crashing as The Boss tried to catch and remove the creature. And a long session afterwards with rubber gloves, buckets of steaming-hot water, and disinfectant.

A cautionary tale

So how did the rat get into the house? The original walls of our house are around 80cm thick, which means a deep recess between the windows and the external shutters (persianas). The Boss had closed the shutters at dusk from the outside, unaware that a rat had taken refuge within the recess. When it couldn’t easily escape it found its way into the house through a very small hole in the old mosquito screen (which we’d been meaning to replace). A very small hole.

The moral of the story: check those deep window recesses for unwelcome visitors before shutting your persianas. Fix those old mosquito screens. And adopt a few stray cats …

 

Hiking New Year from rural Mallorca

Walkers in Mallorca

A walkers’ coffee break by the Med

The Boss and I have started 2017 with plans to become regular walkers again. In the UK we lived close to the Cotswold countryside and Sundays were often spent striding through muddy fields and cool copses, trying to work out where we were supposed to be going. At the end of our walk we’d reward ourselves with lunch in a cosy pub or a hot drink and home-made cake in a traditional ‘ye olde tea shoppe’.

Since moving to Mallorca we’ve become less-frequent walkers, for a variety of reasons – none of which is related to the lack of English pubs and quaint tea shops on the island. In January 2015 (full of the usual good intentions at the start of a new year) we visited Lluc for a walk in the mountains. I had dragged my faithful Hawkshead walking boots from the back of the wardrobe, dusted them off, and reacquainted them with my feet. Alas, with every step I took in the mountains, a bit more of the soles turned to rubbery dust in my wake. I eventually hobbled – in sole-less boots – back to the car and we went for a drive instead.

Booted anew

About six weeks ago I finally got around to replacing my boots. But I did it in style, buying a sturdy pair from the renowned Mallorcan company Bestard, which was founded in 1940 in the small town of Lloseta. Mountaineers scale the scariest peaks in the world wearing this brand, so I’m confident they’ll be tough enough for our modest excursions. (I did the canny thing and bought mine at a discounted price from their shop at Festival Park Outlets).

My Christmas presents from The Boss included a pair of walking poles (highly recommended when walking in the mountains, on rough terrain, or the wilder areas of our own land). He unwrapped his own pair of Bestard walking boots. We wasted no time in trying out our new ‘toys’, notching up three decent walks in warm sunshine over the festive period. It’s hard to beat a fine-weather winter’s day for a good walk.

We’ve lived on Mallorca for 12 years and 2017 is the year we intend to discover more of the island’s renowned walking routes … taking our flask and cake rations with us, of course.

Es Calo

A walk to Es Calo on the Bay of Alcudia, with views to the Tramuntana

Mallorca woods walk

The walk above the coastline from Cala Molto near Cala Mesquida

Mountainous Mallorca

Puig Mayor in the Tramuntana mountains, from the walk around Cuber reservoir

The knowledge:

Keen walkers living on or visiting Mallorca may find the following of interest:

Mallorca Hiking Club – If you’d like to walk with a guided group (a great way to meet new people), check out the walks arranged by this Club. The dates for their walks scheduled in 2017 so far are as follows:

January 15th and 29th; February 12th & 26th; March 19th, April 2nd, and May 7th.

Serra de Tramuntana – Here’s information about Mallorca’s magnificent mountain range, with its renowned GR221 hiking route.

The excellent book GR221 Mallorca Ruta de Pedra – published by Triangle Postals and available in Englishis packed with useful information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season’s greetings from a soggy Mallorca

The past few weeks on Mallorca have passed in a somewhat manic blur of work, rain, technical problems (car, dishwasher, and domestic water heater!), rain, medical matters, rain, work, and the usual pre-Christmas social and planning activities. And did I mention rain? After a bone-dry few months, Mallorca had a jolly good wash this week with four days and five nights of heavy rain, thunder, wind, and leaden skies – resulting in flooding in parts of the island.

Despite everything that’s been going on, we’ve now finished our preparations for another modest but enjoyable  Christmas on Mallorca. Whatever you’re doing at this time of year, The Boss and I send season’s greetings and best wishes for 2017.

Christmas tree lights

Have a sparkling Christmas!