When we lived in Oxfordshire we often did long Sunday hikes in the beautiful Cotswolds but, since moving to Mallorca, our walking seems to have been mainly along beaches, seafront promenades, or in the lanes of our rural valley. And usually at a fairly leisurely pace. My hiking boots hadn’t had a decent outing for a few years, but last week we decided to mark the start of the new year with a walk in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tramuntana mountains.
After a long period of hiking abstinence, we were breaking ourselves back in gently. We drove to the mountains and the monastery of Lluc – a place of incredible peace and beauty (even more so outside the tourist season). There’s a walk up to a large cross at the top of Calvary hill, behind the monastery, and that was to be the starting point for our hike. Once we’d done that, we’d decide where to walk next.
As we neared the top, The Boss noticed that I was leaving a small trail of crumbly black material in my wake: the soles of my hiking boots (a few years old, but worn only a few times) were disintegrating with every step. By the time we’d made it up to the cross and back down to the car park, there was little left of what had once been my boot soles. I walked gingerly back to the car like a reluctant penitent who’d chickened out of walking barefoot by wearing thick socks. Ouch.
Snaking in the pass
Our walking cut short, we did something I thought we’d never do: drove the twisting mountain pass down to Sa Calobra. The Boss won’t mind me mentioning that he used to have a problem with heights. There was a time when he never would have contemplated driving (or even being a passenger) along this snaking 12km stretch of highway. Since we moved to Mallorca his dislike of heights seems to have disappeared but still I was shocked when he suggested that we drive along Mallorca’s most renowned stretch of road.
A perfect fine weather winter drive
Italian engineer Antonio Paretti was the visionary behind this fabulous mountain pass, which he carefully designed to avoid destroying the mountain scenery, and to create a gradual descent to the waterfront hamlet of Sa Calobra. In winter you’re unlikely to meet a coach packed with tourists coming the other way, taking more than its fair share of the tarmac, so – in good clear weather – it’s an ideal time to do this drive.
The Sa Calobra pass requires a decent degree of driver concentration, but it’s a truly awesome journey for car passengers. If Signor Paretti’s genius road had had a few more miradores – viewing points – we’d have been able to stop safely and I’d have taken better photos, rather than fuzzy images from a moving car. Perhaps we’ll drive it again one day – or better still, fly over it in a helicopter. Now that would be something . . .