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…

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the clues to locate rural properties on Mallorca

You could be forgiven for thinking that SatNav didn’t exist on Mallorca: all manner of methods are used to guide visitors to the homes of rural home owners on Mallorca.

A warm Hawaiian welcome ... in rural Mallorca

A warm Hawaiian welcome … in rural Mallorca

The above fake flower garland – now looking like a wilted version of the traditional Hawaiian lei after recent heavy rain – hangs over a post at the end of the lane into our valley. A few more were hanging along the route, although these have now disappeared. Such garlands are offered as a sign of welcome in Hawaii, so we assume they were leading guests to a good old rural Mallorcan knees-up.  Dress code: anything but a grass skirt, sir.

Bags, balloons, and boxes

We’ve seen plastic bags tied in bushes and trees to indicate the route that delivery people or workmen should follow to a property they’ve never been to before. A trail of balloons tied to posts and trees usually leads to a bunch of the things on the gateposts of a home where a lively children’s party is taking place. And a few weeks ago we saw the oddest thing yet (if only I’d had the camera): a number of large empty boxes perched at strategic locations, bearing a label with a picture of a fat leg of Spanish serrano ham. Someone had eaten an awful lot of ham to free up those boxes; presumably those who followed this trail of cardboard clues were not going to a vegetarian lunch ‘do’ …

Hi-tech/low-tech solutions

Of course, SatNav exists on Mallorca. We even acquired the technology when we had to change our car last October. One day we’ll figure out how it works. We once gave our GPS co-ordinates to some more tech-savvy friends who were coming for lunch at our finca for the first time. Some time after they were due, they phoned from a location more than 20-minutes’ drive away to say they were lost, and we had to talk them in. Maybe we won’t bother to learn how the SatNav works after all …

How do we now direct people to our off-the-well-driven-route home in rural Mallorca? Yeah, it’s a map, hand-drawn (by The Boss), emailed in advance to visitors. We save the lei for when they arrive …

 

 

 

Human encounters in rural Mallorca

Since we moved to our rural home on Mallorca, we’ve seen quite a few changes in terms of the people who live or visit the valley on a regular basis. We often reflect on times or conversations with those who have touched our lives here, but no longer do so.

The Naked Gardener

Wolf was one of the first to leave the valley during our time here. A friendly German opera singer (and singing teacher), he used to attend to the garden of his rented finca in the nude – good reason to keep well away from using  hedge-clippers! We dubbed him The Naked Gardener. A few years ago his landlady decided to sell the property, so Wolf and his elderly dog had to find a new home. Last seen, he was renting a place on the coast – but without a garden.

The naked truth

Margarita was the wife of Pedro, an elderly farmer with a rustic home in the valley and their main home in nearby Manacor. Margarita had inherited various small plots of land dotted around the valley and the couple used to move their flock of sheep around to take advantage of the several (and fairly scrubby) grazing options. We used to love the sound of the sheep bells clunking as the flock scuttled along the lane to their next meal.

In their happier and healthier days ...

In their happier and healthier days …

Pedro drove his tractor and Margarita perched behind him. In winter the slender lady seemingly wore every item of clothing she possessed to keep warm. They would occasionally stop at our gates for a chat, which always began in castellano but would, somewhere along the way, lapse into barely comprehensible mallorquín.

My favourite Margarita moment happened one day during one of these encounters. “You’re becoming more like a Mallorcan every day,” she said to me in Spanish, smiling. For a moment or two I thought she was complimenting me on my improving language skills but, oh no, she was referring to my increase in weight – and said it in a way that sounded like approval! Sadly, Margarita developed dementia and passed away last year, and Pedro is a rare sight these days.

Treats for Francisco’s donkeys

More recently we have missed some entertaining conversations at our gates with Francisco. Born nearby, he now lives in the north of the island with his partner, but kept his local connections by doing gardening and similar work for the owners of holiday homes in the valley. Francisco has been ill and unable to work for some months and we’ve missed his wicked sense of humour.

"I know this woman has carrots ...."

“I know this woman has carrots ….”

An animal lover, Francisco still owns donkeys in the valley and, in his absence, a German neighbour is feeding them. If we go for a walk down that way we take some carrots for the donkeys as an extra treat. No doubt these beautiful creatures are also missing Francisco too …

 

Fire in our Mallorca valley

Mallorca wild fire

The valley burns …

Mallorca needs rain. Not what a holidaymaker to the island wants to hear, but residents know that the land and reservoirs are desperate for the stuff. It’s very hot here too, and that doesn’t help the situation.

Add strong winds to the mix – such as those we’ve had over the past few days – and danger may not be far behind. As we sat drinking a late-morning coffee on the back terrace on Friday, The Boss spotted smoke in the valley … and it wasn’t from an early BBQ lunch.

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Spot the helicopters …

Bonfires are banned in summer

Bonfires are not allowed during the hot dry summer months and the wind had whipped up the smoke to such an extent that this was clearly a wild fire. I rang the emergency services to report the sighting – and was not the first to do so. We country dwellers waste no time when it comes to spotting smoke or flames where smoke or flames shouldn’t be …

Firefighting kit in action 

This fire was a lot further away than the last one we experienced (a little too closely), but it was still frightening because of the speed at which it was travelling, fanned by fierce gusts of wind.

Four helicopters, four planes, 10 fire engines, and around 50 firefighters were soon on scene, working for several hours to get the fire under control and, eventually, fully extinguished. The sea is not far away from us as the crow (or helicopter) flies, and we watched the helicopters making frequent sorties towards the coast, where they would scoop up water in the enormous buckets they carry and return to release the load over the site of the fire.

Dousing the flames

The helicopter that attended the previous fire we experienced

It was a dangerous and difficult afternoon for these brave people who put their lives at risk every time there’s a wild fire. And ours was only one of EIGHT that burned on Mallorca on Friday …

 

 

Gathering fruits in May on Mallorca

May is the month that my father comes to visit from the UK for his spring holiday, so he can celebrate his birthday in company. For the past five years he has also brought his young brother (aged 84!) – my Uncle Ray – and these two widowers enjoy being waited on, relaxing in the warm sunshine, and having a few outings for sightseeing, drinks, and meals out.

My Dad is still pretty fit and often goes for long walks by the sea near his home on the south coast of England. Ray, who had a hip replacement op early last year, walks very little and seems to have lost a bit of confidence in striding out. While he soaked up the sun on our terrace (Ray couldn’t be a more apt name for this sun worshipper), Dad was keen to have the occasional walk around the valley.

A fruity experience

On our last walk we met Llorenzo, a friendly farmer down in the valley, who –  in typically generous fashion – invited us up to his orchard to collect ‘nisperos’ (in the UK we know them as loquats). This fruit – about the size of a small plum – grows in abundance on Mallorca, although it was originally from the Far East. Most ‘nisperos’ fall to the ground unpicked here, because there are only so many of them that you’d want to eat.

We stomped up over bone-dry land to an orchard of trees heavy with the fruits. Dad hadn’t tried them so Llorenzo picked one for each of us to eat as we stood there. Then he plucked a load from the trees and filled our now-sticky hands with the juicy fruits. It’s a wonder we weren’t followed by swarms of wasps as we walked home back up the hill …

How to eat a ‘nispero’

Loquats

Nisperos fresh from the tree

We’ve often seen this fruit on the market in Manacor but haven’t bought them because they often look bruised and a bit ugly. And, frankly, there are so many different fruits to enjoy on Mallorca. But, when ripe, they are quite delicious and juicy – although they have some pretty hefty pips inside. My tip is to peel off the skin first with your fingers and just pop them into your mouth (discreetly spitting the pips out once you’ve eaten the fruit). Plenty of recipes exist for those who have the time and energy to prepare the fruit.

‘Nisperos’ may be messy to eat fresh from the tree but they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. So don’t be put off trying a few if you see them for sale on the market; beauty is more than just appearances!

Footnote: We recently stayed one night at the new Park Hyatt Mallorca, near Canyamel, and found this little pot of locally made (by a German) ‘nispero’ jam on the breakfast buffet.

Delicious jam made from 'nisperos'

Delicious jam made from ‘nisperos’

 

 

 

 

Spring has sprung on Mallorca

A recent writing project has left me feeling a bit ‘written-out’. I’ve scribed around 12,000 words in the past few weeks on this one project – in addition to other articles, and posts on http://www.eatdrinksleepmallorca.com. No wonder my computer screen has been gazing blankly back at me when I’ve sat down to write about our life in rural Mallorca. It was as tired as I was; my keyboard and I needed a little time apart.

So, as it’s spring, I grabbed my camera and headed into our garden and field, to take a few photos of the mix of cultivated and uncultivated delights that remind me why it pays to get off my writer’s bottom (well spread) and get out into Mallorca’s great outdoors.

I hope that, wherever you are, spring is making itself known to you too.

The view from the roof of our water tank ... not somewhere I venture up to very often!

The view from the roof of our water tank … not somewhere I venture up to very often!

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First ever blossoms on our blackthorn bushes - brought over from the UK by good friends. Sloe gin? Maybe in a few years' time ...

First-ever blossoms on our blackthorn bushes – brought over from the UK by good friends. Sloe gin? Maybe in a few years’ time …