A mid-winter Mediterranean escape: Part 210th December 2018
Sometimes, writing comes easy and there are other times when it is harder. Writing up my Mallorcan escapade from nearly two years ago has become one of the latter for a number of reasons. Some of these are emotional given the time on which I am reflecting and I also have distracted myself with technical matters such as moving this and other websites to faster servers. The added speed may prove noticeable, but any rough edges should be ironed out by now.
With that out of the way, it is not before time that I commenced the telling of the second part of what became a trilogy when I realised the scale of the task. This was not planned quite like Tim Robinson’s duology regarding the Aran Islands or his trilogy about Connemara. Even with his planning, the difficulty in writing the Aran Island books is evident and it offers some reassurance regarding any challenge overcome in writing this piece.
Addressing an Omission
The first part of the trip report dealt with a certain amount of familiarisation that preceded the deeper explorations described here but I had failed to use the slacker pace of that day to address a packing oversight that needed sorting. What I had managed to do is arrive somewhere with near continuously strong daytime sunshine without having a hat to use while walking. The fact that the lapse did not dawn on me until the end of my second day on the island might have something to say about my state of mind at the time and how life had been going in 2016.
The outcome was that I had one extra thing to do before setting off for Sóller. Thankfully, these internet-enabled days allowed me to find an outdoors shop where the requisite purchase was made. However, instead of a broad rimmed hat like what I usually wear in such circumstances, I ended up with a peaked cap with a dropdown sun veil at the back. Its appearance reminded me of the sort of garb worn in desert warfare films but it was to do what I asked of it.
Not so Late a Start
The added retail activity had me thinking that it had delayed my departure for Sóller more than was ideal. However, there are reasons why I now discount such a possibility. The realisation that the clock on my main DSLR had advanced to more than ninety minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time is among these. Having it set to British Summer Time is one thing, but the added advance beyond this was another so I now decided that timing. Inspection of bus timetables and the time recorded on my GPS receiver track support my new thinking.
Being closer to the equator than my usual British and Irish haunts made for longer hours of daylight and stronger sunshine. The latter of these made my new hat a necessity while the former allowed me more time for hiking. Having the sun rise around 08:00 is not so different from my home turf but its setting at around 17:30 is the bigger help with an added ninety minutes of daylight walking time.
Now, I reckon that I left Palma for Sóller around 11:00 and I chose the more scenic bus route on the outbound leg of my return journey. This went around by the coast and is more scenic than the alternative that goes through a tunnel. The roads are narrow though and the heady drops down to the sea are in view, so this also is best considered as a way for more adventurous drivers or locals to go. For a first visit, the bus trip was a good introduction to this part of the island and I must have arrived in Sóller around 12:15.
Finding a More Direct Way to Go
Once in Sóller, my mind was set on exiting the place in search of more natural surroundings. Along the way, I passed a church near a central square before ambling through narrow lanes boxed in by multi-storey buildings bedecked with shuttered windows. Even on a winter’s day, I could see the purpose behind such a design with its added shade from the bright sunshine of a hot summer’s day. That thought was to recur later on in the walk.
For whatever reason, I considered that my route to Biniaraix was a haphazard one. While there was one inadvertent dogleg added, it now looks the more direct way to have taken and I found just how circuitous the GR221 could be later in the day. My supposed deviation also introduced me to the sight of ripening orange and lemon groves as well as the effect of heat-haze on views of more distant craggy limestone eminences.
A Climb Begins in Earnest
At Biniaraix, I finally joined the route of the GR221 and headed into those wilder surroundings that I so desired. The track was quiet too so I had plenty of those much craved episodes of solitude. What I did not realise back then was that the word “barranc” means gorge yet I certainly realised that a steep ascent awaited me. The track was well engineered all the way as it wound up the slopes so footing never proved problematic.
For whatever reason, my mind began to turn to thinking about traders of old who might have used tracks like these regardless of the gradients. A good surface would have helped with that and that was another consideration given such toil. Would the added shade have been a factor in building such a route given how hot summer days can be in this part of the world? Such mental meanderings took away from any shortfall in photographic activity until sufficient height had been gained.
After those shaded zigzags, I again emerged into sunshine and benefited from the wider views that opened up at the same time. Though afflicted by heat haze, they extended as far as the coastline and some signs of the otherwise obscured Port de Sóller were there to be spotted while Sóller showed itself far more confidingly at one point. Sunlit limestone crags lay above and around me so they also became targets for my camera, as challenging as the mix of bright white rock and often dessicated vegetation proved. This was a refrain that would recur at other times during my stay in Mallorca.
Any such thinking was set aside as I took in the surrounding sites when the ground levelled off and I closed in on my turning point of L’Ofre. A gate lay across the track advising walkers to stay on the trail in Spanish, an ever familiar trail in any language. In fact, a farm lay in front of me but keeping left brought me to a quieter spot where I could linger awhile.
Some lunch was taken within sight of such eminences as Puig de l’Ofre and Puig de na Maria. The first of these reached above 1000 metres above sea level while the second failed to reach 900 metres of altitude. This was a high and rugged place with a cross placed by the local Confraternity of the Holy Shroud in 2008, if Google Translate made an accurate translation of the inscription on the plaque on its rugged concrete base.
That Catalan was suggested by the online translation tool was no surprise, but the attempt on translating an inscription on the cross itself did not meet with as much success. The best way to express it was that any food taken in front of the cross would last a walker the rest of their journey and that more or less is what my lunch did for me that day.
Because of the time of year, my own itinerary was not to take in Embassament de Cubér, a reservoir in otherwise natural-looking surroundings, as many a guidebook advises. There was no seasonal bus service running that would allow me to avoid adding a descent and subsequent re-ascent to the height that I already had gained. My time also was limited by the available hours of daylight so I was happy to begin my return to Sóller and there was no question of feeling short-changed.
An Alternative Return Route
In the event, the return route was a variation of the outbound so that helped for a change of scenery on the way. The first of two deviations was chosen near Can Catí and an initially appealing path turned rougher as I continued along its length. That did not matter as it kept me higher for longer and only featured adventurous descents near its rejoined of the track following by the GR 221. All the while, light was fading and my memory features a recollection of overcast skies, though I cannot confirm if that was the case.
Even so, I stuck with GR 221 after passing through Biniaraix to sample what I had missed earlier in the day. This was a roundabout way to go in ever more declining light but it still was possible to see why it went this way. Expansive views abounded in contrast to what was offered by the gorge section. Sollér’s central church could be as clearly seen as the craggy mountains that lie all around the place. If it had been brighter, I might have made photos, but those faded memories are enough for me.
Signs for Fornalutx may have been tempting at another time, but that added too much of a diversion so I was happy to shorten the distance to Sollér. That was just as well since it practically was dark when I met with its outskirts so I was happy to make my way to the bus stop through well lit streets. After a wait, the bus for Palma arrived and I was back at my hotel at a reasonable hour. The day had been a good one.
Return bus journey between Palma and Sóller.
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