Mallorca GR221 Ruta de Pedra en Sec Trail Report

Ruta de Pedra en Sec  GR221 Mallorca  28th September – 6th October, 2009  Discovery Walking Guides by Charles Davis

 Day 1               As our aeroplane landed at Palma airport in torrential rain, our hearts sank:  nine wet days and no mountains, as the clouds were nearly down to sea level!  We took a taxi to the city centre, grabbed what turned out to be a Spanish omelet in a sandwich with a couple of glasses of local white wine and magically, the rain stopped.  Apart from a few nocturnal downpours and a threatening drop or two on Day 3, that was the last of the rain and every day the sky seemed to become bluer and the mountains higher and more rugged.
Bus and taxi to Sant Elm, a first class fish dinner at the Caragola restaurant and we were all set for what was to turn out to be the hardest trek that we have done for a long time!

 Day 2               The climb up to la Trapa immediately showed up the difference in our normal climbing pace and that of Charles Davis.  Our understanding of his difficulty ratings was also very different!  So, having left Sant Elm at 10.00, we arrived at S’Arraco in mid-afternoon and definitely rated the walk a “4” and not a “3”.  First day’s walking is always tough and the last couple of kilometers gave Carol a tender shoulder and I picked up a bruised instep.  Six days later by the end of the trek, we were in agreement with CD’s ratings but still not with his timings!
Accommodation at the Hotel Escaleta was excellent, with a very warm welcome from Suzanne (and Mum):  the history of her struggle to succeed as an English lady, with plans to restore an old house in a tiny Mallorcian village and turn it into a hotel is an amazing tale of duplicity, disappointment and determination!

 Day 3               Dodging the rain, we took a taxi to Es Capdella and set off up the long valley with thunder clouds and the occasional flash of lightning chasing us up to the apparently “impassable wall of rock” (page 42).  Having lunched at the “TPTR” (page 43) we found the instructions to Wp16 confusing as the cairns wind all over the place.  It would have been easier to simply have a compass bearing to the Big Game Hunting sign, from Wp 14.
We never saw any hint of  Big Game, unless the sign is referring to the almost tame “wild” goats and the slightly less tame sheep.  On Day 4,  we saw a couple of men in camouflage trousers and heard a lot of gun shots echoing round the mountain walls – let’s hope they earnt their supper!
Accommodation in Estellencs at the very luxurious Hotel Maristel with a sauna and massage in the swimming pool was just what we needed after 2 hard days.  Dinner of “Sobrasada” and suckling pig at the Restaurant Montimar was to die for.

 Day 4               Feeling a bit bruised and concerned that the relationship between our timings and those of CD’s was not improving, we took a bus from Estellencs to Esporles and set off for Valldemossa.  Though the walk was not nearly as hard as the previous two days, nonetheless it took us 4.5 hours against CD’s 2.75.  We noticed that Wp 17 is now marked with a cairn.
Accommodation at Es Petit Hotel was excellent, with a very warm welcome and a wonderful view down the valley, from this beautifully restored old town house.

 Days 5 & 6      We voted Day 5 the best walk so far, possibly because we were met, in Deià, by some friends who took us to their villa at Son Beltron!  The long walk up to the Archduke’s path, with the magnificent views on both sides is breath-taking and we picnicked at the top, overlooking the Port de Sóller, as wispy clouds began to gather below us in the valley.
In the morning, our packs were ferried to Sóller as we walked, light of back, the short route to the town and spent the afternoon sightseeing there and enjoying the old tram ride to and from the port.
We had started the trek with packs of 5 kilos and 8 kilos, including water but not including the slabs of wonderfully oiled lunch bread, which must have added half a kilo to each of our packs!  However, at Deià, we left some cold weather clothes and most of the “technical department” (camera and phone chargers, surplus batteries for Garmin, spare specs, spare compass, etc) with our friends, to be retrieved at the end of the walk.
Accommodation at Hotel Villa Tony, in the centre of the town was comfortable and engagingly old fashioned but beware the very poor breakfast and even worse picnic lunch – better to find a café!  The two restaurants “Cipriani” (father and son) are superb:  black squid ravioli followed by cod with garlic mayonnaise is a must.

 Day 7               Still feeling a bit lazy and very apprehensive about the 2,000 steps facing us, we took a taxi to Biniaraix.  At 8€, this is a very good investment!  In fact, because we started early in the morning, the path was in shadow the whole way up and the steady climb was not hard with magnificent, changing views opening up behind us after every few steps.  Sunday lunch at Cúber was heaving with tourists, the walk along the aqueduct was plagued with mosquitoes (as we discovered the next day) and the long haul down to Tossals Verds resulted in my bruised instep returning and Carol taking a small tumble which left a bruise on her thigh that eventually turned into a wonderful rainbow.  We took the less demanding route and were rewarded with a couple of San Miguels on arrival.
Though the Refugi was swarming with Sunday walkers when we arrived, it turned out that we were the only ones staying the night.  We were spoilt with a magnificent four course meal of typical Mallorcian food, a bottle of strong red wine for 6€  and the double room, ensuite.

 Day 8               We were the only people in the world as we picnicked at the top of the Coll des Prat, with the last really magnificent views on both sides that we were to see on this very lovely trek.  Until we were rudely reminded that Mallorca is really only Berlin in the Sun:  a couple struggled to the top from the opposite direction and plonked themselves down within 20 meters of us for their boisterous and sometimes quite amorous picnic!  The Teutonic influence was felt again when, just before the right turn at the Coll des Telégraf, we were accosted by a very fat and sweating gentleman, who informed us in a guttural accent that the sign post was incorrect and that the time to Lluc from the Coll was 2 hours 10 minutes not 1 hour 10 minutes!  It turned out to be 1 hour 15 minutes for us.  Someone (perhaps our guttural gentleman) has nailed a sheep’s or goat’s skull to the sign post – very scary.
We found the Sanctuaria de Lluc to be a very quiet and peaceful oasis and although there was no sign of any monks, we were lucky enough to hear the children’s choir sing in the amazingly ornate Basilica with its hidden black BVM.  A panel opened high above the altar revealing the statue and then closed when the choir had stopped singing:  and where did all that black marble come from – Italy or Spain?  There is also a lovely hidden garden walk with strange sculptures made from anything and everything – very refreshing for tired trekkers.

 Day 9               The walk started with a small altercation between the two members of the team, as to which car park we were in!  However, the problem was soon sorted out by Garmin and we put the disagreement down to a few too many 14% vino tintos the night before.
To our surprise, we came across a large work force, chipping and bashing rocks along the path through the woods after Wp 4.  After such a very beautiful and unspoilt trek, the spectre of the dead hand of the dreaded Health and Safety manifested itself, with the worrying thought that the whole of the GR 221 would become a smooth path of crushed rock and the Archduke would have realised his ambition.  Whilst from Day 5 onwards the route is extraordinarily spectacular, we loved the wildness and the informality of the first few days and would very much regret the route being “touristised” to the extent of the northern section.
Despite the very long, very hot and very tiring last few kilometers slog into Pollença, the memory of the final route down off the mountains is very beautiful.  Towards the end, our spirits were revived when we met what must have been the whole of the Mallorcian army, heavily armed and with enormous packs, sweating their way up the track.  At Wp 31 someone has stolen the ladder so it’s wet boots as you clamber down into a large, muddy puddle caused by the inadequate plumbing of a wayward pipe which runs along the side of the bridge.

 And for the last night of the trek, you could not find a more fitting finalé than the view from a room in the Posada de Lluc hotel, looking over the swimming pool and the banana trees, towards the chapel high up on Puig de Maria.

 We flew out of Palma with fantastic memories of dense blue skies, rugged soaring peaks, tiers of tiny terraces, ancient stone edifices under cool, blue/green oaks and the knowledge that our boots need replacing or resoling before our next trek, in Turkey, in 2010.

 Chris and Carol Sealy  www.manoir-de-mongrenier  Brittany  October, 2009.

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