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7pm, Tuesday 18th March 2003, Tossals Verds refuge, Mallorca
Today may be the day we invaded Iraq, but I wouldn't know about that, because Di and I have spent it in the Mallorcan Tramuntana mountains, walking from Soller to Lloseta. It was an adventure, a little one. Not a wild walk, it was all on established paths, and we had done the first bit before - but we had constructed it ourselves, so we didn't know how it was going to turn out.
We didn't actually start in Soller; we got up in Valldemossa and drove along that splendid mountain road to Biniaraix, a 'suburb' of Soller at the foot of the mountain. The first sign that things were going well (and, let's face it, if it hadn't been a good day I wouldn't be writing this) was when, after a few wrong turns, we found a parking space right outside the bar in the town square. There was a party of about 25 German walkers just starting, so that was all the excuse we needed to go into the bar for a cappuccino. Di had an orange juice, squeezed on a splendid old non-electric machine. That's the kind of bar it was - a large echoey room, quite untouched by the tourist boom. The radio was playing a girl pop singer from the sixties ('Walk on By', or something like that).
Then we set off up the Camí d'es Barrenc. This has to be one of Mallorca's prettiest and best-kept paths, which switchbacks up the apparently vertical limestone of the Soller basin. It goes up a gully, and crosses a lovely stream every now and again. It's relentlessly up, but the step-like way it's constructed makes things as easy as possible, and soon we're overtaking the odd straggler from the party. At one point we pass an old lady (accompanied by a guide), who looks at us rather suspiciously and says "What do you want?". I'm flummoxed, but Di smiles and says "Sunshine", and all's well. Indeed, there's lots of sunshine, even though the air is fairly chill, but there's not a cloud to be seen. And the views get better and better. It's never quite the same. Sometimes there are rows of terraced olive groves clinging absurdly to the steep slopes, sometimes little gorges, sometimes a level path contouring round. The stream comes and goes.
After about an hour and a half we reach the right turn to our peak - the Cornadors that tower over Soller. The book says it's half an hour to the top, but it takes us longer, zig-zagging up a smaller path that rises above the high plateau of L'Ofre. This is a little Shangri-La, hidden in the hills, with the tinkling sound of sheep grazing. Yes I know sheep are normally silent, but here they wear cowbells.
This bit is a real sweat, and I remember the hut near the top because we've got a photo of Di shivering in its doorway from the last time we came up here. This time it's balmy, and I'm looking forward to the picnic lunch, and stop when we get there. Di goes on to the summit and doesn't come back, so I start on the bread, cheese and salami without her, and look at a crossword ("Salesman to get up and resume action (7)" - REPRISE). Di comes back saying it was wonderful up there, especially as I wasn't there and she could commune with Nature directly, and she joins me for lunch.
As I pant up these slopes I sometimes worry that I'm too old for this game, that my heart will give out and Di will have to ferry my remains back down, but actually we both found it easier than three years ago, and while we are lunching an English couple appear, at least ten and maybe twenty years older than us. "Do you know what's up there?" they ask, pointing to an even higher track that's not marked on most maps. We didn't, so they said they'd go and see, and toddled off. I didn't worry about my age after that.
After lunch we both go up to the top. There were a few other people up there, but we were all quiet because it was so special, being up in that sky with peaks all around us, and the coast far below. There's no photo of that, because my camera isn't good enough to capture that view.
However, we were concerned that we had a lot of miles before us, so back down we went to the main path, and continued on to the next bit of up. Since we were last there, someone had put up some very splendid signposting, but even so the schlep up to the Col de L'Ofre took longer than I expected, and was just a schlep, through thick pine woods. But eventually we came out at the top (we were now on the new bit of the walk), and there before us was Lake Cúber, nestling in a basin of mountains. Magic. Especially as the next part of our trip was easy to see, which always relaxes me and opens me up to the wonders of nature.
And wonderful it was. This basin was surprisingly cosy and friendly, as we wended our way slowly down the path through trees and shrubs, towards the lake, listening to the sheep grazing.
But long, and at the end of the lake we needed a sit-down, watching the birds in the water and the light on the mountains, especially the 'forbidden' Puig Major, which has a military installation on the top so you can't walk it. In the light even Puig Major looked friendly.
Anyway, on round Cúber (another long bit) to a road, where parties of Germans were meeting their busses to take them back to their hotels. Not us though, and after a bit of confusion we found our next path, which ran alongside a raised concrete river. This was more fun than it sounds, because the water was at eye level, and the path itself contoured round the mountain, soon revealing a second lake. The sun was beginning to go down at this point, and everything took on a lovely warm glow.
After 45 minutes of this we left the river and joined another old path over a col. This was a bit like es Barrenc, but made more crudely - though the woods it went through were gorgeous, especially after the col where we joined a stream.
The sun was now low, the walking easy, the path good, the weather mild, the wood gentle and not too thick - this was a really glorious bit. As we went on, round and down, we saw the ruined canal of Massanella across the valley, and then southern Mallorca came into view. As we went further on, the sun reappeared in the west, and the landscape looked warmer than ever. From time to time we would disturb wild goats who were feeding near the path; and the ubiquitous sheep bells were still around. But there were no people except us, and the southern foothills of the Tramuntana mountains were either shining pink in the sun, or displaying multiple degrees of shadow.
The signage continued to be good. (This is not always the case; some paths start out well, but peter out as the money runs out, or the students go back to college.) They were telling us that our goal was getting nearer. Our goal was not Lloseta itself, but a mountain refuge called Tossals Verds about an hour up from town. [It's at the bottom of the map. We had come round the east side of Tossals Verds mountain.] We had checked it out the day before, and booked two spaces in a dormitory. As we came down into yet another secluded basin where the Refuge was, I said to Di that it would be wonderful if we could get a room to ourselves. This didn't seem likely, as we had been told they were booked - and as we went down a barking dog signalled a bad moment. But it was old, and friendly, and the Refuge keeper told us that we were in fact the only visitors!
So here I am, at 8.20, at the end of our meal, finishing this off after a meat stew with beer, wine, coffee and a banana, listening to the crackling of the fire. Tomorrow we'll return by a different route, and have another little adventure.
© 2003 Jeremy Polmear
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