Present: Bob (organiser), Rhoda, Sarah, Bruce, Catherine, Pam, Richard N, Paul, Cliff

In the beginning was the Plan, and the Plan was Bob’s. All things were included in the Plan, and the travellers viewed the Plan and saw that it was good.

Shame that Luton Airport, Monarch Airlines and BA weren’t informed of our intricate schedule, though.

We eventually arrived in Mallorca nearly three hours later than planned – the fire alarm at Luton was only an inconvenience which deprived us of a decent breakfast; sitting on the tarmac for ages while waiting for the plane’s refuelling problems to be fixed was slightly more annoying. We met up with Pam (minus her luggage, thanks to BA – spot the irony) at Palma and acquired our hire cars for the week before setting off across the island like something out of the Italian Job. Except, in Spain. And with Ford Fiestas.

Our first location was Alcùdia, in the north-east of the island. The hotel was firmly in the British-influenced area, so we went down to the port for an excellent meal and a few bottles of Rioja.

On Sunday the climbers went to La Creveta, above Port de Pollença, to start the week off gently with a few short, easy routes. This was slightly thwarted by the sheer number of German teenagers on the main wall, and it was also noted that some routes were a little harder than the grading suggested – a 4+ in Mallorca isn’t necessarily the same as a 4+ in the UK.

Meanwhile, the walkers set off along the nearby Boquer Valley, with the intention of getting up on to the ridge and walking along it as far as was feasible. As there was no obvious path up to the ridge and the Cicerone Guide was nicely vague on the subject, we decided to take the most direct route through what looked like long grass. Twenty minutes later we were nursing our scratched legs and cursing the gorse and rosemary that had impeded our progress. In the end we didn’t get to the top of the ridge, deciding to back down after scrambling about a third of the way up the steep, grippy rocks. That same rock proved to be a bit of a hindrance to people using the “bum-slide” method to get back down again: in the battle of rock vs seat of pants, the rock prevailed. Once back on a path, we walked down to Cala Boquer, where Cliff quoted poetry to an inquisitive goat.

The whole group met up at Cap Formentor in the late afternoon, for a half hour forest walk down to Cala en Gossalba, and then a swim. Rhoda made friends with some Germans on a boat in the bay, mainly because they wanted to know how their football team were doing (a quick thanks to my mum here for texting us football and rugby scores all week). Paul decided to swim out to see the sunset and for a while, we thought we’d lost him. For some, the evening meal was in the Ivy Garden in Port de Pollença (Rhoda’s favourite of the week); for those who couldn’t be bothered to venture out again, it was pizza and an “ironic” tour of the bars local to the hotel. The Stagger Inn, anyone?

By Monday morning, everyone was comparing mosquito bites: in terms of numbers and severity, Catherine definitely won (or lost, depending on how you look at it). We all drove through Artà to the Serra de Llevant, where the climbers spent several hours getting in some routes at El Calo de Betlem before a coastal walk. The walkers had a long day, with 3-4 hours added on to the original walk because the road up to the start point was inaccessible. Nevertheless we successfully completed the walk up to a former pirate lookout, with Cliff and Rhoda spending a lot of time looking for booted eagles. There were also several Eleanor’s falcons and peregrine falcons spotted throughout the week. After everyone met up for beers in Artà, we returned to the same restaurant as the first night, finishing off the meal with shots of the local liqueur.

Group meal on the first night (Catherine)

Catherine and Richard at Cap Formentor (Sarah)

Checking map against signpost (Catherine)

On Tuesday we packed up and headed for Pollença, where the majority of us were staying in the centre of town. Pam stayed at the Ermita de Nostra Senyora del Puig, a former monastery south of town with fantastic views. The day’s walk for everyone started from Lluc, for an ascent of Puig de Massanella – at 1367m, the second highest peak on Mallorca. (The highest, Puig Major, has a military base and hence is out of bounds.) The terrain was steep and mostly in the shelter of trees, but paths were clearly marked (although it proved a little too easy to take the wrong route on the way down). The top of the mountain is supposed to have wonderful views, which were unfortunately hindered that day by the volume of cloud; some of the group then came back down via the same route, while the rest took on a slightly different descent to get back to the cars.

In the evening we found a restaurant in Pollença, Ca’n Costa, which served us possibly the best food of the week (in this writer’s opinion, anyway) and also had a guest book for Rhoda to scribble in. Quote of the evening: “You’re getting a bit Ann Widdecombe, you know”. Yes, you probably had to be there.

On Wednesday, it rained. And rained and rained and chucked in a bit of mountain thunder for good measure. (Still, could have been worse: Palma had a tornado, and that was the second one of the week.) This put paid to any thoughts of climbing, and walking would have been a depressing option as well. Instead, Bob, Rhoda, Cliff and Pam went birdwatching at Albufera Marsh, and were followed around most of the day by an explosive little song bird called a Cetti’s (or should that be Jetty’s?) Warbler. They also saw lots of other birds including the rare red knob coot and purple gallinule. The huge storm in the afternoon saw them holing up for a good while in one particular bird hide right on a small lake in intense rain, thunder and lightning. Rhoda felt like she was in Noah’s Ark, and half-envisaged the hide breaking free and floating off! Luckily the sky did brighten again and the sun came back out.

Everyone else explored Pollença, climbing the long flight of steep stone steps (the Via Crucis) to the viewing point and in Richard’s case, almost getting as far as the monastery before the rain sent him back. Meanwhile Paul found himself a bar where he could drink wine and continue reading the novel he bought for the Malaga trip two years ago. The eventual bill, when it was finally time to leave and consider dinner in a local Italian place, came close to 100 euro – but by that time Bruce, Richard, Catherine and I had joined him for a few drinks, honest…

Thursday, according to the Plan, meant the walk along the Torrent de Pareis: a stunning gorge which would require ropes to get down some of the steeper parts. Unfortunately this adventure wasn’t possible because of the recent volume of rain – however, the Plan was flexible, and instead we drove to Soller and walked along the coast to Deia in far better weather than we’d experienced in Pollença. Deia is well-known as the home and final resting place of poet and writer Robert Graves, and both village and beach were very picturesque. We saw hardly any other people… until we reached the bus stop for the return to Soller, and encountered an absolute scrum. Richard and Pam’s decision to walk back was possibly more sensible.

Once we got back, Bob and Paul checked out the short climbing routes available at Port de Soller, and Rhoda, Bruce and Sarah went for a swim while Catherine lounged on the beach and took the occasional incriminating photo. We then had the first of a few tram rides back to Soller – great fun, even if it was a little shaky for decent photos. The restaurant for that evening was in Soller’s main square, and a few things seemed to get lost in translation: don’t ask Bruce about the blue cheese sauce…

In the cloud at the top of Massanella (Catherine)

On the way to Deia

A well-earned beer after a walk and a swim (Sarah)

Friday was the big day for the climbers: Bob, Paul and Rhoda successfully completed the 7-pitch 4+ Albahida route at Sa Gubia, a “spire-like ridge” (Rockfax) which is reputedly the most popular long route on the island. It started with a 45 minute walk in up a dry river bed, which was hot but easy to follow. They then met a friendly dog, who left with Cliff and Pam on their walk. The climb started at 11 and they finally got to the summit at 7, for a simple hour and a half walk down a windy track. There was some great leading and route finding from both Paul and Bob, Paul not having done many large multi-pitch routes before. More booted eagles were spotted overhead as they climbed. Apparently Bob didn’t shout too much (the likes of ‘get a move on’, ‘come on’, ‘no time for that’ etc), except when near the top of the climb and starting on the Alpine finish – roped up with slings over prominent bits of rope just in case, it took an hour to get to the top of the mountain from the end of the rock climbing. Belay stances were very small but with a great view. Afterwards they celebrated with plates of Iberico ham and cheese and beer in the bar at the end of the walk.

Everyone else took the Soller train through the mountains to Palma for a day of sightseeing and café culture. The train line was opened in 1912 and still retains its original character; the mountain views are more than worth the journey. Catherine’s “interesting” luck continued in Palma when a horse pulling a tourist carriage managed somehow to walk into her outside the cathedral – fortunately no serious injuries on either side.

By Saturday, that café culture was beginning to pervade – or maybe the climbers were just knackered after the previous day’s exploits. Only Richard, Pam and Cliff did the long circular walk from Valdemossa up to the Puig del Teix (1064m). Bob, Bruce, Rhoda and I took the boat from Port de Soller round to Sa Calobra, to approach the Torrent de Pareis from the opposite direction. We walked and waded in as far as we could, before time and water levels got the better of us. Catherine did the same journey, but on a later boat: on arrival she was immediately soaked through by a freak wave (see what I mean about the interesting luck?) and by the time she was due to return the seas were too rough, so that meant a bus ride up the most challenging road in Mallorca, which at one point swings round 270 degrees under itself. Paul, meanwhile, was checking out the quality of the wine in various Port de Soller hostelries…

In the Torrent de Pareis (Sarah)

Getting her feet wet (Sarah)

The restaurant for the final night was chosen from the Rough Guide, which yet again proved that it is only a guide, and not always an entirely reliable one. Suffice to say the food was very traditional – for the first time all week, vegetarian options were non-existent and Catherine ended up back in the previous night’s Italian place (much friendlier!). The waiter was a cross between Manuel and Basil Fawlty, and not typically Spanish at all. There was a diversion to a bar on the way back, to finish the evening off for those who hadn’t already had enough to drink.

On Sunday Pam left early on the train for her flight back (it’s not yet known if her luggage got back with her), and the rest of us had a leisurely morning exploring the remainder of Soller, including the Botanical Gardens which was a very educational experience if you had Rhoda with you. Bob and Catherine walked out towards the village of Biniaraix. Three guesses where Paul was… We then met up and headed for Palma and the airport, stopping off en route for a final lovely meal with accompanying local wine. The flight was on time, the temperature at Luton was a nasty shock, and yet another Bob trip was over. To shamelessly copy from a similarly epic trip report of several years ago: gracias, Señor Bob!

Sarah Davies, with contributions from Rhoda Bashford

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