NORTH WEST MALLORCA – THE TRAMUNTANA MOUNTAINS
Mark Robson dips into the Tramuntana to find stunning scenery, some good hiking as well as razor vines, rabid dogs and insane farmers !
A week after the Picos experience I was off to Spanish territory again. Mallorca. With my girlfriend Louise. A beach holiday, which I had organised. She needed the rest. Single Mum. Three kids. Poor girl. I had loads of sympathy. Accidentally I had booked us into Port De Soller which is right beside the 90 kilometre long Tramuntana mountain range. “Bugger”, I said, looking devastated, “I suppose now that we are here I had better explore them” Louise, a pharmacist, cursed herself for failing to pack the arsenic and prepared her bucket and spade. Well, I thought selflessly, the dear girl needs peace and quiet. Louise though hadn’t planned on solitude !
Anyway the exploration threw up some interesting detail on the Tramuntana range. First of all the Mallorcans are very proud of it and to be fair to them they have worked hard at creating a number of impressive trails which you can find in the “Walk Mallorca” map. There is also GR221 – which sounds like a Siberian Gulag – but is in fact a very well marked route which takes you on an excellent journey through various parts of the Central and Northern areas of the Tramuntana.
This may be personal taste but I found the area a little frustrating. The GR221 is fine and grand and can help you access some meaty terrain. The Tramuntana mountains are steep and rugged and have similarities to the Picos. The Tramuntana are low hills though. Clearly they did not eat their greens. This means that a lot of the walking is in the trees and scrubland. Hard going and you won’t see much apart from the next bush. A lot of the shrubbery is razor sharp and after one particularly difficult day my lower legs looked like they had been interrogated by the Gestapo. The best map, in my view, is the green E-25 series, which comes with a guide book produced in four languages. It’s a 1:25,000 map while the light blue “Mallorca North + Mountains Tour + Trail Map” Copyright David Brawn is a 1:40,000 scale. I am more used to the 1:25,000 type and found working with the 1:40,000 a bit confusing and couldn’t quite get used to it. I was glad I found the E-25 series in a local souvenir shop on the beach front.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the Tramuntana is finding where walks and hikes begin. They can be hidden away at the back of small villages and, unless you have detailed maps of each hamlet, discovering starting points, in some instances, even for the GR-221 is more luck than anything else. The GR-221, though, is very well marked and signposted once you get onto it.
On the E-25 series there are a lot of red trails. Big “LOOK AT ME” red means dual carriageway or main road. Solid smaller red means “Earth Track”. Large dotted red means “Footpath” and small dotted means “Footpath (difficult to find, steep)” Take my advice on this one – PLEASE ! Unless you want to end up as lunch for the Egyptian Vultures that arrive magically as the first bead of sweat runs down your brow….. don’t go ANYWHERE NEAR small dotted red. They can be an absolute nightmare. I had an easy enough run to the summit of a hill called Tossals Verds via the GR-221 and then decided to take “small dotted” which actually translates into “this is a path that will take you into Spain’s version of death valley and is a route planned by the devil himself”. I spent two hours trying to negotiate a desperately steep Barranca the bottom of which was filled with impenetrable Spanish gorse, scrub with fronds like a Stanley knife and huge boulders the size of garden sheds. Each of these had to be climbed up, over and round, individually. Extremely exhausting work and very, very slow going. And yes the path was very poorly marked. The odd tiny cairn with little small stones on them. Obviously lifted into place by some poor dehydrated wretch. Strength and hope gone this would have been his last act before submitting himself to the eager talons of the circling vultures. I will bet you a million dollars that anyone who takes one of these routes once never voluntarily does it again !
And another thing. When you study the map looking for exciting routes slightly off the beaten track those solid red lines will look very tempting. There is a problem. Mallorca loves tourists but only the ones that lie like strips of fatty bacon on the sizzling beaches. Move outside that “safe zone” and you find that the rest of the population is full of hatred for “gringos”. Most of the Tramuntana is owned by farmers… and most of the “solid red” paths are on their land… and most of their land has welcoming signs like “Prohibido De Paso” (Translation: Walk here and my animals will eat your family) One day I decided to go “Solid Red” at a point on the map called Tuixant De Dait, which is just through the tunnel past the Gorg Blau reservoir. Check it out yourself. The gate on the path was open even though I did notice “Prohibido De Paso” on it. Undaunted I moved forward encouraged by the thought of adventure. Within seconds a huge black Doberman was heading my way. I was concerned for the future of my barrancas. Luckily the Hound of Hell was on a chain lead and almost garrotted himself trying to get at me. Having survived this test I then enjoyed a tough but fabulous walk to the summit of the Puig de ses Vinyes. The views over the North coast and down to the double reservoirs are truly spectacular. But on the way back the dog tried again. This time the farmer reacted. He was on the charge venting a spewed torrent of abuse at me. I am sure he mentioned the word “Policia” and the phrase “You will die British Pig” may have been in there somewhere. When I told him that “An octopus had eaten my toilet” his spleen almost exploded. I made my escape. The point I am making is this though. A large part of the Tramuntana is closed off due to military exclusion zones (seriously !) and farmers gates and fences. Mallorcans are VERY protective of their land. Under local by-laws they may be allowed to capture you, torture you and force you to watch Spanish soaps on a loop until you promise never to invade again. Worth checking that. In otherwords your trail and hiking options are actually quite limited and they won’t be offering that gem of info at the tourist office.