Western Med Blog 5 (Magnificent Mallorca)
24 June 2017 | Cala Santandria, Menorca
Martyn, Veronica editing. Weather....Blue skies and topless girls
The train trip from Sóller to Palma was a welcome break inland and to the hustle and bustle of the island’s capital. It is highly recommended: the train and the stations are lovingly and authentically restored. The train does wind its way up the mountain leaving magnificent views back towards Sóller. Somehow though we had built an expectation in our minds of more winding in the mountains and stops at quaint mountain villages but we got a lot of tunnels, including a very long one that dealt with the mountain problem the engineers had, and then quite a lot of trundling through olive, lemon and orange groves on the plains before Palma. The day was hot, the carriages were open with all the windows down which made for a pleasantly breezy openness and brought all the scents of the surrounds in, including the pleasant musty cool scents of the tunnels. Palma was vibey as we strolled the narrow streets photographing and admiring the Spanish architecture and splendidness of old. We made our way to the cathedral with its intricate carved detail in every crevice. It is a towering statement that still dominates the city today and overshadowed us as we wandered into an adjoining square where we were hustled by the guys with the tourist horse and carts and then wandered further and indulged in messy, melting but tasty ice cream in a square shadowed by an ancient twisted and tortured olive tree. We then slowly made our way back seeking out the cool side of the street and having lunch in an el-cheapo restaurant. The dinghy was still there when we got back and the anchor had done its job for the 9 hours we were away. We readied the boat and made our way to the public pontoon to buy some water. The plan was to get one line on and motor against it while we quickly topped up the water tanks, something we had not done for about ten days. We radioed the port authority to ask permission and then got into one of those crazy entanglements with officialdom and red tape. It was €5 for water and they had no change. We could muster just over €4 in loose change. So asked if we could just take slightly less water and give them the money we had. No, we had to pay € 5 exactly. This is interesting, as all boats have different sized water tanks but I guess I did understand that they have to issue a receipt and it has to be for € 5. So I had to go all the way around, about 800m, to another quay where the office was to pay. Meantime Veronica was trying to keep the boat steady while the water filled at a miserably slow pace due to pathetic pressure low pressure. She eventually picked up the lazy line, which kept the boat stable, a good move as on account of the low water pressure this was a long stay. In fact, so long that we left before the tanks were completely full.
The weather was completely settled so we were heading for Cala de la Calobra about 7Nm SE of Sóller. This part of the coastline is sheer with many cliffs ~250m straight into the sea. This Cala is known as Mallorca’s most dramatic. It did not disappoint us. When we arrived there were about 5 boats there and even then that was crowded. We had some anchoring antics trying to find room and holding, made more difficult by the fact that there was no wind, so the boats were all over the place and it was impossible to judge where their anchors lay. We got sorted as the light faded and had supper in the amphitheatre looking into the canyon of the Torrente de Pareis. You should have a look at this website’s gallery to see the pictures, as words can only partially describe this anchorage, the fresh water pool behind it, the tunnel joining the two beaches and the canyon. We arrived late, took an early morning walk up the canyon and left before the first tourist boats started plying their trade, so we saw it at its best and it was one of our highlights on Mallorca.
We rounded Cap de Formentor, Mallorca’s northernmost promontory, under motor, the sea azure and sparkling, all the way the scenery had been dramatic and the terrain too extreme for development of any kind, save the occasional old stone watch tower and very few roads or paths. After rounding the point, we had a look-in and briefly dropped anchor in the small Cala Murta before making our way to the bay of Formentor. This was a large bay with about 100 laid buoys; we took one behind the island, sheltered from the NE wind. It was €29, quite a lot for a buoy but part of the Poseidonia grass protection program, which is a good thing. Ashore there is one of Mallorca’s best beaches and The Formentor: A Royal Hideaway Hotel. Apparently graced by celebs. We deemed it too upmarket for us yachties and tried to go to the beach restaurant instead where we were duly informed that they had a private function but suggested we go up to the hotel for a sundowner and that we enjoy the walk through the hotel’s magnificent gardens in the process. We said but what about the gate that requires a room card to open it. No problem, the guy dressed in formal attire, totally inappropriate for the heat, informs us. He marches over to the gate, sticks his hand through a hole in the hedge and opens it from the other side. The hotel has been their since 1929, it had the same feel about it as the Mount Nelson in Cape Town, steeped in tradition with caringly tendered grounds that were a riot of colours, below the strategically spaced palms. Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin are among its most famous previous visitors. The drink was expensive but the terrace was nice and full of people that allow you to play fun mind games trying to guess their background, and then leave never knowing.
The next day we ferried the bicycles ashore with the intention of just pottering around the side streets amongst the sumptuous villas overlooking the bay. We then stumbled upon what we later found was one of the routes rated by the Telegraph in an article entitled, “Is this the world’s greatest cycling destination?”. The article referred to Mallorca in general. We climbed the winding tar switchbacks stopping occasionally to overlook cliffs into the deep azure liquid expanse that filled the gap between there and mainland Spain. It was 30 deg C plus, even below the shade of the pines. We had not brought water so we were very relieved to find that the top of the col had a little café serving ice cold agua beside the car park where tourist buses debouched cooing tourists for their stroll to the impressive cliff top view point. From the col there was a lesser road, tarred nonetheless, that had to be tackled. It went up to the ancient watch-out tower on the hill but also past the ruins of a gun battery which I assume was from the civil war or second World War. The views from the top were rewarding, to say the least, Minorca could be seen in the distance, and the Tramuntana Range stretched out in either direction along the NE coastline.
We returned to the boat replete in our achievements but only to be greeted with an unnecessarily unpleasant exchange with the buoy police (minders). Since we had arrived at about 17h00 we assumed we had paid for 24hours. So this RIB speeds up and the conversation does not start with, are you guys planning to stay another night. It starts with you owe us for another day because you were supposed to be off the buoy at noon. No one had mentioned this verbally to us when they took the 29 € off us but the officious boat driver said it was written on the receipt that we got. When we check it, it was indeed on the receipt. The irony of all this is we were having a discussion about staying another night but he was insisting that even if we did not we owed him the money for our 2 ½ hour overstay. This revved me up especially as I gestured that of the 100 buoys in the bay, at the most 5 were occupied. We said “we were leaving there and then just give us 5 minutes to ready the boat.” He then started taking pictures of the boat name with his mobile. Eventually, only after I calmed things down by mentioning what a good thing the Poseidonia grass project was and was he really going to send the Gaurdia after me for a 2 ½ hour overstay that was completely without intent, did he relax. We motored 2Nm around the corner to a perfectly sheltered free anchorage in the bay of Pollença, pondering the fact that the Poseidonia grass project had just been short changed of 29 €.
After a bit of SUP-ing and watching fire-fighting seaplane activity at the nearby seaplane base, we headed for Acudia in the next bay. The plan was to go into the marina and do a major resupply, then hire a car for the day to pick up Dylan. No such luck, the marina was full so we had to make do with the anchorage off the wall. The holding was poor close in so we had a long dinghy commute to the restaurant quay. We went to the old town, a 15minute walk inland which was worth the walk to see the narrow streets and squares. Our quest to find a vodaphone shop and sort out our 3G data card failed though, again because of our forgetfulness about Spanish opening hours.
We took the hire car, a bargain at 30 € for the day, to pick up Dylan at the airport. He was flying in from Alicante after an end of University celebration week with 16 others in Calpe on the Spanish mainland. Palma airport is tourist-processing machine of note and it was not even school holidays. We stood next to some youngster holding up an 1830 sign, which on enquiry was a tour group that did package deals for 18 to 30 year olds. Magaluf has a fearsome reputation for party and poms of a certain desirability, or not. The tour guides were friendly and said basically their job was to try and hold drunken groups together as they organized a different disco to pour them in and out of every night. Judging by some of the specimens that recognised the 1830 board as their tour group, this could make an interesting TV documentary that would be unhelpful to the reputation of the UK. Interestingly 1830 is part of Thomas Cook. The youngster admitted that the connection is not openly advertised but you do have to admire the marketing ideas that sell seats on planes.
Dylan had had to get up at 04h00 and had had about 2 hours sleep, so he was a grumpy bear but good to see nonetheless. We took the long road home, driving over to Sóller and then along the mountain road that winds its way to 850m and back down. It was, a lot of the time so narrow that we, in a tiny Fiat Panda had to stop to let busses past. Mostly it was an engineering masterpiece and a visual spectacle. It has to be one of Europe’s tick box items for road cyclists and they were there in their multitudes, pained or elated faces striving for the final col. The drive is one not to be missed. We descended through the switchbacks back to boat level. The grumpy bear wanted to get to the boat and sleep.
We spent the next three days exploring the NW coast. We stayed on Port authority quays at Puerto de Cala Ratjada and Puerto Cristo and anchored at Cala Moltó. All of these places were delightful and at the ports it was the first time we had plugged into shore power for 13 days, since Eulalia on Ibiza on 5 June. The mission on this NW coast exploration was to visit the caves at Puerto Cristo. Cuevas Drach did not disappoint despite the throngs and the tourist busses, it is an underground complex containing some of the most impressive stalactite and stalagmite complexes I have seen. There are also numerous underground lakes, with crystal clear water. The biggest of these in the main chamber was the coup de grace of the tour, a rowing boat carrying an organ player and two violinists rowed slowly round the corner playing classical pieces. The lighting effects and the subterranean acoustics were excellent. I did not taste the water in the subterranean lakes but it is possible that it is in communication with, and at, the level of the sea.
We sailed back to Acudia and anchored in the nearby bay of Aucanada, where we met an old work colleague of mine, Brian and his partner Nikki. They have for years rented a place just ashore there. After a drink on the boat with them, we all went for what has to be our fanciest dinning experience yet on this trip. The restaurant that was just ashore and also only about 200m from their rented house. It was fantastic to catch up as Brian had been coming to this part of Spain for nearly 20 years and had owned and kept his own boat here, additionally fruitful for us.
The next morning they invited us for breakfast at 10h30 and with perfect timing as the wind filled in in the afternoon when we departed Mallorca for Menorca at about 13h00. The sail across was a 5 ½ hour 32Nm pleasure. A single tack with the wind coming around from a beat to a reach, to a broad-reach as we sailed the waypoint line for a cala just 2km south of Ciudadela, the second port on Menorca. There was much trepidation about whether we would find a place for the night as by pure coincidence, we were showing up at what the pilots guide describes as Cuidadela’s final distinction, the Fiesta of San Juán. It is on the 23 and 24 of June and is apparently, according to the guide, famed for its daring equestrian displays to which the usual drinking and merrymaking are only a sideshow. It also said, forget about finding a berth. This was true as we telephoned them. So yesterday evening we came into this shallow cala and with a bit of tricky manoeuvring, managed to swim 2 stern lines ashore and drop an anchor in the middle of the Cala joining about 20 other boats, with similar mooring arrangements and no doubt also here for equestrian madness and fiesta.
We will take the bicycles into town later and check-out the logistics for Dylan to get to the airport to fly home tomorrow. Until next time Hasta Fiesta.