Walk the beautiful coast of Majorca
They had to ensure that the safety and comfort of the group was not compromised but, if at all possible, they were determined to ensure that the walking programme could go ahead. They quickly found out which parts of the island were still accessible and then drew on all their expertise and experience to re-design the week's walking programme. Unusual conditions there may have been, but for those involved it certainly made for a memorable holiday. Here are their blogs from last year:
Making last minute preparations for the arrival of 26 walkers. Having several conversations with Mark (Saga Rep) and the delightful Paco, the Restaurant Manager, about the mechanics of the walkers making their own packed lunches.
At the Welcome Meeting, very jolly as 19 of the guests had walked with us on previous holidays, we explained about the walking timetable, packed lunches etc. and that on the first walk we had negotiated for the group to have coffee and homemade cakes at lunchtime. Much interest was shown in the chocolate and apple cakes.
We had arranged for the group to dine together each evening. It’s a great way of helping people to get to know each other.
Oh dear! After breakfast, to everyone's amazement, snow began to fall. Our coach driver arrived to tell us that all the mountain roads were closed where we were due to walk, but that the area round Port de Pollença was relatively snow-free. We quickly worked through our guide books and maps and found a walk, which we had done some years before and we knew would be suitable for our group. We explained our plan to the group and to cries of 'Merry Christmas' and carols being sung, everyone boarded the coach for this adventure. Sadly we weren't going to get our coffee and cakes, which we had ordered, as 'Madame' (the French owner) was also snowed in.
The journey was slow, due to the snow which was still falling, but our driver was excellent and many photos were taken to the sound of 'they'll never believe this back home!' At Port de Pollença, we stopped for coffee and then set off through the Bóquer Valley, where we had our picnic lunch overlooking the sea. We returned to the coach in high spirits and with much laughter that, despite unseasonal weather, the group had completed their first walk of the holiday.
The only road open to us in the mountains was the one to the tiny, picturesque village of Orient, which was part of our walking programme anyway, so that's the one we took. Even so, there was plenty of snow on the ground and the footpath was quite muddy. Orient is in an attractive setting and we started off with a short tour of the centre of the village. We then took a stony track, to cross, what had been a small stream, but after the snow, was a fast flowing, if shallow river. We safely negotiated the stepping stones with much hilarity and a couple of damp feet. We then made a quick detour to look at a pretty waterfall, before starting on the only ascent of the day, which was fairly short and soon accomplished.
After passing one of the many old limekilns to be found on Mallorca, we started a gentle descent on a stony path high above the gorge with the Torrent d'Es Freu below us. Our picnic lunch was taken sitting on an outcrop with the stream, mainly heard, but not really seen, until we emerged from the woods on the banks of this fast flowing stream. We did, however, see a Bonnelli's eagle, circling high above us. We then continued alongside the stream, with another exciting crossing of it, where the track collided with the river. Plastic carrier bags over our boots kept our feet dry, but everyone had cameras at the ready, just in case someone was unfortunate enough to get wet feet. We followed the track, which became a minor road and eventually led us to our coach, waiting in Santa Maria del Cami. We had walked approximately 9 miles.
At last, the mountain road has re-opened, so the coach dropped us off at the Cuber Lake entrance, amid far more snow than we had hoped to see. At this point we had 24 walkers with us, as two of the group had chosen to stay behind in Palma and join the Island Tour. Two others decided to go back on the coach with the driver, who, kindly, took them to Lluc, where they spent a delightful day exploring the Monastery there. So, leading a group of 22, we set off along the edge of the Lake, walking in the tracks of a vehicle, which made it easier. After a while, that track finished and we began climbing gently towards the Coll de L'Ofrè. The snow was between 8 and 12 inches in depth, so we were pleased to be following in others' footsteps. We finally reached the Coll de L'Ofrè, to have our picnic lunch in beautiful sunshine. The snow covered mountains looked wonderful and although we couldn't see Soller in the valley, the snowscape made up for this, as it was quite magical.
As we perched on the rocks and ate lunch, we saw two black vultures, flying above us with a wing span of around two metres. We thought they might be eyeing us up for their lunch, so we had better get going! We gave the group the option of returning the way we had come or striking out further towards the peak, although we would not be walking all the way there. All the walkers said they wanted to continue, so we began the gradual ascent towards the peak. Very few people had walked this way and where the path swung towards the peak, we turned off to walk through snow be-decked woodland, where the snow was deeper. Everyone took care and we eventually emerged onto, what in normal weather conditions, is a lovely green meadow. We followed the meandering footpath down to the main track and began our trek back to the starting point and the waiting coach. We had walked approximately 7 miles.
All the walkers doing their own thing on this, the day off. Some went to Palma, some spent time in the Hotel Spa, some explored the coastline to the east. We all met up at dinner to exchange our news.
The first excitement of the day was to find that the road was closed, just 10 yards beyond where we were starting our walk – a closure since our trip there 6 days ago. However, we were able to start the walk, but we left the coach driver figuring out how he was going to turn the coach round. All the coach drivers are marvellous – very accommodating.
Our route meandered through the countryside and, being a Sunday, we met lots of other walkers as the weather was beautiful – perfect for walking. Along the way, we saw 2 or 3 types of orchid as well as wild rosemary and brilliant yellow gorse. We had our picnic lunch at a mirador (a viewpoint) with fantastic views along the coast and with the island of Dragonera immediately in front of us. After lunch, we followed the contours along the coast until we descended to the ruins of La Trapa – the site of an old monastery – now being restored. After that we walked inland slightly and descended gradually until we reached the small seaside town of Sant Elm, where the coach was waiting for us. We walked approximately 8.9 miles.
Our last day of walking with this group, we began on the outskirts of Soller, in perfect weather. We gradually ascended on an ancient limestone path, through olive groves and terraces until we reached Son Mico. This is a beautiful old 17th century farmhouse with wonderful views over the valley back to Soller and glimpses of Puig Major, the highest point in Mallorca.
Madame, the owner of the house, serves refreshments and we had arranged for our group to stop at the farmhouse on the first day's walk, which was cancelled because of the snow. There was little sign of the snow now, as we sat upon the terrace eating our picnic and partaking of the freshly baked cakes. Inside, the house was amazing with enormously thick walls and an almost medieval feel to it. Madame and her daughter made us so welcome that it was hard to drag the group away, but eventually we returned to our route along more terraces and through woodland with tantalising glimpses of the sea. Spring flowers were suddenly appearing with the warmer weather and as well as more orchids, we saw wild garlic and sorrel in abundance. We gradually descended, almost to sea level, before beginning the climb up to Deia, our final destination. We zigzagged up and along terraces until we entered the picturesque village, which in the past was the home of the poet and author Robert Graves. In fact, our coach was parked outside his former home. We walked approximately 7 miles.
Pat and John Bookwood: Pat has been a Saga host since 2004 and John since 2005. The pair are on the committee of their local Ramblers group, where they lead walks, and Pat co-ordinates their winter walking programme.