The Annual UMSDT Madness

Ultra Mallorca 2015 -5

Someone, a while ago, started an extreme, long-distance mountain challenge event,  somewhere in the Alps. A few dozen fanatics participated in that first endurance event, sometimes dubbed as sky-running. One of the early athletes must have been coming from Mallorca, because soon enough the challenge sports activity was brought to Mallorca, aptly named Ultra Mallorca. Last Saturday, the Mallorcan event held its ninth annual run, this time over three distances: Ultra Mallorca with 112.1 km between Andratx and Pollença along the highs and lows of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, Trail Mallorca, a shorter distance of 66.8 km from Valldemossa to Pollença, and a Marathon-type distance of 44 km from Sóller to Pollença, called Marathon Mallorca.

Ultra Mallorca 2015 -2

This year, some 2,300 runners participated in the three challenging races against the clock, the inner madman, or madwoman as the case might be, and lastly, the body physics, plagued by blisters, spasms, exhaustion, cramps and some such ailments. The winner over the long distance, Pau Capell Gil from Cataluña, came to the finish with a time of just under 12 hours. The fastest female over this length was Andrea Huser from Switzerland with a time of just over 14 hours.

Ultra Mallorca 2015-2

The middle distance, Trail Mallorca, was won by Paweł Dybek from Poland with a time of six and a half hours. This athlete had been the winner of last year’s long haul. The fastest female was Magdalena Łączak, from the same Polish team as her male colleague, in a fraction over seven hours. Winner of the marathon distance from Sóller to Pollença was Tòfol Castanyer from Sóller with a time of 3:23:18 hours. The winner in the female category was Joana Maria Cañellas Campins in a time of 05:18:41 hours.

Ultra Mallorca 2015 -4

Of the total number of 2,300 runners, an amazing 1,749 participants finished their heroic course well within the allocated times. They may all have suffered their individual aches, pains and maladies as well as utter exhaustion but one can safely assume that their egos were shining like the brightest star on the firmament. Each finisher was awarded a medal. For them, taking part seems to have had an effect of emotional doping, so to speak. Participating was the drug and finishing was the reward.

Until next year, perhaps.

The Annual UMSDT Madness

The Massive Downpour of 1989

In early September 1989, twenty-three years ago last week, the South-East of the island was surprised by a ferocious Gota Fría, bringing torrential rain and utter devastation with it. Entire stretches of road were swept away, trees were uprooted by the thousands and dragged away, three people were killed when a hotel basement in Portocolom was flooded, hundreds of animals drowned and chaos ensued everywhere. The area around Felanitx and Cas Concos des Cavaller was declared a disaster zone and Reina Sofía (the Spanish Queen) flew in from Madrid to visit the affected area and talk to some of the victims. Rain fell at 06h00 in the morning at a rate of 125 litres per square metre within just 30 minutes. That’s about the same amount of rainfall that one could have expected to fall in one whole year. I had never seen or lived through anything like it in all my life, nor had most Mallorcans.

You may know the mountain of San Salvador, the Felanitx monastery. Believe me if I tell you that twelve rivers originated from that one mountain (many of you would call it a mere hill, at 510 m of altitude) after that rain. One of these rivers passed through Cas Concos, demolished an old country stone bridge and took oak trees of a considerable age with its raging force all the way to the beach of Es Trenc, some 29 kilometres away. Ten days later, no rivers were left, only torrentes, dry riverbeds.

Today’s photo shows the external wall of the Felanitx cemetery. This cemetery filled up, then, like a swimming pool until the Marès built walls could not contain the masses of water any longer nor support the water’s weight. The very walls shown in the picture collapsed in the process and an avalanche of mud and debris swept onto the surrounding fields, including the corpses of four recently buried people. The cemetery of s’Horta was similarly wrecked.

I’m telling you all this because now is the time of the year when the Gota Fría might visit this island. Be alert.

The photo was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 23rd, 2012. The time was 13:23:37.

The Massive Downpour of 1989

Mountain Olympics at the Barranc de Biniaraix

Whilst the couch potatoes amongst us, including yours truly, were busy watching the London 2012 Olympics on the telly last Sunday, a few hundred Mallorcan men and women (and children and dogs) participated in a kind of Mountain Olympics at the Barranc de Biniaraix, near Sóller. The competition was organised by the Secció de Muntanya del Círculo Sollerense and was held for the eleventh year. The contest was held in two categories, one against the clock and the other one just for the excitement of participating. The course had a length of 4.8 kilometres of cobbled Cami de Pedra en Sec.

Young Pere Rullan Estarelles was the overall winner in the male category with a time of 00:28:15, whilst María Eugenia Gallastegui Alemany was the fastest female with a time of 00:38:50.

If you haven’t been to the Barranc de Biniaraix you should make that one of your walks and hikes to do when the Olympics are over and done with. You will find one of the best scenic routes on the island, I promise, and you won’t have to run.

The photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr.com, C.C.D.S. and the photographer, Joan Vicens i Vidal.

Thank you very much, and

moltes gràcies.

Mountain Olympics at the Barranc de Biniaraix

The Sa Calobra Canyon

The Sa Calobra Canyon, also known as the Torrent de Pareis Gorge, must be one of the island’s most dramatic landscapes and is one of Mallorca’s two Natural Monuments. Friends of ours wanted to go there for a walk yesterday and were most surprised when we told them that it would be well worth visiting but would, indeed, be a very testing hike or trek, and not to be underestimated. We advised them not to overestimate their skills and rather enter the canyon from the seaside, trying to get up into the gorge as far as they could and to turn back when the going got too tough.

Luckily, our friends heeded our advice and set off with sturdy walking boots, a plentiful supply of water, the mobile phone charged up and a digital camera for the scenic views en route. They went through Inca and admired the drive up past the terraced landscape of the Tramuntana mountains, turned left on top in the direction of Sóller and turned right past the aqueduct in the direction of Sa Calobra. They were most impressed by the 12 km long serpentine route and by the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea when they got down to Sa Calobra. They found the beach, had a swim, walked to the mouth of the canyon and began the hike. The trek was far from an easy Sunday afternoon stroll but, was just this side of too demanding. After about an hour the path was blocked by some boulders of perhaps 3 metres in height and they decided that it was time to head back. I am glad they did. They went back for another refreshing swim in the gorgeous sea before they headed back for Inca where they treated themselves to some excellent fish (Cap Roig [scorpion fish], at 50 € per kg).

When they returned home they stated categorically that they wanted to live here as well. They had seen Mallorca at its best.

The photo (top) was chosen from my archive. It was taken near Escorca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 7th, 2008. The time was 15:58:08. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr.com and Guacamoliest.

Thank you very much.

The Sa Calobra Canyon

The Twin Peaks of Alaró

The Puig d’Alaró and its twin peak, the Puig de s’Alcadena between Alaró and Orient are two rocky prominences of incredible, almost unreal characteristics. Surely, the two peaks look pretty out-of-place; there is no other rock formation on the island quite like these two massive protrusions. Or is there?

The explanation for these strange peaks would seem to lie in the geological formation of Mallorca’s Serra de Tramuntana. I was told that, millions of years ago, these two rocks were actually one mountain unit. There are a number of geological fault lines in the Tramuntana mountain range. Near this area of Alaró there is a fault line but an inverted one. Also, a torrent bed exists there where over hundreds of thousands of years, every once in a blue moon, heavy rains and low temperatures would cause a slow but significant gnawing into the fabric of that very mountain, limestone, the main skeleton of the entire Serra mountain range. Believe it or not, these floor movements caused substantial parts of the mountain to cave in and be swept away. Over time, a canyon-type land formation was created.

As recently as 2008/2009, a number of such slope movements occurred in the Tramuntana mountains. Mallorca was at that time affected by a period of intense rainfall and low temperatures which triggered numerous rock avalanches, some of which seriously affected the road network. On the night of December 19th, 2008, a rockfall on the eastern slope of the Puig de s’Alcadena took place, generating a rock slide with a length of 650 m. The rock avalanche destroyed the pine wood in its path, leaving a tongue of blocks, some of which had a volume of over 1,500 cubic metres with several tonnes in weight (see photo below). Fortunately, no serious damage occurred and no human life was lost.

The photo (top) was taken near Alaró, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 21st, 2012. The time was 18:17:23. The photo (bottom) and the graphic sketch were borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of eprints.ucm.es (Departamento de Geodinámica. Universidad Complutense de Madrid).

Muchas gracias.

The Twin Peaks of Alaró

A Thousand Roads to Sóller

I reckon that one does not really know Mallorca in all its beauty until one has been to Sóller and Port de Sóller. There are a thousand ways (well, not quite) of getting to that part of the island, a task that not all that long ago proved quite a daunting and challenging one.

Those of us who have children or even grandchildren, have probably already enjoyed the experience of boarding the Palma to Sóller train, leaving from Palma’s Plaça d’Espanya seven times every day and coming back again, five times (see photo centre). Now would seem like a good time to embark on this journey, as the Tren de Sóller has just completed its first centennial. This trip on the old train and its wooden carriages is like a magic journey to the past. There are no longer any excuses for not boarding the train, even though charges have recently gone up, again, to 19.50 €  for adults (14 € for Balearic residents) for the round trip. Up to 1,000,000 tourists take the one hour train ride to Sóller every year, but that should not deter you from enjoying the landscape on the way, especially now when most of the tourists have not arrived on the island yet for this year’s holiday and when temperatures are not hot and scorching.

Of course, you could always take the car to Sóller via the tunnel. The Sóllerics more than welcomed the new Sóller tunnel when it was inaugurated fifteen years ago. This new connection cut their travelling time to Palma down from some 60 minutes to less than twenty; not a mean feat when you are going about your daily business instead of, like most of us, going about our leisurely ways. These days, taking the car to Sóller through the tunnel, which starts not far from the splendid Alfàbia gardens, would cost you a fare of 4.80 € (one way). The Sóllerics are not so enthusiastic at the moment at all as they were promised to have their fares subsidised by the Consell de Mallorca, with tolls being paid in full upfront and subsidies being reimbursed at a later stage. However, these subsidies have not been paid for the last 15 months or so. Thus, the tunnel was recently blocked for hours on end in protest against the high charges and broken promises. Be warned that the Sóller tunnel has one of the worst test results on safety standards, according to the British AA, with 39 points out of 100, even though no accidents have ever occurred.

If you want to see Mallorca and one of its most beautiful landscapes, I would like to suggest that you take the road from Palma to Sóller by car, and up into the mountains along that almost alpine road full of serpentine bends at a length of some 14 km. When I went with some friends up to the Coll de Sóller and down again last week (see photo top), there were plenty of cyclists tackling the challenge. Of course, they wouldn’t be allowed through the tunnel, and the mountain climb is a welcome physical endurance test for them as it is.

You could also get to Sóller from Port de Sóller by tram. Fares have gone up to the ridiculous amount of 5 € (one way) for the ten minute ride, but still worthwhile at least once in a blue moon (see photo bottom).

And you might want to sail from Palma to Port de Sóller, a bit like Junípero Serra in 1749 when he set off from Port de Sóller to Mexico to set up numerous monasteries in Baja California as well as in what is now California, USA.

The photos were taken in Sóller, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 14th, 2012. The time was 14:15:14, 17:08:36 and 18:29:37, respectively.

A Thousand Roads to Sóller

The Malvasia Grape

The Malvasia grape variety has historically only grown in the Mediterranean region, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and the island of Madeira, but is now tended to in many other wine-making regions of the world as well, such as Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica, the Iberian Peninsula, California, Arizona, Australia and Brazil. In the past, Malvasia wine was predominantly consumed as a sweet dessert wine similar to Malmsey wine from Madeira. The white Malvasia grape is more common but, a red Malvasia grape also exists.

In the old days, wine generally only had about 7 per cent of alcohol. It was then quite difficult to sufficiently cool the wine and as a consequence, much of the wine turned sour and could not be stored for any length of time. In contrast, the Malvasia wine even at that time had an alcohol content of about 14 per cent, making it considerably easier to store. Its low degree of acidity was regarded as delicious. Soon, the sweet Malvasia dessert wine was very popular at the European courts.

Here in Mallorca, the Malvasia vine was only rediscovered in the 1980s. The Malvasia grape only grows in the Tramuntana area, in Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Deià and Pollença, with Banyalbufar being the main producer. Of all the wine grown in this municipality, Malvasia is the only grape variety there. During the 16th century, a total of 25,000 litres of Malvasia dessert wine were produced by the Cooperativa de Banyalbufar alone, with most of that astounding amount being sent to the Court of Aragón. You might want to go to Banyalbufar one day; all vines are cultivated on terraces there, first built by the Moors some 1,000 years ago.

The consumption of dessert wines has decreased enormously in recent years. Mallorcan Malvasia grapes are now primarily used to produce white table wines. There is a young white wine from 2010 with a deliciously fruity aroma, selling at around 15 € and a slightly older, oak-barrel stored white wine with a heavier, round body selling for around 25 €. The first would be drunk to accompany a meal, whereas the latter would stand up as a wine drunk on its own, full of character. Mallorcan Malvasia dessert wine sells in half-litre bottles at around 12 €.

The photos were taken in Banyalbufar, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 18th, 2012. The time was 16:33:40 and 18:25:38, respectively.

The Malvasia Grape