Geocaching in Mallorca

Geocaching is a craze which has now besieged Mallorca, just as it has the rest of the world. Geocaching is this incredible GPS-assisted treasure hunt that you can do virtually everywhere, from Vietnam to Alaska and from Australia to Iceland. According to Wikipedia, Geocaches are placed or rather, hidden, in over 200 countries. This outdoor recreational activity is easy, but not without snags or obstacles, and it is fun. You log on to the Geocaching website, sign-up and download the free application onto your smartphone. Chances are that there will be a few dozen, if not a few hundred caches hidden in the outdoors somewhere near you, either at home or on holiday. You could then attempt to find the cache, solve some quests on the way and record your exploits in the logbook and online. You might even win some Brownie Points on the way.

On October 10th, 2010, Geocachers around the world held events and went caching to commemorate 10 years of Geocaching. In the process they set a record for the most Geocachers to find a cache in a single day, with 78,313 accounts successfully logging a cache.

I went to Lluc last Saturday with a few friends and was introduced to the Geocaching concept and its physical reality. There are currently some 1,460 caches in all of Mallorca, 759 of them in Palma. In or near Lluc, there were about 40 caches listed on our GPS phones. We selected one and set off. We had to solve three tasks or quests on the way before we approached the target area. The GPS positioning is only accurate within four to six metres (after all, the signal comes from a satellite high up in the athmosphere). It took us a while to locate the hidden Tupper box. The two females in our team proved more astute than the two males, but isn’t it often like that? The box (second photo from top) contained a small log book and a number of items, instructions, gifts and a Travel Bug, which is a moving cache. We took that bug and replaced it with a slim torch. We had to consult about the Travel Bug on the Internet to find out the intention/s of the person who placed it and his or her instructions as to where to hide this travelling cache next. After successfully solving and locating the first such treasure, we selected two more cache points and were quite pleased with ourselves when we found those as well. Then we headed back to the monastery for a well deserved cup of tea and a nice piece of cake.

The top two photos were taken near Escorca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: September 7th, 2012. The time was 17:12:36 and 17:11:37, respectively. The bottom photo was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of destinationunknownjournals.com and Pam Bauer. The map was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of 2000.com and the CIA (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency). I wonder what they might get out of us so freely sharing our GPS positions.

Thank you very much.

Geocaching in Mallorca

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 Annual Drag to Lluc

Tonight is the night of the annual walk from Palma’s Plaça Güell to the monastery of Lluc, up in the mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana. The marxa (walk) is in its 39th edition this year, starting at 23h00, extending to 43 kilometres and finishing at the Santuario de Lluc in the early hours of Sunday morning.

This year’s walk is the first one to charge a modest fee to cover organisational expenses. Participants will have paid 2 € for the Passagüell passport in which stamps have to be collected when passing through Palma (starting point), Binissalem, Selva and Lluc (finish). In return, participants will receive a T-shirt, fruit and water during the walk as well as roadside assistance including foot massage and first aid wherever needed. Last year, some 8,000 walkers attended with 6,500 or so reaching their destination.

I must admit that I have never participated yet. I would have wanted to. Perhaps next year I will.

The photo (top) was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 1st, 2012. The time was 13:04:31. The photo (bottom) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of desguellallucapeu.es.

Muchas gracias.

The Annual Drag to Lluc

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

Palma Patios

A new private enterprise has been given the task of organizing tours of the historic patios (courtyards) in Palma. I went on one of the tours last Saturday, given in Castellano, and I can only give full marks to the service provided. The guided tours are offered in Castellano, Catalan, English and German. Two tours are available: Palma Alta, the area around and behind the Cathedral, and Palma Baixa, the area to the West and to the North of the Passeig des Born. The programme will continue until the end of June.

Here is the schedule for the next two weeks: Friday, June 15th, Palma Baixa (English or German); Saturday, June 16th, Palma Alta. (Catalan or Castellano); Friday, June 22nd, Palma Alta. (English or German); Saturday, June 23rd, Palma Baixa (Catalan or Castellano); Friday, June 29th, Palma Baixa (English or German); Saturday, June 30th, Palma Alta (Catalan or Castellano). Meeting place is the Típika shop in Plaça Santa Eulàlia. Tickets are sold at 10 € (8 € for Palma residents). Tours start at 10h30. You can make reservations by telephone (971.728.983). You will see Palma in a completely new way after such a guided patio tour, I promise.

The photos were taken in and near Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: April 2nd and June 9th, 2012. The time was 12:57:11 and 10:59:11, respectively.

Palma Patios

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

The Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró

The Puig d’Alaró makes for an exciting outing for a number of reasons. You could hike up the northern ascent from Orient which will take you just under two hours before you get to the Castell d’Alaró, or you could choose to hike up from Alaró and the southern approach. On top of the impressive rock, the fortress allows glimpses into history with sometimes bloody chapters, going back to the Arab period and quite possibly even to the Romans.

Even further up, you will find the Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró and the 17th century chapel of the Mare de Déu del Refugi. The restoration work at the Hostatgeria has now been completed, at long last, and currently there are four dormitories with bunk beds for four each, with more to be furnished any time soon. The refuge is capably run by a young Catalan couple who rent out beds for 12 € per person, or offer a half board arrangement at 24 € per head. There are reductions for children. The hostel brings the number of refuges along Mallorca’s Dry-stone Route up to six, along with Tossals Verds, Muleta, Can Boi, Son Amer and Pont Romà. A stay in the refuge can be thoroughly recommended if you seek rest in peaceful surroundings of historic heritage and good food. Up here you are closer to the essence of life if that is what you might seek.

Alaró and the hamlet of Orient are within walking distance and the cozy restaurant of Es Verger is just a half hour stroll away. You will have heard of Es Verger‘s fabulous lamb specialties, all slow-cooked in the wood-fired oven at affordable prices (Paletillas are now served at 16 € a piece) and all eaten with great gusto.

The photos were taken near Alaró, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 21st, 2012. The time was 16:25:02, 15:04:14 and 14:48:03, respectively.

The Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró