Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Five Days of Hiking on Mallorca in February -- Day 1

Port Andratx, Mallorca
This is an historic post. For the first time, my mysterious travel companion has asked to create his own nickname. This is a jaw-dropping miracle. As I've pointed out many times before, he's an organizer not a name coiner. His first few attempts at creating his handle for this trip were lame. Just lame. It wasn't his fault though. He didn't understand the procedure. Once I explained it to him, he came up with . . .  wait for it . . .

Herbert the Venezuelan Pearl Diving Instructor

. . . which is fairly good for a first go. Well, his very first "go" was Booger, which is his real nickname.

"You can't use your real nickname, Booger."

"Why not? This is what you call me, no?" He's pinning a map of Mallorca to the steering wheel and driving too fast. We've just landed on Mallorca. It's 9:00 a.m. and we're going to hike until 2:00 p.m. We're fired up.

"It defeats the purpose of the whole 'mystery man' thing," I say.

"I see." He says like he likes the 'mystery man' thing.

We are on our way from the airport near Palma to the mountains overlooking Port Andratx. Herbert the Venezuelan Pearl Diving Instructor has chosen this hike because of the free parking at Port Andratx. The trail will (not) lead us to a place I will call Selm until two hours into the hike when I see a sign that clearly says S. Elm and later turns out to be Sant Elm. Will it even later turn out to be Saint Elmo's Fire? We'll see.

About five minutes into the hike (through a residential area because Spain has decided to ruin the landscape with houses no one has the money to buy) we enounter a couple and their three delightful children. The youngest, dressed as a pirate, keeps poking me with a stick.

"Excuse me. German English?" says the man. It's the common greeting on Mallorca, Germany's '16th Bundesland' and a popular summer residence for the British.

"Doesn't matter," Herbert the Venezuelan Pearl Diving Instructor says. You'd think Herbert could speak Spanish too. Being Venezuelan and all.

The path deadends into a newly built, private property. We consult maps. Gripe about all the houses being built. Head off in another direction and find what we think is the way up and over the mountain. The British/German couple and their lovely children are far behind us as we slog up the hill through construction, construction, construction. And then a dog almost eats us. A big dog. His master tells us we've come the wrong way and that we have to go back to the hotel Mon Port and take another path. Mon Port is where we met the British/German couple/kids. You get the picture. By the time we get to the top of the mountain, the British/German couple/kids are in front of us.

"How did you manage to get behind us?" the mother yells to us. "And we have three small children."

Ooh, I hate it when other hikers--especially those with three adorable children--beat me to the top. I have such a competitive spirit when it comes to hiking and red wine.

"We were almost eaten by a very large dog!" I yell back, trying to wake a wave of sympathy--and when that doesn't work: "Herbert the Venezuelan Perl Diving Instructor here got us lost!" Blame is so freeing.

Why should you go to Mallorca in February? While we're catching our breath along the ridge that leads us to our next detour, let's take a breather and think about this. Eighty percent of the restaurants and seventy percent of the hotels are closed during this time. The promenade on the Platya de Palma is relatively unpopulated. Almost no one is on the beach. So why do Mallorca in winter? It's great for hiking and cycling. Thousands of cyclists come here in the winter to train. We heard on the radio that the temperature was actually one degree lower than usual. At 15 C, it was perfect for hiking.


We stop--and thank God we do: one step further would mean certain death--at a rocky precipice and eat our lunch. Well, Herbie eats his lunch, which was my lunch from Air Berlin: a sandwich that I of course can't eat because of the dreaded gluten. I just watch.

The rocky precipice turns out to be a wrong turn, but with the help of more experienced hikers we find the now-infamous sign to S. Elm.

"It says here"--by this time the English/German couple/kids have caught up to us again--"that the path to S. Elm is an inconspicuous, almost vertical path through the rocks." Their guidebook is so much better than ours (since we don't have one). So off we go again. And what a reward the north face of these rocks is.

To make a long hike short, the next person we meet on the path tells us we're going the wrong way.

"Selm?" I still think the place is called Selm.

"Sant Elm?" the man corrects me.

"If you say so," I say.

He points to the path from whence we have just come, and I say Oh Brother.

"To hell with Sant Elm," Herbie says.

"I'm pretty sure that's blasphemy."

"To hell with Selm," Herbie says.

"Better."

We walk to the next town instead, which takes us about an hour. While we're waiting to see if the bus to Port Andratx is late--we've missed it by two minutes and the next one isn't coming for 3 hours--we have a nice chat with two women who want to speak German to us.

"Warten Sie auf Bus?" Are you waiting for bus?

"Wir hoffen er hat verspätung," I say. We're counting on Spanish lateness.

"Die nächste Bus kommen 4:45 p.m.," she says. The nexte bus come 4:45.

"Ist schon klar. Wir könnten auch zu Fuss." Yes, we can read the sign. We can also walk to Port Andratx, which is four kilometers away. We do indeed end up walking the road all the way back to the port--at which time Herbie decides we're just going to drive to Sant Elm--a total yawner of a town. I secretly hope we'll be sitting in a café at the seaside when the British/German couple/kids come huffing into the town. And I plan to pretend that we found the town before they did. Unfortunately, they are nowhere to be found. I hope they're all right. If you happen to see this post, lovely people, let me know how your hike turned out!

S. Elm -- Mallorca

Tomorrow DAY 2 of Five Days of Hiking on Mallorca in February.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire).