Mallorca, the island holiday haven for Brits and Germans off the coast of Barcelona. A place where pasty skin meets constant sun to turn various shades of lobster red.
Another holiday with Rich and Marg, Tam’s parents, who had been enjoying themselves previously in Croatia. Late after midnight we taxied from the airport to our accommodation in the heart of Palma. The place was the best value we found, but smelled like a dirty ashtray. Outside a girl started dumpster diving in the hostel skip, the rattle of bottles and rustle of plastic bags a distraction from our sleep. Techno music blared loud into the night and the bass notes shook the glass in the window. Eventually, the girl fell into the skip with a crash and had to be helped out by her partner in crime.
We were here for the cycling in the Tramuntana’s; a mountain range to the north of Mallorca. Our base for the next 3 days would be in Port Sóller, a harbour village turned tourist resort. Our accommodation here was a big upgrade.
The bikes we rented were a great upgrade too. Brand new Treks (we worked out it was cheaper to rent a bike in Mallorca, rather than pay for sports luggage). Our first ride through Deia to Valldemossa took us past ancient olive trees and steady rolling hills. Here was a chance to really test the legs before a bigger ride the next day. A tapas lunch (helpfully sampling everything on behalf of Rich for gluten) and a cycle back over the switchbacks of Col de Sóller saw us return early after about 70km of riding.
The sun setting over Port Sóller, enjoying paella and litres of sangria was a good end to the evening.
Waking the next morning we would have a big surprise! Marg had some allergic reaction to something. If it was the seafood, the sangri,a or the pollen, she was really sunburnt and unfortunately had to sit out for the day in the shade. The rest of us wasted little time in taking on the harder hills before the heat of the day settled in. The area is famous for being a training base for the British Team Sky. There’s even a particular hill called “Wiggins Hill” a training favourite. The incline never really got above 7%, a far cry from the gradients of the French Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites.
A well paced climb up Puig Major followed by a descent through tunnels took us through an arid limestone landscape frequented by grazing goats. Descending, we snaked our way among the smaller villages, stopping in Alaró for a large lunch. The legs were starting to really feel it here. We hadn’t really been riding over the winter. Our legs starting to radiate their own heat.
Passing back over Col de Sóller, we found Marg a little bored, having been indoors most of the day. She was in much better shape and keen to do some exploring. We were a bit shattered unfortunately and spent the next couple hours in the cool waters and horizontal. Again another meal with sangria and all kinds of common allergens rounded out the day.
Marg was much better on the final day, we opted to go for a ride up Col de Sóller to try the restaurant on top. Sitting on the saddle for 120km the day before was taking it’s toll for some of us.
We found a small scooter hire place, Bullimoto, in the area. They had a paralyzed French Bull Terrier as it’s mascot. We would ride past it most mornings and on occasion see it walking down the tram lines in a specialized wheelchair. Deciding that our last day would be best on a scooter, we booked in and had another big siesta. At dinner, we met an English gent who tried to persuade Rich to buy his boat moored in Port Sóller, at close to 80 euro a night, even having your own cabin wasn’t cheap.
Getting up for an early hill run around the coast we heard that Marg’s allergy had taken a worse turn. Marg found a doctors practice and after a few shots of antihistamines starting looking better immediately. As the scooters would be exposed to the elements, we opted to change to a beat up little car. At least we could use it for a return to the airport in the afternoon.
Driving to the east, we passed through the Tramuntana’s again, stopping in the narrow high streets of Pollenca. Tam was busy mothering Marg, making sure that she had on 3 coats of sunscreen, a scarf and always had the seat in the shade.
With a car we got to travel quite a bit more distance. On the other side of the island Tam had heard about a mythical resort known as Magaluf. Not knowing much better, we thought it was worth a look. We were in for a real surprise…
Magaluf, otherwise known as “Shagaluf” to some of its patrons can be described as the extremes of British culture, densely crammed into a few hectares of pubs, strip clubs and all day english breakfasts. The “Chav Mecca” was packed with young Brits beating off a hangover with the hair of the dog and a televised Premier League soccer match by the beach. The local bottle shop advertised large quantities of cheap spirits while the doctors advertised their expertise on chlamydia.
Returning to the airport took us past the Palma Marina, a maze of yachts and pleasure craft. If Rich wanted to really buy a boat, we’re sure he could have found one here. Billions and billions of dollars of white fibreglass lay idle.
Mallorca is a great place, a real example of an island completely inundated with tourists, but still holds on to a bit of something that makes it unique. Some little charm that brought people here in the first place.