Mallorca's Hidden Treasures
Having recently returned from another cycle tour of Mallorca, rather than provide a detailed recap of where we went and what we did, I'm going to focus on a few specifics. In terms of what happened, we (being myself, Lukey and Frank), flew to the island first thing on Saturday morning and returned late Tuesday afternoon, thus fitting 3 1/2 days of cycling in. We covered about 360 km and climbed about 6.5 km vertical. We were based in Port de Pollenca and the staff at El Galeon made us feel very welcome (to the point where we will be booking directly with them next time). It was unseasonably cold but it only rained, albeit torrentially, once, on Saturday evening. The wider issue is, having visited here 3 times (to cycle) in the last 12 months, this review could run the risk of sounding very similar to the others. Instead I will share the parts that were new to me. The beauty of going somewhere that you like frequently is that you get to know it very well. Nevertheless it remains possible to find new places, new routes and new views to enjoy. Here's a selection of those experiences.
Puig de Maria, Pollenca
I noticed this hill on our first visit but didn't research it any deeper than looking at it as we passed by. This time was different. The original idea was that Puig de Maria would be the first peak in the '4 Monastery challenge' which we didn't ride for reasons we won't go into. (We'll save it for next time). Ultimately, it was the only peak in the '4 Monastery Challenge' we did actually complete.
You do not want to be a church builder in Mallorca. Basically the deal is that if there's a hill and/or mountain present, you'll be asked to build a place of worship there. Puig de Maria is no exception. The initial approach seemed fairly innocuous. Leaving Pollenca, the climb began with a left turn off the main road. The gradient immediately kicked in, but the road surface seemed ok......
.......for the first 250 meters. Very quickly, the 'standard' surface finished and with it the 'standard' bends. We were immediately presented with an aggressive 180 degree switchback, followed by another and another. The road was a pitted track with flints, bits of tree and other woodland detritus strewn across our path. Cycloross anyone? We passed by a number of somewhat bemused local walkers and continued up. Out of the saddle, I was now wearing way too many layers. It was getting tough. I was wheel spinning on a regular basis, but could not get enough momentum to sit down and grind it out. A complex of two switchbacks and a 'prolonged' steep section had me breathing very hard. Experience said I was not going to be maintain this for long. Was this going to be the first hill in Mallorca to defeat me?
Thankfully, it wasn't. One more bend later, avoiding yet more walkers, the track ended - or rather ended in cobbled steps. It was time to stop and enjoy the view. Ahead was the valley that eventually led to Inca. But for the moment I was bent over the handlebars, gasping for air. Frank appeared soon afterwards and looked considerably more composed. Lukey followed regaling an entertaining tale of being taunted by a young boy who was walking up the hill at the same speed. How rude!
The ride down was frankly dangerous. With no barriers at the edge of the road, one misjudged bend would end in tears or death. Add loose gravel 'under wheel' and the occasion hiker, the descent was almost as slow as the ascent! Definitely worth the effort, I think it is the hardest 'pure' climb I've found so far on the island. Add it to your list. Be prepared for a rough road though.
The beach at Cala Tuent, near Sa Calobra
Sa Calobra is a very elaborate dead end. It begins at a junction off the MA-10 and snakes it's way up to the Coll dels Reis and then all the way down to the seashore, 10.5 km below. It's a renowned climb, one of the hardest on the island. The 'official' signposted says it's 9.5km at 7% but I think it's a little longer and peaks in places at 16%. It is a real challenge, providing a relentless climb all the way to the top. Unlike the Puig Major that has places where the mountain relents, there are no such places on Sa Calobra. However, 3/4 of the way down there is a junction which indicates another beach and restaurant. Knowing it was unlikely that we'd fit much more 'pure' climbing in, I suggested we descend this first, come back and then descend into Calobra, before taking that on in one go. This, however, was not met with universal approval. We did it anyway.
Surprisingly we climbed, steeply, for about a kilometre. At the top there was an obligatory chapel and a view of the bay 3 km below. It looked very similar terrain to the road we had just left, with a collection of houses spread about at the bottom. The descent was fun, a combination of picking up speed very quickly and hard braking. You would not want to judge the line wrong; every bend had its own shear drop. We soon reached the bottom. One house, looking much more ramshackle than the rest had a jetty attached to it. I rode out to the end and had my photo taken. I was literally at the end of the island! After a brief piece to video we started to climb back up. It would be an interesting place to live. You are at least 30 km from any shops, maybe more. It was very peaceful but it looked deserted. I guess most of those dwellings are people’s second homes. The views are terrific. It would be a perfect place to 'get away from it all'.
The climb out of the bay acted as a decent warm up to the main event. Half an hour later we began the climb ride up, where I can report we all made it to the top without stopping. Lukey can now state that he has successfully ridden up Sa Calobra and Frank ascended in one go at his first attempt. Good work chaps!
Checking the correct spelling of the 'Coll dels Reis’, I stumbled upon the Strava times for the fastest ascent. My toiling up the hill in about 55 minutes doesn't quite cut it; apparently Simon Y has ascended in 25.25. Sounds inhuman to me. Consequently, it will be a while before I worry those present on the Strava leader-board.......
The look-out tower at Formentor
Overlooking Port de Pollenca is Formentor. Continue along this hilly road and it will eventually reward you with amazing views of the North eastern coastline of Mallorca under the watchful gaze of the lighthouse. Last time we rode here, we could barely see the road opposite, let alone the rest of the coastline. This time it was completely different and made for a much more rewarding set of photos. However, before you literally reach the end of the island, there's a tough little climb that starts opposite the vista point at Formentor.
The climb from Port De Pollenca is surprisingly tough, since the wind whips over the top of the headland and whistles down the twisting mountain pass, straight into your face. (You are treated to a very exhilarating descent on the way home though). The scenery is stunning and in May when I was here the viewpoint was very busy with cars parked everywhere. No such issue this time around. The main road immediately winds its way down the other side of the mountain, but there is a rough tarmac road that continues upwards that goes off to the right. For the most part, the road surface is reasonable, but it's considerably steeper than the climb thus far. You continue snaking around the hilltop and after the first switch back you are rewarded with a terrific view of the Bay of Alcudia. It gets better. From here you ascend in full view of Alcudia, climbing the 'backside' of the mountain. The road becomes more uneven but is entirely usable. Towards the top there are a couple of deserted military looking buildings. Continue on and the tower over your left shoulder becomes the target. One final hard 180 degree bend and you've reached the end of the road. The best photos are gotten from inside the derelict building in front of you. It is possible to climb the 20 meters up to the tower, the but it will reduce the lifetime of your cleats if you choose to do so.
The vista point and lighthouse at Es Mal Pas
We had discussed about doing 'Bay to Bay' on day two, but for one reason and another (mainly we ran out of daylight, had had enough of fighting the wind and were all knackered) we gave it a miss. This meant we could use a ride out to Alcudia on the morning of our last day instead.
The small town of Es Mal Pas sits on the coast, opposite Port de Pollenca. We took the seaside road, went past the Marina and climbed out of town. At the bottom of a short descent the road turned to the right, offering beautiful views of the surrounding coastline. Once again this route was an unknown. Spotting a signpost that said 'Z' bends for 2.5 km, we continued. We soon came to a junction. Turn right and you'd find a vista point and another closed-for-the-Winter restaurant. Carry on and you would eventually reach another lighthouse. It's the lighthouse every time. The road undulated all the way along to the signposts that said the area was a restricted military zone. There were no road blocks as such so we rode on for a few hundred meters. However, the signage grew in intensity. With time also ticking on we stopped and took a few pictures. The views were worth the effort despite the lighthouse being a few kilometres away. On the return leg we turned left, and 'up'. 1 km later as promised was a huge car park, a restaurant and viewpoint. Within 30 minutes we were back at the hotel, ready to (a) dismantle our bikes for the journey home and (b) have an argument with easyJet staff about the weight of our bike boxes.....be warned (see note below).....
So there you have it. 3 places that are off the cycling beaten track but worth a ride to if you feel like an adventure. I can't wait to find some more hidden treasures next time.
Note: from 17th October easyJet have changed their policy on carrying bikes. The maximum weight for a bikebox is 23 kilos - not 32 kilos as was previously the case. This means carrying anything other than the bike is prevented (such as tools, pedals, clothes etc). Failure to comply occurs a €4 per kilo tariff, although we argued our way through this since this had not been mentioned on our outward journey from Gatwick. In essence it's a way of generating revenue from hold luggage since the combined weight of the bike plus box will be very close to the 23 kilo (made-up) limit.
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