I am writing this at a time when the vast majority of the planet is in lockdown.
The whole of Spain has closed down, flights grounded and only the most essential services still running, everyone that can is working from home. So, it may seem like an odd time to be speaking about outdoor activities, hiking, walking or being outside. And yet, in the midst of the turmoil and confinement caused by Covid-19 and the subsequent pandemic there is a small slither of a silver lining.
Images have began showing up of dolphins in the Bay of Soller, ducks walking the roads in Palma. There was a whale sighted just off the beach in the Canary Islands. While we humans are self isolating, the planet is healing. KNMI maps show how far nitrogen dioxide levels have dropped over Spain. Presumably this is the same of other countries on coronavirus lockdown.
Mallorca, as the satelite image shows, wasn't particularly polluted before this. So the drop may be less dramatic, but the island's bays have been welcoming an extraordinary number of cruise ships over the last few years, as well as the standard ferrys, cargo ships and pleasure yachts. All these contribute towards sea and air pollution. As does air traffic of course. In the peak of summer, Palma de Mallorca airport can handle over 1000 flights a day, on a par with London's Heathrow airport, Europe's busiest. And traffic has almost ground to a halt, with only essential travel allowed.
And so, in these unprecedented times, we find that the natural environments around us blossoming. And it is there, in nature that many of us want to be.
Mallorca's visitors, tourists and holiday makers are a varied bunch with an array of interests. In the Pollensa area we have families, retirees, honeymooners, birders and cyclists for the most part. People of all ages, all backgrounds and though predominantly German and British, we do welcome people from all over the world. But they all have one thing in common: they all come to the island because of its incredible climate and natural beauty.
There are other draws of course. The mediterranean cuisine is not only healthy, it's delicious. Local wines amass international awards. The island has history, culture, traditions... the fiestas and festivities are quirky and fabulous fun. The locals are friendly and welcoming. The Balearics have infrastructure, high end services, good connections. You can fly here from anywhere in the world, from Europe it only takes 2 hours, and it's cheap. But nothing beats the weather and landscape of our isla bonita.
Whether it is beaches, rocky coves of rolling hills, whether it is to sunbathe on the sand or cycle up the steep mountain climbs, to a man, everyone comes to Mallorca to be outdoors in the sunshine.
There are hundreds of walking routes, from short and well marked paths between mountain villages to long trails through remote landscapes, miles from human habitation. It may seem unbelievable, given the island's size, that there could be anything remote, and yet, every year there are hapless hikers getting lost out in the sierra, some needing to be rescued. So take heed, the Tramuntana may look tame but it is wild out there.
From Pollensa you can quite easily walk the entire length. Easy as in possible. It is a week's worth of hiking. Follow the GR221 from Port de Pollensa or Pollensa old town to Lluc monastery and beyond. If you stay to the path you can continue until Port d'Andratx in the far southwest of the island. The full Tramunatna hike, all 8 stages, the full length of the island.
There are peaks here over 1400m high, and dozens in and around the 1000m mark. The tallest moutain on the island is Puig Major, 1436m, though closed to the public as a military zoneyou can cycle some of the way up. Number two is Puig de Massanella, 1364m and accessible. Others in the top highest are Puig l'Ofre, 1.091m altitude and clear all round views and Puig Tomir, our local, at 1.103m altitude, just beyond Lluc, it has the best views of the area.
Views or challenges can get you up a mountain here, both good reasons to hike, but there are other pleasures too. One is that if you are willing to put in the miles, you can access some of the island's last virgin beaches. The other is that hiking is a rare opportunity to explore the island alone, away from the crowds, and on a hot July morning, up here in the Tramuntana, there is noone in sight.
Stay safe and stay at home. We will see you in the Mallorca when all this is over!