When booking a holiday on a Mediterranean island, one would likely (typically) indulge in a desire to lounge by the pool or bathe on the beach. However, I’m not usually one to keep still for long and so instead I booked a tour round the scenic north-west of the Mallorca (much to my partner’s dismay). We began the day with a coach trip to Inca, a town renowned for its extensive leather goods. Here, we enjoyed a hot beverage and a browse around a leather factory outlet, before we set off in the coach towards the rugged mountains of the Serra de Traumuntana.
As we absconded from the open plains, we were treated to a glimpse of the feat ahead, a glimpse of a foreboding mountain ridge. All too soon we found ourselves cruising gradually upward into the view, which suddenly changed. Either side of the bus sat steep heavily-forested banks, which engrossed our coach as it wound ever-upward, through a series of hairpin bends. Thankfully, the initial climb felt like a gradual increase and with the trees surrounding, it was only mild hesitation that was felt to begin with. Though our guide’s spoken prayer might have hinted at what was to come…
I had read-up briefly on the UNESCO World Heritage Site prior to our departure, but at the time of booking hadn’t fully understood that we would witness the entire range found via this unique track. The the road began to veer a little and intermitted gaps between the ever-present greenery would go on to reveal our true height. The coach remained in low gear as it snaked its way through the onslaught of hard-core cyclists, also tackling this tireless mountain road. We made a turn inland, at which I slight breathed a sigh of relief, but it was brief, as we were confronted moments by a perilous stretch of highway that hung above a dramatic ridge.
I could swear the bus lurched ever so slightly, as we slowed for this photo finish at the top. True enough the extremity was remarkable, but something I am keen to never repeat. Below us to the right, a vast and stretching mass of undulating grey, with a dramatic cavern which one presumed could only lead to abyss focal in-amongst it. A horn blasted from behind (admittedly to my relief) prompting our driver to swiftly notch it up a gear, leaving the rest of shattered lunar landscape behind.
No sooner had my heart been given a chance to beat at a normal rhythm, when our guide slyly passed comment that the mountains we had seen were nothing compared to what we were about to experience next. Queue the piece de resistance of the Serra de Traumuntana (no guesses where the trauma part stems from). As the road reached it’s peak, bypassing the island’s highest mountain Puig Major at 1,445m, we went on to tightly navigate the 360 degree loop that would allow for our safe passage back down.
From here we passed through a sanded archway, which symbolised the beginning of the long road down. The view gazing down was quite something, a sight I could not justify with photos. Laid before us was a stunning feat of architecture, a spiralling concourse outstretched, with varying twist and turns, a whole 132 of them! With so many tight bends, out descent was sure to be interesting if not intense, particularly due to the size of our coach.
As we began to descend round the precarious bends, our tour guide entertained us with a tale of how they used to drive double-decker buses on the route, until it was banned by parliament in 2003. I can’t say I was surprised by this ruling, it seemed surely impossible to stabilise a vehicle of such size on this drunken design, it sent a shudder through me to think about, I found our ride dramatic enough.
I found myself gripped by a mixture of both grief and relief as we carefully navigated each turn down the mountain, a pivotal highlight of which was a narrow pass through cavernous sandstone walls, which left mere millimetres for us to pass though. Once reaching th lower levels, any anxiety had dissolved, as I gazed up instead with awe at where we’d come from. Though there were hair-raising moments, our driver did a sterling job and in truth I loved the thrill of it. What was at the bottom though, you may ask? Well, that’s another story… *Hint: Sa Calobra*