Tossals verds hostel GR221 Serra de Tramuntana

2 days on the GR221 – Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route

We had a recent holiday in lovely Mallorca and for a couple of days of that I headed into the mountains, to walk two days / two sections of the Serra de Tramuntana, along the GR221 ‘Dry Stone Route’.

It was really hot for both days. That probably sounds obvious but it was actually hotter than usual, according to a couple of folks I talked to on the trip: around 36 degrees or so on both hikes.

Pretty hard work on the long stretches above the tree line. That lone spotted vulture riding the thermals above me just added to the sense of adventure.

This first day was guided, as I had no time to plan the two days before I headed off on holiday, having lots of work on before we left. I used Mallorca Hiking and the owner, Nina, was really helpful and friendly on our email exchanges. If I’d have had more time I could have figured out a 2 day route, looked at bus timetables, booked into the hostel etc. But having people on the ground who knew all of that worked well.

Sam – the guide who met me on the first morning and walked with me as far as the hostel / refugio at the end of the first day – was equally as friendly. And clearly an outdoors enthusiast, having a degree in such things and having been in Nepal recently. He managed to make me feel not too much the out of shape middle-aged ‘rambler’ to his 20 something mountain man 😉

We talked a lot about blogging, kit selection and falling in bogs, alone in the middle of nowhere (a shared experience), as much as the beautiful fauna and flora that we walked amongst.

Day 1 on the GR221: Santuari des Lluc to Tossals Verds hostel

GR221 Mallorca Dry Stone Route
An overview of the first day walking (east to west) from Lluc to the Tossals Verds refuge.

Day 1 summary:
– Planned as 6 hours walking + breaks
– A distance of approximately 15km, with ascent/descent of approximately 800m/700m
– The guide-book grade: challenging
– Temperature: bread oven hot (my grade)

The day started by getting the bus from Port de Soller where Anita and I were staying, up the winding mountain roads to the monastery of Lluc.

I had a quick mooch around the Santuari / monastery in Lluc. I think you can stay there as part of a tourist visit but it is still a ‘working monastery’ if that’s the right expression. There was not surprisingly a quiet feel to the place and lots of shady spots to sit and contemplate the universe.

I did some of that too during my two days walking under the palpable presence of our local star. Finding a tree to hide under for a few minutes and sipping water, whilst watching a bird hopping about in the dust a couple of feet away.

Anyway, Lluc was an impressive setting and if I’d have had more time I would have explored some more. But we were heading  for Tossals Verds, the hostel / refugio some 15km away with a longish walk ahead of us.

Below are some photos from the day showing both the type of path I encountered and some of the great views. The Tossals Verds refugio is a delight, a lovely place to spend the night, with its nature garden and attendant cheeky (room raiding) pine martens.

 

GR221 Mallorca Tramuntana
Heading up to the flanks of the Puig de Massanella, you can see the remains of various snow houses. Ice / snow houses were a thriving industry between the 17th and 19th century. (http://www.masmallorca.com/culture/qsnow-housesq-before-mallorca-had-fridges.html)
GR221 Mallorca hike Tamuntana
Sam indulging my request for a staged photo. Map checking was not actually required on much of the hike (I had with me in any case). These signs were well maintained and for the most pretty clear to see where the path was.
GR221 Mallorca Stone Way Lluc view in the Tramuntana mountains
Heading up and out of the trees (and for a while, away from the cacophony of crickets). LLuc was below us in the distance.
GR22 Tramuntana Mountains with view of Puig Major
Looking across to Puig Major, Mallorca’s highest peak. You can’t climb it as there is a military complex on top and to the side of the mountain. Hence the radar ‘golf ball’ on the top.
Gr221 Mallorca Hiking Tossals verds and Puig de la Senyora Coloma
The table topped mountain is I think Puig de la Senyora Coloma (I tried to confirm that via Google but getting mixed results). It is a really arresting shape to spot as you start to wind your way down to the Tossals Verds hostel.
GR221 Tossals verds refugio hostel
A few of Tossals Verds refugio as the shadows of the evening start to wash the mountains with a dusty blue. It was still baking hot at around 6pm in the evening. So much so that I washed out the shirt I had been wearing all day then put it on a stone to dry. It was bone dry within the hour.
Tossals verds hostel GR221 Serra de Tramuntana
Puig de la Senyora Coloma in the glow of early dusk. The cicadas were beginning to abate and the high pitched whistlely-warbling of goldfinches flitting amongst the trees in front of me became more prominent. We have goldfinches in the garden at home but this setting seemed altogether more magical. And less midge ridden too!
GR221 Pine Marten Tossals verds
One of the Pine Martens that I spotted sussing out a quick dash into the kitchen for food.
Gr221 Tossals verds Pine MArten
In case you didn’t spot the other fella – this was a different Pine Marten mooching about within a couple of minutes of the other (who had skedaddled back up the hill into the trees).

Day 2: Tossals verds to Port de Soller

GR221 Tossals verds hostel to Soller
Day 2: on the GR221 from Tossals Verds hostel to Soller then Port de Soller

Day 2 summary:
– Planned as 6.5-7 hours + breaks (it took about 8.5 due to frequent photo breaks, heat, one very long and steep descent + sore knee..)
– A distance of approximately 17km, with ascent/descent of approximately 847m/1369m
– The guide book grade: challenging
– Temperature: pizza oven hot (my grade)

There were two routes from Tossals Verds refugio back to Port de Soller: one would be in sunshine from the start and (as Sam had mentioned with air quotes the day before) it had a short ‘Via Ferrata’ (clearly not hazardous enough for him. kids today eh?). The other would be in the tree line for the first hour or more and more of straight path. I actually liked the idea of the airquotes-via-ferrata but not the heat right from the start of the day.

So route two it was: going back on myself for the first hour or so around Puig dels Tossals Verds and Puig de la Font. I had looked at the map the night before and considered diverting off the GR221 to climb up one of the peaks (Puigs). But when it came to it the 60+ minute round trip diversion didn’t seem that appealing.

There were plenty of great views to be had on the slightly lower elevation path, plenty of birds to spot and sounds and smells to take in. By sounds I mean the all-encompassing cicada cacophony on some stretches.

So I stayed on the GR221. It wasn’t the ‘danger – big game / rifles here’ signs I saw a couple of times that put me off, honest. Actually I guessed it wasn’t the hunting season. But that was just a guess.

That first stretch of the walk was in proximity to but not walking with a couple of young german women that had been in the hostel the night before. We did that unspoken thing of being sociable but not cramping each other’s walking experience. There had been three other folks in the hostel the night before, all german, all friendly (despite some alarm at my woeful schoolboy german).

The girls (I’m old. okay, .. the young women) walked on ahead of me as I stopped to get some shots of ‘valley of the vultures’. And I didn’t see them again until nearly in Soller, sheltering in a small cafe from the warm drizzle of a grumbling thunderstorm.  By that stage they had endured a seemingly endless descent as I had and were just as red-faced as me. And then I saw them again with Anita a day later in beautiful Valldemossa but we’d all caught the bus there.. that’s not a quick walk from Port de Soller.

Back to the GR221: various birds were spotted, some we have in the back garden, some not. The decidedly ‘not’ would have been vultures or eagles. But I only spotted one vulture and it was too high for the camera, even with a zoom lens. And something that looked liked a vulture that I think (on checking the image on the computer), was a raven or carrion crow or some kind of large corvid.

I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the day’s long, hot but excellent walk.

GR221 Mallorca hiking Tossals verds to Soller
Looking down to lovely Tossals Verds refugio and thankfully in shadow on the first 45 minutes or so ascent back to higher ground.
GR221 Mallorca hiking Tossals verds to Soller
I’d stopped to get a photo of a birdie (there was a lot of that going on) and stood as I was in the shadow ,this sheep came out of the bright sunlight, scrabbling around the rocky corner at speed and hadn’t seen me, so we nearly collided. The german women may have spooked it, as they passed me a couple of minutes later. But they weren’t scrabbling in the same way – so no collision. That saved some embarrassment all round.

Gr221 Tossals verds valley of vultures
‘The valley of the vultures’ according to Sam, as described the day before. It’s a poetic place-name but said birds weren’t fully endorsing it and didn’t appear whilst I sat there gazing for ten minutes, sipping water.
Gr221 Tossals verds to Soller wildflower
One of the many types of wild flowers growing near and on the stone path. I was told there are many more in evidence in spring. That’d be a great sight.
Gr221 Tossals verds to Soller route
Looking east towards the Embassament de Gorg Blau – one of the two freshwater lakes high in the hills that serves all of Mallorca. I’d picked up the chest height aqueduct around here and walked besides it for a good hour.
GR221 aqueduct Mallorca
Part of the stretch of aqueduct you follow at one point for say 45 minutes or so, on the way to Soller. The ever eye-catching military golf ball on Puig Major in the distance.
GR221 wild bird mallorca
If you look online (https://www.mallorcabirdwatching.com/birds/) you’ll see there are some really unusual birds to be found in Mallorca. I didn’t do that well but saw a lot of these little guys – in abundance near the conduit / aqueduct, great to see. That site above doesn’t seem to have these on it though, hmm.
Wild bird mallorca on GR221 hike route
Another bird I couldn’t identify .. possible a Cirl Bunting. possibly.
Gr221 wild bird on hike trail Mallorca
And another bird.. again, my birding skills are non existent, clearly. Not sure what this is.
GR221 Lake Cuber Mallorca
The sun was in full effect now . which made the waters of Lake Cuber all the more inviting. No swimming though as the lake slakes the thirst of Mallorca. And has fresh water turtles in it apparently, who wouldn’t welcome my company. (A quick google can’t find turtles in Lake Cuber. Although they are both turtles and tortoises on the island so it may be right that they are there).

It may not look like it but I was still at a pretty high elevation at around 750m on the shores of lake Cuber.

Then there was to be a gradual ascent back to around 800m, before a knee-thumping big drop of around 600m of cobbled mountain switchbacks from Es Cornador, down to the small town of Biniaraix.

GR221 Mallorca hike lake cuber view
Looking back towards Lake Cuber. The walk from there to this view had been mostly in direct sunlight but that short woods section you can see was very welcome.

The sound of the crickets, the sight of small alpine flowers on the path and the smell of the wild rosemary that I brushed past in a couple of places combined to almost cliche level: intoxicating, overwhelming, euphoric, orchestral. An aching achilles and sore knee kept me grounded though. Discordant and staccato strings to the melody of the mountains.

I wasn’t sure exactly what the cross cemented atop a cairn was about but I liked the obvious craft that had gone in to it. A pathside shrine for sure – but why here? There was a dirt service road nearby(for the lake, I think), so people may well drive here for occasions.

It had a nautical theme to my eyes albeit this was still the interior high ground.

GR221 Mallorca Stone way view to port de soller
After half an hour or so of more welcome woodland descent I came out to L’ofre and a high viewpoint of Port de Soller below.

Below me and out of shot was a sharp fall away down to a gorge – Torrent de L’ofre. “Glad I’m not heading down that track” I thought, reassuring both sore knee and vertigo mind.

A check of the map showed I would be and it was a continuation of the GR221. And the tightly packed contours told their tale of a rapid shedding of height.

The path itself was excellent, what had looked like a dirt track in the first few metres became an excellent cobbled path with dozens of tight switchbacks for the next hour and half.

GR221 Mallorca
The start of the descent downhill (before the cobbled path appeared), keeping parallel to Torrent de L’Ofre but hugging the mountainside.

From around 800m down to 100m in the town of Biniaraix below. Before that I walked close to some big drops in some places, with upturned stones on the path edge acting a visual reminders to hug the other side of the path (for me, anyway). But probably more to act as channelers of rain water – so it ran down the path rather than wash away the mountain side.

At around the 450m mark I entered olive groves, passing a few locked up huts / houses that I’m guessing are used when families move up the mountain for the harvest season.

Still with the sound of the cicada chorus. And conducting the chorus (or guarding the ol’ family homestead) on two occasions: goats on roofs. Strange times.

Some of the trees I passed must be ancient, hundreds of years old in some cases, judging by the width of the trunks

I joined the intersecting Torrent des Verger amongst the olive plantations, a dry river bed that I crossed over back and forth 3 or 4 times. You could see where fast flowing water had gouged deeply into the rock when in spate.

I was contemplating flash floods (ever the health and safety officer) when the first rumble of thunder started and drizzle appeared. The humidity level jumped and the sky darkened to the north-west. Time to stow the camera.

GR221 Mallorca Torrent des verger
I could see rain in the distance past Biniaraix and above Soller – and hear the thunder. A cascade of lightning had me putting my walking poles away. They have ribber grips but you never know..
GR221 Mallorca Torrent des Verger
You can how well made the track is – solid enough for the donkeys (I believe) to bring the olives down from on high. I did see some donkeys in a field down at the town’s edge.

The Torrent des Verger on the photo above is below and to my left. I was musing about how long it would take the river bed below me to fill and then for the path to flood and wash me away (cheery, I know) if the heavens truly opened. Luckily for me the rain never really came to much but the rolling thunder and occasional flash of sheet lightning added some drama to the descent.

After what seemed like a never-ending descent (I was glad I was heading down not up in the heat though), I arrived in Biniaraix, a small town on the edge of Soller. I said hello the german hikers, had a very welcome cold cola then walked down to Soller, looking back up to the mountains I had spent two days in.

GR221 Biniaraix Soller mountains Mallorca
Looking past lemon trees and back up to the mountainside I had walked down, over on the right..

After negotiating some side streets I exited out onto the central square in Soller, packed with tourists enjoying a coffee or beer under the shade of the cafe parasols. Something Anita and I had done a few days before.

From here I could have carried on with the GR221 for another hour or more, gaining elevation before dropping down onto the western end of Port de Soller. But I’d actually done that short part with Anita a few days before. So I took the civilized option to get back to the apartment we were staying in..

GR221 Soller Tram
My tram back to Port de Soller (and a cold beer) awaits..

 

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