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Cami de Cavalls day 15 – A Towering Achievement

Monday September 27 2021 – Well, here we are – at the start of the final day of walking around Menorca on the Cami de Cavalls, the horses’ trail. The official distance we had to cover was 18km – the three final stages, 18-20 of the Cami de Cavalls – and for the first time for a while, we had a deadline – 5pm in the Cami360 office in Mahón. In the end, we left our studio in Binibequer Vell early, which gave us some time to wander round and take some photos of this amazing, if slightly shabby, place. Rather than bore you with all of them here, I’ve collected them into a Flickr album alongside some others I took a couple of years ago, in case you would like to take a look.

As ever, you can see the route and some photos in a summary video on Relive. I may try to merge the thirteen videos into a single, fascinating, overview. You never know your luck.

Having started out early, we realised that we were going to be on roads for much of the day. This can be a bit dull, but progress is faster; so we knew we had some slack in the schedule. This turned out to be A Good Thing.

Anyhoo, along the road towards the end of the first of today’s stages at Punta Prima, we saw some interesting houses

some interesting pedestrian crossing design

some interesting garden decoration

and some steps,

which, for once, we didn’t have to climb, thank goodness. We passed Cala Torret, which was a lovely jumble of buildings

and presaged its USP, which is a tower – watch tower, and one of several we visited during the day (hence the title).

We walked round the tower and. having spotted the entrance, decided to try the door. It was open, to the amazement not only of us, but of the lady who was inside. It turned out that this tower can be hired (for example as a youth hostel overnight place) and she was cleaning it. She actually let us go up the tower and have a look from the top, which was wonderful.

We had a great view of the Punta Prima lighthouse

and over Punta Prima to the next Tower on our route,

and down the spiral stairs! She was really delightful in giving us a lovely moment of serendipity on our final day.

We carried on around the coast towards the next town, bidding farewell to Punta Prima and its lighthouse

and its beautifully colourful coves

and, via a stop for coffee and extra breakfast which also marked the end of this short stage of the Cami

moved on to the next stage, stage 19. We actually left the road for a trail

which led past a Mystery Object

and what we think are the foundations of some military buildings once related to the tower

but, I’ll be honest, we’re guessing on that last bit. The path ran parallel to the road, across which were some buildings which looked to me like the sort of thing American architects would create as being their version of what a Spanish Villa should look like.

They looked more like something one would see in Florida rather than in Spain. Nice, but slightly out of place, somehow. The road led on, as these things often do, to the next town, and, in this case, the next tower.

This stands guard over the town of Alcalfar, which is stunningly photogenic.

We walked into and round it, past possibly the local version of Stamford Bridge.

The track beyond the town went past a magnificent bloomer

which Jane identified as Port St. John Creeper. Just thought you’d like to know. And we found another wild tortoise!

The track continued between drystone walls

past some handsome buildings

and finally led to my road

which was to lead to my cove. However, on the way there, we passed a couple of unusual things: a line of palm trees, unfortunately behind heavy gates so I couldn’t take a really satisfying picture of them (and neither, by the way, could any of group of 15 German tourists with whom we were by now entangled);

another watchtower, the Torre d’en Penjat,

which was still sufficiently fortified that, after ten minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get near it, we gave up and moved on (but the Germans didn’t; it looked like they’d found a way in, but our schedule was calling us on by this stage); and some great views of the fortifications which guard the entrance to Mahón’s extensive harbour.

So we walked down into my cove, the Cala St. Esteve, which is very pretty,

and which is the end of Stage 19, and hence the start of the final Stage of the Cami, no. 20.

This stage starts with a little bit of track, but it soon turns into road for the rest of the trail into Mahón. There are only four posts marking this first part of the stage, which means that post no. 4

is….wait for it….The Last Post. Thank you. Thank you for reading my joke.

The Cami from this point simply follows the main road into Mahón, which is a bit dull, even if you get an interesting view back to the palm trees,

but we had a small diversion planned, which was to end up by the water in a cove called Cales Fonts, which is achingly pretty

but which also – and this is important – features a place to stop for lunch called Dinkums; we knew about it because it had rescued a hot and sweaty walk two years previously. So we treated ourselves to lunch there, and it turned out our timing was spot on. As we were ready to leave, the group of 15 Germans turned up and sat themselves down – great for business, but something of a strain on the bandwidth of the waiting staff and probably the chef, too.

The reason we needed to leave was another piece of serendipity, as we had to get to Mahón, and specifically the finish of the Cami, to meet someone we’d never met before – a chap called Ian Burley, whose acquaintance I’d made online when he started following this blog and my Instagram posts about the Cami, because he was about to undertake the trail himself. You can see his Instagram posts about the Cami and other stuff here.

He started the circuit from Ciutadella a day after we’d passed through, but, being younger, fitter and much more experienced at hiking than us, was doing the whole thing in ten days, as opposed to the wimpy thirteen we’ve been taking. It turned out that he’d overtaken us in Binibequer Vell and had already reached Mahón. So, the miracle of technology and the internet meant that we could arrange to actually meet in person, rather than simply exchanging likes on social media.

So we hit the road, passing through Es Castell and its military buildings

and ignored the main road into Mahón, which was the formal Cami trail, in favour of the old road, which kept us away from the boring old traffic for a while.

But then we had to finish the route on the main road, passing the end of the harbour

and arriving into the town.

The Cami route passes along my favourite road in Mahón, the Calle Es Castell, with the trees along its centre (see the post at the start of this series), and we ended up having coffee and beer with Ian near the Tre Cavalli (Three Horses) statue where our trek had started, 13 days ago.

It was a pleasure to meet Ian – actually meeting him IRL is a great example of the good things the internet can do. He’s a very keen traveller, kayaker and hiker and you can read about his peregrinations on his blog.

For us, though, all that was left for the day was to get to the Cami360 office to pick up our baggage and our congratulatory tee shirts, and to say “thank you” to the Cami360 guys and girls who had done such a good job of keeping everything together for us – and the other several dozen groups they are supporting. Their last act of kindness was to organise a cab to take us to Ciutadella. As I type this, I am sitting in the dusk outside the lovely and superbly luxurious Can Faustino hotel, where we can relax for the next couple of days, enjoying the delights of the city – and getting ourselves Covid tested so that we’ll (hopefully) be allowed back into the UK on Thursday.

According to Garmin, we covered 15 miles today, so our total mileage for the trail has been 145 in 13 days. I suspect this is somewhat overblown; I’ll do some more detailed analysis in due course and report back.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these pages as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. I will post a couple more updates over the next couple of days about our time in the city and the experience of getting Covid tested and getting (I hope) back into the UK, and I’ll include those detailed stats about our fortnight’s walking; but for the moment, this marks the end of the long trek round Menorca, the Cami de Cavalls. We’ve had a blast!

Cami de Cavalls day 14 – In the Bini

Sunday September 26 2021 – After a reasonably  comfortable night, but a breakfast which using the word “adequate” to describe would count as fulsome praise, we set off on our way, officially some 14km, to Binibèquer Vell; there was one small diversion planned to the Cami route. As ever, if you want just to se the route and some photos, there’s a video of today’s walk up on Relive.

Having said that, the first thing we did appeared to be a diversion from the official Cami trail.  The interactive map which we had been consulting occasionally on our way showed a straight road, whereas the route markers on the lampposts and street signs took us off to the right.

The interactive map track is the orange path in the above. We decided in the end that the Cala en Porter Marketing Board had got to the official Cami route organisation to make sure that we passed a viewpoint so we could see a couple of attractive views.

We rejoined the straight bit and then plunged off into the undergrowth, heading steeply down a rocky path and then, yes, up another steep path for some farewell views of Cala en Porter

on a fairly broad, level path.

The diversion we had planned to visit was a little way away from the Cami trail, and we had a choice of a country trail down to it, or to keep with the Cami path.  Jane opted for the latter, on the basis that it might be an easier surface.

Ah, well, never mind. We got down anyway and went to the “cove caves”, a necropolis in use to bury people from the 11th century BC until the Roman invasion, after which it was used for a wider variety of purposes.  All one can see from the cove is caves in the cliff.  Thanks are due to Jane for the second photo which was quite difficult to get because it was more or less directly into the sun and I frankly couldn’t be bothered.

Once again on our way, we passed views of a hillside community called, I think, Binicalaf, that we didn’t actually visit

before the path took us into a change of landscape to farming country.

We saw another wild tortoise, a bit larger than yesterday’s

Before the path suddenly jinked left

Past some impressive rock formations

and into a place called Es Canutells

at the top end of which is a pretty substantial tourist village.

The next couple of kilometres were, frankly, dull and hot; simply ploughing along a road and occasionally diving out of the way of oncoming traffic (including some motorcycle gangs – it seems that there are commonalities between England and Spain when it comes to lads on a Sunday morning).

There were a couple of handsome properties to see as we toiled along, such as this one

which we assume is a farmhouse – it appears that farming is a lucrative business to be in here –before we once again headed onto country track.  It’s worth recording that the road itself gave us a clue as to when to head off into the country, via a red-and-white band on the road surface itself which stopped when we were due to turn off.

We stopped for a rest and an apple to fortify ourselves before heading off through farmland again, marked out by some fortified farmhouses such as Sargossam (now disused, it would appear)

And Santa Caterina (still, it would appear, operational).

We also passed other farm buildings and evidence of fortifications, so it was clear that at one stage this was an area where the farms had a role in defending against various marauding riffs.

This last place had a nice vegetable garden outside, mainly ploughed and awaiting new planting, but with crops at one end such as chillis and lime and persimmon trees.

The path then led us (gently, fortunately) down into a ravine called Barranc de Biniparratx

(where it became clear we were on the flight path into Mahón airport)

and up again until we caught sight of the town marking the end of this stage of the track, Binisafuller.

Sadly, much as we would have liked this to be the end of the day’s walking – it was very hot in direct sunshine – we had a couple of kilometres to go to reach our overnight accommodation. There were some handsome houses to look at as we passed

and a nice view over the beach.

There was clear evidence of fairly brutal clearing of bushes to keep the track passable

and we stumbled along this and back on to the road which fairly soon led us to our overnight stay – the remarkable place called Binibèquer Vell.

This is a sort of designer fishing village, which we had visited before a couple of years ago, and so we were quite looking forward to staying here, to satisfy our sense of curiosity about the place, which we regard as being Menorca’s answer to Portmeirion, the unique Italianate village in Wales used as the set for The Prisoner and also a popular tourist destination. “Vell” means old in Catalan, by the way, which is rather an ironic word to use for something built in 1972.

Our first task as to find a reception desk among the jumble of buildings, so we wandered sweatily around for a while past apartments, restaurants, car hire desks and supermarkets before Jane spotted a small sign saying “Reception”.  After the usual Charlotte Hayward discussion, we were allowed to get to our room, a small studio apartment – with no Wifi! Shock!! Horror!!! – where we could hose ourselves off and relax for a bit.  We went out to the (Spar) supermarket to get milk, water and other supplies, so that we could award ourselves a Nice Cup Of Tea (oh, and an ice cream!) and thus fortify ourselves so that we could find some lunch.  The main body of Binibeca Vell looks good from a distance, but it’s very much a beach- and swimming-focussed enterprise, with a very touristy feel to it.  So we went a short way, back to where I took the above photo, to a restaurant and “pool chillout bar” called Sa Cuina, which was altogether calmer and more restrained – but also no Wifi! (I begin to detect a pattern, here).  Jane opted for refined food like tapas and salad, and I had a burger; and the beer (me) and gin (both of us) were very, very welcome indeed.  We’d only covered 10 miles, but most of it was in direct and sizzling sunshine; I’m only glad the going was not too difficult, as this would have made it a very trying day, I think.

Today was our penultimate day of walking the Cami, which must mean that we will complete the circuit tomorrow as we make our way along the last 18km back to where we started in Mahón .

Our stats for the day:

  • 10.08 miles walked
  • 210 metres climbed

Therefore we’ve covered over 130 miles, according to Garmin. I have one pair of clean socks left which I have carefully saved for the last day’s walking, but I’m certainly going to need to order a fresh sock stock for continuing exercise once we get back to the UK, as the ones I’ve been using here are utterly shot.  Remarkably, though, we are not suffering from any walking-related injuries from this trip, despite the miles covered.  You’ll have to tune in again tomorrow to find out how the day unfolded.

Cami de Cavalls day 13 – Talaiot Ho!

Saturday 25 September 2021 – I was going to do another silly schoolboy thing and call this post “Cole Porter”, because the destination of today’s walking is Cala en Porter and I’ll use any tenuous link if necessary – as you’ll no doubt have noticed if you’ve been reading this blog for more than a day or so.  However, this got overtaken by events and an even more tenuous link, and you’ll just have to read on to find out about it. Won’t you?

(Well, you could get a hint by the usual short cut of viewing the highlights on Relive, I suppose.)

We took advantage of being in an apartment to have a Nice Cup Of Tea as part of breakfast (note to all socialists everywhere – proper tea is not theft), and generally made an effort to finish up those bits of our recent supermarket purchase which wouldn’t survive another day. Then we checked out and started on the day’s walking on a day which the Met Office promised to be partly sunny and rather warm (up to 28°C); it was certainly very humid. It stayed that way. Unfortunately.

The Cami de Cavalls organisers have done a very impressive job of trail marking. It’s very clear that a lot of effort has gone into making following it as straightforward as possible (or, of course, sometimes left or right). For example, there’s a hugely useful interactive map, which we Jane used to make sure that we knew where we were and where we had to go next. And this comes in handy when the signposts from the Cami’s organisers fall perhaps a little short of perfection.

(To be fair, it’s extremely rare that the route is not very clear; we came across an instance later in the day when the signs ran out and the interactive map was useful, and this was the first time that the route onwards was not pretty much obvious.)

The route leads upwards out of Sant Tomàs

and into nice views and fairly open country.

The first of these pictures shows our first sight of the end of the first of today’s two stages, Son Bou.  We passed something that we thought was possibly evidence of a very successful harvest of the main crop round here – stones (you’ll have to read through the blog to understand how witty this is)

and what we  decided was a “before and after” advert for the use of the harvest.

There were some more actual cavalls

wasps on the nest

a sow and (we posited) her piglets

as we entered a wetland which, we read, was the second most important after the Albufera area we’d passed through on the first day of our walking.

The photo above shows another view of Son Bou, which we entered shortly after, with our first ever viewing of people actually riding horses on the horses’ trail.

Son Bou itself is another seaside town (bigger than I had realised until I caught sight of it), and is a bit of a mixture of handsome houses

and less classy aspects.

It was the end of the first of today’s two stages, and so we started up the next one, theoretically a short hop to Cala en Porter. Of course, we’re in ravine country here, so the “hop” involves going up

and up

and then – well, bless me! – down

you get the idea, I’m sure.  I’m not going to belabour the point. Except maybe I will. Being in ravine country gives rise to some great views

and as we passed the bottom of the ravine – unsurprisingly a seaside cove – we saw evidence of previous mining activity

which, presumably, was to do with what looked like significant mineral content in the rocks hereabouts.

Having got down to this cove, we climbed again and found ourselves in open country

leading to today’s diversion, which was considerably more interesting and impressive than I had expected.  Menorca has a very significant megalithic (Talaiotic) heritage, which we’d first come across in our visit a couple of years ago. (I mention the Talaiotic word to help you understand the title of this post, by the way.) The Cami360 booklet mentioned a couple of sites worth a visit near the trail, so off we set to have a look.

The first is a sepulchre site, with a dolmen – one of Menorca’s oldest megalithic structures – a tomb that originally had a long corridor that one had to crawl along to get to the burial space.

and other impressive stone work surrounding it.

Some what further along the track is a site called Torre d’en Galmés.  From the view we got across the fields as we approached, I was expecting just, you know, this tower.  It’s actually among the most significant Talaiotic sites on the island, and much, much, bigger than I had expected. Indeed, it’s so significant that you have to pay to get in! You can read details on Wikipedia, but here are some photos wot I took:

There’s now research which indicates that at least some of the Talaiots – piles of stones whose purpose is actually unknown – might have something to do with early understanding of astronomy;

a collapsed Taula (“table”) which is in a space which had religious significance at the time;

a burial cave;

and olive oil mill/press;

and a hypostyle chamber (sadly with the roof no longer completely extant).

It really is a huge site; it knocks into a cocked hat any of the sites that Jane and I had seen on our previous visit to the island. It was quite awe-inspiring, even for me, though I was wilting quite considerably in the heat and humidity of the day.

After this, we walked into Cala en Porter, which was gently downhill (until another fucking sharp uphill section which I really didn’t want to have to deal with)

but which, of course, led to some decent views across the fertile valley at the base of the ravine we were basically going down (except for the bloody up bits).

It was our day for animal life, it would seem: pigs, piglets, horses – and then Jane spotted this little fella:

the first tortoise (Galapagos aside) I can ever recall seeing that wasn’t a pet.

We also had our first sight of Cala en Porter

which looked pretty high, for a cove, and made me wonder how much further uphill we’d have to walk later. Correctly, as it turned out; once we hit the end of the track and got onto tarmac, the trail led up – and then we had to walk slightly further up tp get to our hotel.  As I mentioned yesterday, this is a medieval castle first built in 1971.

There had been some doubt as to whether it was a one-star or 5-star hotel. I can now dispel that doubt: one-star, but this is not necessarily disastrous.  The proprietor, Rafael, is clearly a rogue, but he seems to be on top of his business.  He got us organised and into our rooms (air-conditioned! thank Christ! as I was fair wiped out by this stage) and, very shortly after, equipped with beer and other refreshments. The place is not posh, but it has its own charm. The interior décor is fairly unique – here is the upstairs “sitting room” from which the bedrooms lead off:                           

The bar/breakfast room, complete with Rafael and Mrs Rafael

and the place is not short of character.

Once the early evening arrived, we had tapas here – very good – and then retired for our usual administrative time – blogging or working out what the morrow would bring,

The diversion to the Talaiotic sites had extended the day’s walking from the expected 10 miles to 14, and added a few extra metres of ascent as well – we climbed 298m, some 45m more than the diverted walk. So we’re now up to a total of 121 miles, with two days’ walking – another 20 miles or thereabouts – to go. I expect them all to be hot and sweaty, but we are fundamentally enjoying ourselves, even during the uphill bits.  Do come back tomorrow to see how we got on, won’t you?