Tag Archives: Walking

Cami de Cavalls day 18 – Departure day and final thoughts

Saturday 2 October 2021 – We’ve been home for a couple of days, so now that we’ve caught up with the unpacking, washing and ironing, and are starting once more to get used to the rhythms of life at home – which don’t sadly, involve drinking gin every day – I thought I’d reflect on our final day in Menorca, the journey home and any other rambling that occurs to me.

We were due to be taken to the airport by taxi at 1345, which gave us the morning to fill. Although we’d seen pretty much all that Ciutadella had to offer the tourist, it’s such an attractive city that we went wandering round anyway.  This was last Thursday, 30th September; when we visited Menorca previously in 2019, October 1 was the date when all the bus services beyond the main route connecting the large towns was suspended, as this was officially Out Of Season.  So it was interesting to note, as we walked around in the harbour, that some of the restaurant umbrellas were being jetwashed.

Now, it may be that this is a standard practice for a Thursday, in preparation for the weekend; or it may be that this was an end-of-season activity, preparing to put things away for the winter. We don’t rightly know, but it had a slightly sad valedictory feel to it, somehow.

We carried on wandering around, noting a couple of other quirky artworks.

(The chap with the plunger was connected to a drawing of a pile of TNT.) We’d bought a couple of bottles of the local gin to take home with us, because we know that, unlike much booze that is consumed on holiday in The Foreign, Xoriguer gin travels well.  So we complemented it with a purchase of some sobrasada, the local sausage meat which figures prominently in Balearic recipes, particularly tapas. Let’s see if that travels as well, eh?

After a final farewell coffee in Es Pou, it was time to get back to the hotel and await the cab to the airport.  From there on, the travels went perfectly smoothly, with the minimum of time wasted standing in a queue waiting for the check-in desk to open.  The flight was on time – well done, EasyJet – perfect punctuality for both outward and return journeys and a perfect amount of gin and junk food available for purchase on board – and the UK passport gates seemed to be talking to the other Covid systems so we wafted through the border with no queue at all and without having to show any paperwork beyond our passports.  My bag was number 19 on the conveyor, with Jane’s not too far behind, the taxi was not only awaiting us but had enough fuel to get us home, and so we entered our front door some 80 minutes after the plane touched down, which was nice.  The 15°C temperature and the steady rain was less so, but it was still good to get home and find it still standing.  No-one had raided our cars for fuel, either, which was comforting.

The only fly in the ointment was our Day 2 Covid test back in the UK.  We’d booked it and DPD were supposed to deliver it, but failed because their driver (who I’m pretty sure has delivered to us before) got us confused with the nursing home at the end of our track.   The UK government web pages don’t specify what you’re supposed to do if the test delivery is cocked up. And anyway the rules change on Monday.  We’ve both taken Lateral Flow tests (negative) and have a full audit trail of the efforts we’ve been to to get a test delivered in a timely fashion, and I have no idea whether The Men From The Ministry will follow up in any way.  We’ll just do the PCR tests assuming that DPD don’t cock up again on Monday, but it was very frustrating.

So, here we are, back home, and here I am on a rainy Saturday in Surrey, with the temperature at 13°C outside, thinking final thoughts about a memorable 18 days.

  • It’s been a great experience; although we’d recreated the mileage a year ago, it was pleasing to know that we could still take this sort of mileage in our stride.  Although we did less vertical ascent than last year, we found this year generally harder going; the heat was one factor and the surface underfoot was another which made this year’s exertion greater.
  • The pattern of the days was different from my original expectations. Like last year’s re-creation, I had hoped to be able to walk about half of each day’s distance, find a hostelry of some sort, have a drink and some lunch and then finish the walk.  As it turned out, with only a couple of exceptions, we did all of the walking without breaks of any pith or moment. The heat had a lot to do with that – we wanted to get the walking done before the day got too hot.
  • The exercise emphasised to me what a wonderful thing the human metabolism is.  On our longer walks in the UK, ones on which we take water with us, it is not unusual for me to have to dive off into the bushes for a discreet pee.  Over a fortnight of walking in the heat, despite taking on a fair bit of water as I walked, not once did I feel the need to relieve myself; and I never got dehydrated, either.  My bodily systems just sent the water where it was needed, including as sweat to try to keep me cool.  It nearly succeeded in that last. Nearly.
  • One of the great things about this holiday was the fact that we could indulge ourselves with slightly too much to eat and drink (what’s a holiday for if not that?) and not come back half a stone heavier than when we left. Garmin Connect estimates that covering the Cami used up 18,625 calories, which converts to just over 5lb in weight.  I have arrived back weighing pretty much the same as when I left the UK.
  • Would we go back to Menorca?  Actually, probably not, not at least in the foreseeable future.  It’s a lovely place and I’m glad we (a) visited and (b) went back; but we’ve now seen a great deal of what the island has to offer, and there are plenty of other places in the world we haven’t yet been to that I think now have a higher priority (particularly whilst we have our health and mobility).
  • Would we recommend it?  Yes.  The island’s a delight, the Cami360 team do a great job, and I would unhesitatingly recommend it as a walking holiday, though I think it wouldn’t be wise to undertake it in the heat of August.  Apart from anything else, they need tourists – we were quite surprised at how few English voices we heard, and one of our taxi drivers was quite vocal about the excessive number of Spanish tourists that have visited this year.  Covid has had quite an impact it would seem.
  • Photography note: I could have taken my Big Camera with me, but didn’t.  I trusted that a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 would do a good enough job and it has.  I also had a small video camera with me (DJI Pocket 2, since you ask) but I only used it once and actually the phone would have done a pretty good job if necessary. The light was normally perfectly good, there weren’t any tricky wildlife shots or other unusual circumstances where a more capable camera would have been needed, with the one exception of the Cova des Coloms, where I would have liked to have with me a camera that could cope with a bigger range of light.  But one photo out of a couple of thousand doesn’t in my mind justify having to lug the extra weight, particularly in that heat.

Here’s a map of where we actually walked. The various colours are assigned by Garmin depending on the speed we walked.

So there we are – another holiday over and another set of blog pages satisfactorily drafted.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I have had writing them.  There’s still a lot of uncertainty about international travel so our plans for future trips are still somewhat fluid.  But I plan to be back among these pages with more photos and commentary and I would be delighted to have your company whenever that happens.

For now, stay well!


Cami de Cavalls day 9 – Wet Wet Wet

Tuesday 21 September 2021 – Fuck me, what rain! Oh, and wind!

Much of what follows is a long moan about the utterly, cataclysmically shitty weather we had to stumble through today.  So you can avoid several paragraphs of my moaning by watching the route and photos on Relive. But you’ll get a lovely dose of schadenfreude if you read on instead.

There had been a few straws in the wind about possible rain today, and so I looked at the various weather forecasts available to try to understand how the day would play out.  The UK Met Office suggested heavy showers with possible thunder; the Spanish website suggested by the Cami360 folk forecast grey skies with some rain.

They were both wrong; and I’m never going to trust the Spanish site again. Based on its more sanguine forecast and the choice of available dry socks I decided to go out in the running shoes which had proved so comfortable for walking in during the first five days of the trail.

This turned out to be an unwise choice.

Our pick up time at the hotel was 0830, for a lift back to Cala Morell, where we would start a 20km walk of easy grade – two stages of the trail, 9 and 10 – leading back into Ciutadella, where we were staying.  In our visualisation the day before, we thought we could have a nice easy walk to the outskirts of the city, where we could see lots of restaurants and bars, and stop for a Nice Lunch before tottering back to the hotel to sleep it off.

This turned out to be wrong on almost every level.

Deposited at the Cala Morell necropolis, we thought we might as well check out the one cave we hadn’t seen the day before; and very impressive it was, too.

Then we moseyed on to the start of the day’s first stage and set off along what looked like a reasonable path – maybe a bit rocky, but surely not too bad.

There was something of a sharp shower of rain, but it passed soon enough, and we carried on our way, amid some great light and bidding farewell to Cala Morell.

There was even a rainbow, nicely framing a stone hut, to wish us on our way.

I noticed a slightly ominous-looking cloud formation that clearly was carrying rain, but thought that the wind would carry it away from us.

Reader, I was wrong.

From this point, it basically hurled it down with rain for the next four hours.  Occasionally, the rain’s ghastliness was amplified by gale force winds, the only redeeming feature of which was that these came from approximately behind us (over the course of the day we met several groups coming the other way along the trail who had therefore to walk into hissing rain and lashing gales; our combined misery was such that we didn’t even spare the energy to acknowledge each other’s existence). The mix was leavened by the odd occasional flash of lightning and crack of thunder, much of it quite loud.

The rain was bad enough.  We had shower-proof jackets with us, which weren’t rated for a category 5 rainstorm. The occasional periods of gale force wind made things worse. But what really made progress not only miserable but even somewhat unsafe was the surface.  The rocks became slick, the ground turned to slippery mud, and the general misery of the weather was compounded by the general fear of taking a tumble on the rocks.  (I did slip and fall once, but “only” into a mud bath; it could have been much more serious.)

Yes, there were sights along the way:

stone huts, presumably used for storing food for farm animals;

caper bushes amid the rather bleak landscape;

a load of rocks with a cross on top (which, later reading showed, commemorates the wreck of General Chanzy’s steam boat in 1910 with only one survivor, but at the time I could frankly have cared neither one jot nor one tittle about);

a sight of the lighthouse which signalled the end of the first stage (dear God! is there another one to do as well?);

and some sheep, sensibly heading for shelter in the lee of a wall near the track.

But mainly, there was the rain, which by this stage had turned the path into a small river.

(I have video proof of this, but my soul rebels at the task of uploading it somewhere to share with you; just use your imagination, OK? And stop laughing, will you?  It’s not funny. No, it’s not.)

By the time we got to the end of the first stage

the road leading to the lighthouse had become a river in flood. Jane had suggested that we go and take a look at the lighthouse, but I demurred as politely as I knew how at the time, which was to say “Fuck off”.

The ghastly bloody mud-and-rocks path carried on past a few other sights.

We think this was a Naveta, something the Talaoitic-era folk used as a burial chamber, and which had possibly been modified to use for animal feed.  But it was clear that The Authorities didn’t want anyone exploring it, as any possible entrance hole was blocked; it was also (had I mentioned this?) raining, which lessened my interest in further research.

By this stage, I had completely lost interest in taking photos as we went along, or indeed in  anything other than simply getting into Ciutadella and outside a stiff drink, but Jane, bless her, took some shots of one or two things as we went by:

another stone hut;

a rather impressive rock arch, Pont d’en Gil;

and the outposts of civilisation, at which the heart leapt, for two reasons – there were only three miles to go, and it would be on lovely smooth tarmac. It would also, according to our original plan lead us past several possible refreshment stops, but since we were soaked to the skin and (certainly in my case) frozen to the marrow, this seemed a less tempting proposition than it had the previous evening.

Also: we had reached the “beach communities” outside Ciutadella, similar in principle, if you’ve ever been there, to Palma Nova on Mallorca or the cheap end of Paphos on Cyprus.

The restaurants and bars were (a) not very tempting and (b) unsurprisingly quiet.

The rain had obviously taken the local drains by surprise.

Eventually, the walk led us to some coves and inlets close to the city, such as Cala en Brut,

(which, incidentally, was the scene of further evidence of how unexpectedly heavy the rain had been, even if it was now easing to the point where I was prepared once more to take photos

I call this “wet stonewalling” and the policeman didn’t want me to take any photos.  So I reassured him by gesture and smile that I hadn’t.)

Playa de sa Farola

(you can see, in the distance, the ferry which brought us to the island a couple of years ago and started this whole thing off)

and Cala en Busquets.

And then we were right at the outskirts of the city itself

and then could cop an eyeful of the great view over the old town.

This was the end of the stage, and so all we had to do was to get ourselves to our hotel and hose off the accumulated mud, blood and weariness of the day.  We had covered 12.83 miles, or very nearly 21km, in five-and-three-quarter hours, which, given the conditions and the fact that neither of us sustained any serious injury was pretty damn’ impressive. Yes it was.

Having shed the worst of the day’s detritus, we headed out to find some lunch and had some tapas at a place called, rather unnervingly, Es Pou; but it was nice food, good coffee and lovely gin. Of course, by this stage, the weather had changed.

and long may the sunshine last (although I’m not too optimistic about tomorrow).  When we got back to the hotel, there was a lovely vignette of a balcony across from ours where a bunch of Spanish ladies were gathered having a good old gas among their rain-soaked clothing as it dried around them.

And thus the day came to an end.

  • 12.83 miles, or 20.66 km covered
  • 223 metres ascent, none of it actually steep, but all of it wet

Cumulative distance is therefore some 72 miles in seven days.  We’ve now covered the top half of the island and come half way round, from Mahón in the east to Ciutadella in the west.  Tomorrow we start on the southern half – a series of longer but less arduous days. Officially our next stage is just 13km and the forecast is for some rain, but not, we hope, the biblical floods we saw today. I’ll finish with the answer from the Cami360 team when we asked them about tomorrow’s weather: “The weather for tomorrow is similar to today with showers and localized storms. We hope that not like today”.

Amen to that.

Please come back then and find out how the day developed.


Cami de Cavalls – Day 1: understanding what we’ve let ourselves in for

Monday September 13 2021. Well, what a day it’s been!

Re-acquainting ourselves with so many barely-remembered experiences: flying from Gatwick Airport; EasyJet flight being on time; the geography of Mahón, the capital; the glorious warmth of a Balearic city in late summer. And new experiences – finding out what we’ve let ourselves in for; and a Talaolitic sandwich inter alia.

So, to recap: my wife, Jane, and I are actually doing what we’d planned to do 12 months ago, having discovered the delights of Menorca, but which had been mullocated by the pandemic: to walk around the outside of the island – 185 kilometres on a trail called the Cami de Cavalls  – the “horse trail”, recognising that one can ride around the island’s periphery. Apparently one can do this on a bicycle these days, though goodness knows why you might actually think this is a good idea.

The first part of such a holiday is, of course, the domestic fluttering about that attends being away for the better part of three weeks: running the food supplies down, figuring out milk orders to ensure we can have a cuppa before leaving and dealing with the uncertainty of going to The Foreign where we don’t necessarily understand the Covid rules. Spain (including the Balearics) is on the UK Amber List, and both Jane and I have had our full complement of injections so far, so the theory is that the pandemic admin for the travel bit of this will be no different actually from our recent trip to Iceland. There’s always the frisson of doubt that it might all go pear-shaped at the last minute in the mix of emotions that attends the complexities of international travel these days.

In the event, everything about the travel went perfectly, with only one exception. Anyone who knows us will clearly understand that a glass of champagne in the departure lounge is an important part of our departure on holiday. To my utter horror, I discovered that Gatwick’s North Terminal doesn’t feature a Caviar House & Prunier bar. The South Terminal would, if it were open, but it isn’t at the moment.  So we simply scheduled a taxi to the airport to give us time for check in and security.

(Note to travellers: there are various maps online of Gatwick’s North Terminal; I can’t find one that reflects reality. As we were heading to our gate, we passed an establishment called “Juniper & co” which would appear to have been able to dispense bubbles had we but known about it; but it’s not shown on any map that I could find online.)

All of the above whinging is the reason that I was not able to share a photograph of fizz on the way out; I apologise to all my social media friends for letting them down. Anyway, we didn’t leave enough time.  The queues in Gatwick were not oppressive, but they were a bit slow-moving, so by the time we’d dropped our bags, gone through security and bought sandwiches for the flight, it was time to head to the gate. The flight itself was, like almost all of them these days, crash-free; we arrived slightly before schedule and were being deposited outside our hotel (from a very posh Merc) some 30 minutes later, which is pretty good.

The hotel Sant Roc is a boutique hotel and has some lovely features, which I’ll show later; but the room is not a lot larger than the bed, which doesn’t encourage lazing around. So we headed out fairly pronto to meet the Cami 360 folks who are primarily responsible for directing us as we walk around the island. Their office is in a road called Cala Sant Esteve, which I find mildly amusing.

I suppose it’s bleeding obvious if you think about it in any detail, but given that this outfit are co-ordinating multiple groups on their various journeys along a 185km trail, there’s quite a lot of complicated planning that has to be undertaken. We knew in advance that they would take our main baggage from overnight stop to stop for us and that we would stay in various hostelries around the island; but, of course, there’s a lot of picking people up and dropping them off involved. They explained this to us, and for planning purposes we had to make some guesses about how long each section would take us so they knew when we would arrive at pickup points. And that’s when a small dose of reality hit: we are going out in hot weather to walk a long distance and we need people to help us, when we haven’t really got much of a clue as to the details of what’s involved. Happily, the Cami360 folks are used to dealing with this and provided detailed maps, booklets and a WhatsApp group so that we could (a) have a clearer idea of what’s involved from day to day and (b) call for help if all of a sudden our plans changed. It seems a pretty impressive organisation so far: we have some 13 days to find out how good their execution is in the face of bumblers like me.

After this, we headed out for some evening sustenance, and found ourselves seated outside a very buzzy joint which did very basic burgers and such;

and on the menu was a “Talaolitic Sandwich” (you’ll have to read back on our previous blog to understand the significance of this). Actually it was just a toasted sandwich with spicy sausage, cheese and honey and it was delicious. Not quite sure why it could be associated with the stone age, though.

After such a meal, it was only right that we wander round the town to settle things down a bit, so we walked out along the harbour – one of the largest natural harbours in the world, you’ll remember – and then up to the cliff above to take in the view back, which is quite something.

Our hotel is just by the cathedral, and the square outside features several restaurants which gave the place a happy, warm mediterranean buzz.

We have a day of leisure in Mahón tomorrow (shopping for essentials such as gin and tonic) before we start the walk proper on Wednesday. Do keep in touch with the blog and you can see how things unfold.