Hiking the Archduke’s Trail
Back on the Hoof II
Unfavourable winds for our passage to the coast of Spain meant another week in Mallorca, so I took the opportunity to get out for second hike in the Tramuntana Mountains. I had read that the ‘Archduke’s Trail’ was well worth a look, so I decided to check it out.
The Archduke in question is Luis Salvador; an Austrian bloke who spent a lot of time in Mallorca in the late 1800s. Now Luis was a bit of an old hippy, and decided he’d build a series of paths so he he could get out and about and enjoy nature. The Arch had bought up swathes of the island, so was able to gambol along his trail without being shot at for tresspassing.
In Palma I managed to find an outdoors store that was open (see Back on The Hoof), and was able to buy myself a map which included the Archduke’s Trail. I wouldn’t feel quite so unprepared on my second walk in the Tramuntanas.
The Trail starts from the town of Valldemossa, 20km north of Palma, and after a couple of bus rides I jumped off in the eerily deserted town. All the shops appeared to be closed, and apart from the occasional car I didn’t see a soul. I assume Valldemossa gets quite busy during tourist season (when there isn’t a pandemic), but in the off season and during a pandemic I’m here to tell you it’s just tumbleweeds.
Grateful for my map, I walked to the edge of town where the Trail was meant to start. I found what looked like a driveway gate, and a few popiedad privada signs, but nothing mentioning Luis or his Trail. I was pretty sure I was in the right spot, and when I found a metal trail marker with the same colours as the GR221 signs (Mallorca’s famed ‘Dry Stone Route’ hiking trail; see Back on The Hoof) I decided to press on.
As I made my way up into the hills I passed a number of archaeological sites. The Archduke’s trail features many such locations, which give an insight into past life and industry in the Tramuntana Mountains (which are, in fact, listed on the UNESCO World Heritage register as a cultural landscape). Lime burners built kilns to fire the limestone rock into quicklime, which was used for a whole bunch of things including construction and disinfection.
Those less keen on rocks and more partial to wood may choose the life of a charcoal burner. Building burning ‘floors’, huts and stone ovens in the forest, these Mallorcans collected and processed timber to produce charcoal.
In the late afternoon I popped out above the treeline, and took a side track to Puig des Teix, which at 1064 metres gives spectacular 360 degree views. From the top I could see Puig Major, Mallorca’s highest peak, which was also visible from where I camped on my previous GR221 hike. I was starting to feel like a local.
With the light fading, it was time to find a camp for the night. The forecast promised strong winds and scattered showers, so I sought some protection from a stand of pines. I had just finished my meal when the rain started, so headed to the bivvy bag and zipped up for the night.
During the evening the strong winds turned up with a vengeance. I was glad that pine trees don’t hold onto their old dead branches like the Eucalypts back in Aus, otherwise a ‘widow maker’ might have blown down and squashed me. The wind was still howling the next morning, with the odd shower sweeping across the mountains.
Heading off on the most exposed part of the trail, it was literally hard to stay upright in the gale. Crouching down and taking small, careful steps, I lurched and staggered like a drunk.
The views from the trail were worth the inconvenience of nearly being blown into the Mediterranean. Old mate Luis really knew how to create a spectacular walk.
Despite the stunning views, it was a relief to descend into the protection of the forest once again, and out of the worst of the wind. On the way back down to Valldemossa I passed a cave, and upon entering it found there was a little chapel inside. There was also a cistern (underground cavity for storing water) nearby. The island is pretty much one big limestone karst system, and the Mallorcans have taken advantage of the many useful natural features.
I walked back into the ghost town of Valldemossa in the early afternoon, sat myself down at the bus stop and waited for the service back to Palma. I reckon Archduke Luis would be pleased to know that people from around the world are now hiking the path he blazed, and just like he did, enjoying the natural beauty of the Tramantana Mountains.
For more on the Archduke’s Trail click here
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