lundi 8 février 2016

Catalunya, Mallorca

I started this trip in Port la Nouvelle station. I took the train there to Cerbère, close to the Spanish border, where I started my bike ride. The coast road from Cerbère is of course very nice. I followed it up to Llança where I had to leave seaside to head towards Coll de Bracons. I then had about 20 km of highway, going through Figueres, until I took a small road in the countryside that led me to Banyoles and its nice lake, then the small pass of Colitza.

I found again the main road at the south of Olot for a few kilometers, before leaving it again to take the coll de Bracons road. The pass can be seen from far away, but it’s a steep way to reach it. At the end of the descent, I found a train (trains are numerous and cheap around Barcelona) to save me a bit of main road from Torelló to Balenyà, where I started the climb to coll de Formic. It was a gentle ascent from this side. On the other side it did look neither steep, even if it’s of course longer.

While I was climbing, I was considering all the options for the remaining BIGs in my program: Turo de l’Home, Montserrat and the six in Mallorca. I finally concluded that the best solution, that would make me finish sooner my trip, was to go to Mallorca this very night. So I left Turo de l’Home for later, even if I was very close to it, and went instead to Barcelona, by train from Sant Celoni station, to take the boat to Mallorca.

At this time of the year, there’s one boat a day, leaving late in the evening and arriving early in the morning, which is a good schedule as you spend the night in the boat. There are two companies crossing to Mallorca, with approximately the same schedule. I took Balearia because it was the first office I saw on the harbor, but I think both offer quite the same services. The boats are similar, more intended for the crossing of lorries but with a small space for passengers and cars (and bikes). In the boat I saw a post indicating the fare for a cabin was 150 €. I didn’t ask confirmation of this price (that seemed very expensive), as my Spanish is so poor, so I slept on two seats in the Pullman room, where I had a not so bad night.

As I woke up, I suddenly realized that, despite I spent hours at home preparing my trip and building the GPS tracks, I finally left without anything about Mallorca: nor the tracks saved in my GPS, nor any map of the island. I felt destroyed when leaving the boat. I bought the first map I found, but felt that with only the indications from my memory, it would be almost impossible not to miss some BIG of the island. I asked for an internet point at every bar I saw on the coast road west of Palma but didn’t find any. Finally I called my fellow bigger Pascal who pointed me on the phone all the BIGs of the island, allowing me to continue my trip. I owe him an eternal gratitude for that.

The climb to the first BIG, Galilea, was an easy one. On the way down, I had to choose in Puigpunyent which way to reach the next BIG, coll de Soller. Passing by Esporles may have been nicer, but with my earlier wanderings, I thought I had to catch up on my supposed schedule, so I headed directly towards the Soller main road. In Son Sardina I turned left on a parallel small road that was nice and narrow, but turned into a dirt road, going through farms. My map showed it as a real road to the end, but I would have better done to turn right on Soller road a little earlier.

The Soller pass is not very high but with as much hairpins as possible for its elevation, so it was a nice climb. To reach the next BIG, Monnaber, I took the smaller road through Fornalutx, but I don’t think it makes much difference from the direct way. I never saw as many cyclists as in this climb. At this time of the year, racers from all over Europe go training in Mallorca, so with my luggage and my touristic pace, I was overtaken by many pelotons. At the beginning of the descent, the road goes along two nice lakes and the start of the road to Puig Major, the highest point of Mallorca. Unfortunately (my nose is getting longer), it’s a military place so the BIG can’t be put up there.

The next BIG, Sa Calobra, appeared to me as the best one of the island. After leaving the Serra di Tramuntana road, it begins with a short ascent to Coll des Reis, then a long and windy descent. The road is full of hairpins and offers very nice views to the sea. I regretted after not to have tried to go to torrent de Pareis as it was close and looked like a beautiful place to see. Sa Calobra is a dead-end so one has to return by the same road. Eventually the road performs a 270° turn, going over itself, in a place nicknamed la Corbata (the tie) from the shape of the road. Here the wind was so strong that it nearly put me off the road. I remembered having been surprised at the beginning of the day not to find wind in Mallorca, but by the end of the morning the wind installed itself steadily and didn’t leave me until the end.

After the coll dels Reis descent, I was back on the road to Inca. After a few kilometers of ups and downs, I began a nice descent. From Inca to Sineu the road is much frequented, but when I turned left to Petra I was nearly alone. From Petra to Felanitx, the road is a bit busier but not too much. On my left, I could see in the dusk the hill from which the next BIG, monasterio de San Salvador, occupies the top. Between Felanitx and the foot of the climb, there’s a little stretch of busy road, but on the road to the monasterio, I was again alone. It was completely dark when I reached the top so I saw little of this BIG before going down. I then took the direction of Randa, the foot of the last BIG of Mallorca, monasterio de la Cura. Randa appeared on the map as a very small village, so I had no hope finding a place to sleep here. I intended to climb this last BIG, then turn back to Palma to find a place to finish the night, but felt it was a pity to do the climb in the dark and then lose the views it could offer. But to my great pleasure, there was a hotel in Randa, and so a few minutes later I was delighted to find myself in a nice bed instead of spending the night on my saddle.

In the morning, I was happy to have started at daylight, as effectively very nice views in every direction can be seen when climbing this BIG: Serra de Tramuntana in the northwest, the east coast on the other side. The climb didn’t take me long, even with the pictures stops, so I had plenty of time to reach Palma, following the coast, before taking the boat at about 11 am.

I was back in Barcelona by the end of the afternoon, and had to go to Plaza de Espanya station to take the train to Monistrol. I expected the station to be a big building on the place, but in fact it is located underground. Once I had realized the entrances to the station were the stairs going down from the place, I found my train easily.

In Monistrol I went to the hotel Guilheumes, which was nice and where I was left free to leave at any time. I didn’t want to go too early as I thought I had time to do the last two BIGs, Montserrat and Turo de l’Home, and be back in Port la Nouvelle by the end of the day. But I was up before 6am, tried to stay in the room for a while, and finally went my way in the very dawn, expecting to have daylight when reaching the top of the climb. But as it was cloudy and the climb not very steep, I arrived a bit early to enjoy large views from the top (anyway, the clouds would have hidden me anything). I discovered that this monastery was a very big one, almost like a little town, with plenty of buildings, and even a hotel. So I understood why I saw so many vehicles while climbing.

I had now to go back to Sant Celoni, where I already was three days earlier after my climb to coll de Formic, to finally climb the Turo de l’Home. The train to Sant Celoni was leaving from Barcelona Saints station. This station is a very big one, with trains going in every direction. I didn’t expect this and really had difficulties to find the good platform.

In Sant Celoni it was raining. I put my rain clothes on in the station then started my last ascent. Turo de l’Home is 1700 m high, so it was a strong ascent. The last part of the climb is on a little road in very bad state in some parts. The degraded sections are numbered so while climbing it’s possible to know how many are left. I was finally at the top, where it was very wet and cold, and began the descent just after the commemorative picture. Back in Sant Celoni station, the trip was finished, and I just had to wait for the train to Cerbère, then Port la Nouvelle.

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