The sun rises slowly at this time of year, with Spain’s insistence on being on European time, despite much of it being further west than Greenwich. They also appear to hang on to daylight savings for far longer than any semblance of summer, so the mornings are dark.
I had taken my new form of transport for a test run the previous evening, to test out both of our abilities to tackle the roads ahead. I brushed aside a few of it’s “Curiosities”. We are just getting to know each other I thought, so the persistent glowing of the engine light, and the rather impetuous behaviour of the back wheel were all just part of the feeling out process.
There is a difference between motorbikes and scooters, perhaps it’s the way you sit upon them, perched up and ready for leisure. Not so good for taking an aggressive line through corners and certainly very different in terms of braking. With no gear change mechanism, you rely entirely on the brakes and the tyres all being in pretty good condition. This bike seemed to have had a long hard season of rentals, so having some tall fat bloke ask it it chew out a path along the coastal roads probably didn’t fill her with much joy..
Majorca’s road network falls into 2 categories: Large,impressive and very straight highway system, that connects all the major centres right through the heart of the reasonably small island, speed limit is 120kph which seems to be some type of minimum. And the much older coastal road network, that on the western coast, cuts an impossible track around, over and through the rugged terrain. Terrain that rises to craggy bear rock peaks and ridges, then falls to heavily forested valleys, or plunges into the sea. Speed limit appears optional here. I was choosing Snail!
To get to the mountains, I first needed to negotiate the freeways.
The bike told me that 80kph was fast enough, by wobbling around when I tipped the scale too much. OK, check that..
At least the locals, sympathetic to my endeavours, would cautiously pass me by and not force me dangerously close to the verge……… Yeah Right!
I finally reached the entry point of the mountains and its fair to say by this time, I was a little tense… Just the desired state for some mountain riding…..
I commenced my attack.
The map just simply doesn’t do these roads justice. They were tight, narrow, unpredictable and generally full of traffic coming in both directions. Busses, cars, motorbikes (proper ones) and a vast number of German cyclists. There are simply no straight bits, they rise and fall just as aggressively as they bite out a path horizontally. I battled them for what seemed like hours, with each second requiring every ounce of concentration I could muster. The back half of the bike would often try to take me somewhere different that the front, and the engine light burned brighter than the sun.
I’m sure the view was spectacular, but all I could see was the sight of my own anxiety in the grubby visor in front of me. That and the multitude of vehicles that would bank up behind me, then in what should have been an impossible passing for manoeuvre for one vehicle, would overtake me in multiples.
My low point was being overtaken by a group of whistling Germans on their bikes, going up hill.
Time for the ceremonial throwing in of the towel I thought…
I stopped to investigate the map, It felt like I had been doing this for hours, so I must be miles from safety.
I found an escape route, and was both delighted and embarrassed to come across a sign saying “Palma 20km” such is the incredible landscape of the island. On the straight highways, the true size of it is laughable, but on the coast, it is she that is the comedian, with me, just her folly.
I finally reached home and after a spell in my meditation room, rationale thought returned.
I needed a new plan.
Sheepishly I approached the rental operator, a small rotund bloke, chewing on a cigar that looked like it hadn’t been alight in many years. He reminded me of Pauly of the Rocky movies, only angrier.
In my manliest available tone, I begun to explain my dilemma. I had rented his machinery for 3 days, and after just 1, I was looking for options.
I think he could smell the fear seeping through the holes in my once sturdy pair of Dan Carters, he played me for a while, then seemed to grow bored of the game. Finally we agreed on a solution, we would swap the bike for a car, and even though the 3 day rental rate on the car was cheaper than the bike?… He agreed to not charge me any more…
I leapt at what seemed like the deal of the century!
This is what he gave me..
Now the train spotters out there may pick up the slight whiff of “Mid Life Crisis” in this particular little vehicle. And I tend to agree..
To counter the look, I decided that outfit choice here was imperative. I pulled out of the bottom of my pack the Lycra shorts I had been carrying around (just in case I ran into a Jazzercize class I liked the look of) Perfect, although a couple of sizes to small, I thought they would do the trick nicely. And since I also decided that going shirtless, with my white hat adequate for sun protection, I could also allow my belly to just flop over to the passenger seat in cornering, acting as a type of ballast.
So, it was with great eagerness that I set out the next morning, to retake my pride amongst the mountains. To find those cyclist’s, and race past them in all my glory.
Stopping was tricky, due to the half hour required to get in and out of my mighty beast. So I would simply race past the sights, holding my camera aloft, snapping in the general direction of grandeur.
It is an incredible journey, the coast, the mountains and the road itself. Where the mountain would not relent the space needed for roadways, they have just cut right through, with what looks like an old rusty spoon. Falling rocks lay strewn everywhere, and at times the road just isn’t wide enough, leaving all sorts of forward and back manoeuvring required for progress.
And once again, I was overtaken by crazy German cyclists.
Majorca Is covered in resorts, but if you can learn to see through them, you will find the most spectacular landscape and an exhilarating and totally unique journey though the history of how this planet was built.
Wonder if Jockey do mail order?