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Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Puig de Sant Salvadore: Accidental Mountain Biking in Mallorca

So I cycled up Puig De Sant Salvadore ... by accident. On a mountain bike. Because I wanted to have a look at the cross on the hill.



You know when you’re travelling on a train or bus and you see something interesting, but you can’t stop to look at it? Well I had that this year when I was on holiday in Mallorca. I was on the way back from a market on a bus and there was a cross on a hill. A big cross on a big hill.

I couldn’t see much before it disappeared off to the side as the bus continued its dusty journey back towards Cales de Mallorca. But I marked the place on the map and decided I wanted to try and find it.

The next day, I popped into the town to see if I could hire a bike. I could. There was a choice of precisely two bikes. A mountain bike with flat tyres or a mountain bike with no brakes.

I decided that I’d take a chance on a puncture rather than not being able to stop and chose the bike sitting on the flats. Pumped up the tyres and gave the vendor a tenner and I was off.  Well almost off. There were no bottle cages on the bike so bought a child’s rucksack, so I could pop a drink in it. It would have been hard work cycling in 35*c with no water.


I set a route using google maps which gave me a bike route. It took me out of the town and down a small rutted dirt road. Maybe I had been lucky that there were no road bikes. The road was quiet and dusty with an occasional low residence set back from the road. I cycled past these quickly half-expecting a mean dog to rush out of the open gates and chase me down the track. After a couple of miles, Google Maps directed me up a drive with a padlocked gate. I dithered and finally decided it wasn’t worth the owner chasing me out with previously-mentioned mean dog and turned my mountain bike around.

The bike tyres had stayed pumped up and the bike was comfortable although there was a surreal moment when I heard a violin in the middle of nowhere. I'd stopped on a hill to check the maps and heard someone playing badly and quietly. I listened for a while as couldn't place the direction and realised it was the brakes rubbing. It sounds stupid, but it sounded exactly as if someone was playing the violin badly. It was very eerie.

Cycled on a main road for a while and then maps directed me onto another dirt track. All seemed to be going well until I passed a sign. I had NO CLUE what it meant so dug out Google Translate (as Google was clearly on my side today *cough*) and apparently, I was in a private hunters’ reserve. Oh. Maybe it’s just a road going through a reserve. The road on the map looked ok and Google HAD directed me through here. I carried on, cycling even quicker past the occasional residence than on the previous road in case the owners had mean dogs AND shot guns. Until the road ended up at a massive high fence with barbed wire on. OK then. Another U-turn back to the road.

Decided enough was enough. I decided that I was staying on the tarmac and ignoring Google. Twice was enough. I'd had a free pass on two of the roads but wasn't going to give it a chance to land me in the middle of an ordnance testing zone next time.

The tarmac roads were smooth and hilly and the drivers gave me loads of room and were pretty courteous. I could see the cross on the hill now in the distance. Checking the map I would go past it on the same route as the bus when I had first spotted it and then circle back around. I'd then have a bit of a hill to cycle up to see it. 

I found the turnoff and suddenly the road started climbing. It was a steady incline, past a dry looking field with goats in it. The first corner turned to the left with what looked like a fountain at the corner. I propped the bike up and went to try and fill up my water bottle as it had been a hot, dry ride so far, but I’d been mistaken and it appeared to be a memorial. No water in this stone.


I still had a few inches of water left so no drama. If it was like England, there would probably be a church near the cross and these always had a water tap. I’ve been helped plenty of times by spotting a spire or tower when out running or on my bike in the heat. 

I set off on the trusty mountain bike and the climb intensified and the road became alpine style switchbacks. Divine to cycle and the views were absolutely glorious! I could see the plains spread out below me and with each corner I could see further and further. 

However, I knew I had probably bitten off more than I could chew when a man leant out of his car window and shouted “Allez! Allez!” at me and I started noticing the paint on the road cheering cyclists onwards ...

And there I was on my borrowed mountain bike (which I had to blow up the tyres before I started and reconnect brakes!) and no bottle cages trying to get up this climb.

The climbs kept on coming. They were fun to cycle, and I only had a mouthful of water left in my bottle now. I was pretty sure there would be a water tap or something at the top and I hadn’t passed any shops on my way here, so my only bet was to keep going and see if there was water at the top because I knew for a fact there wasn’t any at the bottom.


An occasional car passed. The road was narrow, but they gave me plenty of room and the views kept me going. It was stunning. With every switchback and every climb, the view got better and better. Mallorca was laid out below me like a patchwork quilt. The climb wasn’t too bad - it was 5km long, but it wasn’t particularly steep, so I could just dig in and enjoy it. And I did.


The climb got steeper as I got closer to the top and I could see the cross above me growing larger and more glorious. The final turn took me around a steep corner with the cross on my left and a tower in front of me.

Was this it? Apparently not. The road carried on climbing towards a monastery and looped around one more time towards the gates. 

Divine views all around me. Stately stonework and stunning buildings.

BUT THERE IT WAS.

On the left.

A bar. And the best tasting Coca Cola I have ever tasted.


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