I already knew the kick you get by ‘checking’ something off your bucket list. Then why had it been so long since I last did it? Join me on a small adventure and (re)discover the joys of taking action and the marvels of letting go and ‘going with the flow’…
Last week I decided to walk the Serra de Tramuntana. A famous 8 day mountain hike across Mallorca. I have lived on the island for almost two years now, wanting to do the hike ‘one day’. The hike guidebook was sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for ’the right moment’. The weather should not be too hot, or too cold, no rain expected; I needed to block the 8 days in my schedule; needed someone to feed my cats, etc. Most of all, I would have to be physically fit. I was thinking of planning the hike for next fall and was facing all kind of uncertainties. Then, it dawned on me: why wait? Why not do it NOW? The weather was perfect at the end of April, I wasn’t very fit, but figured I would get fit doing the hike. Even if I did could not complete the hike; I would be home in an hour.
I decided to leave the next day. As I drove to Port de Andratx, the starting point, I felt an incredible excitement. I was actually DOING something I had always wanted to do! Even if my hike would only last one day, this feeling was priceless.
Everybody asked me if I was going to do the hike alone, as if you should only do these things with others. I answered it was going to be “me, myself and I”, so the three of us would not get lonely… Hiking by myself meant I could follow my own rhythm, make my own choices and listen to my inner voice in stead of to somebody else talking. And by the way, I would sleep in proper hotels every night with phone reception and wifi, so what could happen?
It was weird to park my car, put my backpack on and just start walking. I stopped at a small local supermarket to buy some water. The owner looked admiringly at the guidebook in my hand and asked if I was going to walk the GR221. “Yes”, I answered proudly. My sense of direction is virtually nonexistent, so I paid extreme attention to the directions in the guidebook, on the map and along the road. Just to be safe, I also brought a compass and checked my progress on my phone GPS.The first day was ‘only’ 3,5 hours and since I left in the afternoon, I arrived at my destination Sant Elm just before sunset. It was lovely to descend from a mountain trail to the cute fishing village, which I had only visited by car before. It seemed like the views were extra pretty because of the effort it had taken me to get there. I rewarded myself by a dinner with a panoramic view in Hostal Dragonera. I was in bed by 9PM, my body tired, but my mind elated by my achievement.
The second day was supposed to be an 8 hour hike. I figured that was too much for my untrained body. To avoid injury, I decided to walk halfway, where the trail crossed the road, and hitchhike to my next destination. Again I paid really good attention to the guidebook, map, signs, compass and phone. I asked other hikers for directions. The hike was uphill and really strenuous. Then there was a downhill part, which was especially hard on my knees. After four hours, can you imagine my frustration when I ended up in Sant Elm again; the fishing village where I had started that very morning???
Again I took in the lovely views, this time with a bitter taste in my mouth. But knowing I had only hiked about 1/5 of the original route I knew that my plan or doing half, even if I had managed to find the right route, would have been too much for me. Another advantage was that I could now easily pick up my car in stead of having to hitchhike to the next town and then later having to go back by bus to pick up my car. As I started to see the advantages of this ‘mistake’, I decided to make the best of it. I had a wonderful late lunch in Restaurant Es Moli. By the time I had finished, the bus arrived in front of that very restaurant to take me to my car. An hour later I was at my next destination Estellencs. I had plenty of time to enjoy the pool and spa facilities in the luxurious hotel Maristel.
Day three meant a hike of 7 hours, so again I decided to only walk to the village halfway and take a bus to my next stop Esporles. The hike was well signposted and the views were breathtaking. The centuries old olive trees in the orchards I passed somehow touched me. Their wisdom, their calm, their presence; what they must have seen in all those years… Then I entered a small forest. The birds were singing their happy song, the smell of pine trees hypnotized me; the views of the valley below were mesmerizing. I sat down for a light meditation and felt truly happy. By the time I had climbed the mountain that marked the halfway point of my trip, I found that the trail had been closed. The owner of the land had put a fence to prevent hikers to cross his property. There were two options: walk all the way down an asphalted road and continue along the main road to the next village, or walk the same lovely trail back to my starting point. After a quiet lunch, enjoying the view and the absence of other hikers (everybody seemed to know that the trail had been closed!), I decided to walk back the same way I came. I would enjoy the forest again, and I would get to my car to drive to the next hotel; no more waiting for busses. I was starting to like this idea of walking back to where I started from!
I had booked the lovely Agroturismo Son Galceran in Esporles. A beautiful old estate, a former ecological orange plantation; everything smelled the unique scent of orange blossoms. My friend Jeroen Komen sent me a message that he was flying his small plane to Mallorca and I invited him to walk with me the next day. I picked him up from the small local airport and we had a lazy dinner on the terrace of a small local cafe.
Since my body was starting to protest the (for me) extreme exercise, we decided to pick an easy walk, and make day 4 my last day of hiking. We drove to Deia, had coffee in a saint cafe (“the singer of Abba lives around the corner and is a regular customer here”, the owner confided) and then started the easy 3 hour walk to Port de Soller. There were many hikers, probably because it was a Sunday, the hike was classified as ‘easy’ and it was very well signposted. Most hikers greeted us in German; I made a point saluting them back in Spanish… 🙂
We walked on the old ‘dry stone’ pavement. Parts of it dated back to medieval times, other parts were recently restored by pupils of the traditional masonry school of Mallorca. This area is particularly known for its citrus trees, so we passed many orchards. Halfway the trail, high up in the mountains, we found an old mansion with a breathtaking view, where they served home made cakes and freshly squeezed orange juice. What a luxurious last day of hiking this was! The walk into Port de Soller was amazing. We enjoyed the views of the small harbor, the boats, the beach, the boulevard lined with restaurants and cafes.
Tired but happy I arrived back home that evening. I had hiked only 4 days of the 8 day hike. And of most hikes I had not even managed to walk half of the original route. Did it matter? No! Did I have a great time? Yes! I had seen a new part of the island, had done some vigorous exercise, had enjoyed my ’time off’ and had shared part of this experience with a friend. Now ‘hiking the Serra the Tramuntana’ was no longer a big ‘someday’ thing on my bucket list, but something I had already had a taste of. Whenever I wanted I could walk the missing parts. And the kick of that first day, driving to the starting point: nobody could take that experience from me, ever!
So, what is on YOUR bucket list that you can check off today? Or next week? No more planning, no more waiting for the perfect moment; that will never come. Create your moment, your opportunity, by just starting. Let go of the desired result, go with the flow. You’ll be amazed at the experiences you’ll get.