Pearl Hope

A week away from my Little Lobster during Christmas combined with boundless curiosity about our world lead me to an adventure trek with meaning. Shaped by an international upbringing I return to a country that feels like home; Spain.

Loaded like a donkey with two backpacks weighing a modest 12kgs I exit the airport of Palma de Mallorca towards a highway in search of the wild and wonderful mountain of Serra de Tramuntana. A car pulls over and an air-hostess offers me a lift.

Once in the capital we take our separate ways but not before we wish each other

‘Hasta Luego’ (until later) and exchange a couple of cheek to cheek kisses; a wonderful gesture indicating friendship.

For days I follow the well-marked long distance hiking trail GR-222/ GR-221. The number of daylight is restrictive; early evenings are spent in search of strong trees to call ‘bed.’ Camping rough in urban areas and beaches is illegal but in the countryside if done discreetly one can get away with it. Camp when it’s dark, leave at sunrise; that’s my thinking- Finding a couple of trees with privacy turns out a complicated affair as the majority of remote green areas are privately owned or used for hunting. For this winter adventure I give hammocking a try and what an experience it turns out to be! The mattress slips out of place whenever I turn (exposing parts of my body to the near-absolute-zero temperatures) snapping branches in the forest make me jump in the stillness of the night and another time lost in the woods I break into cold sweat struggling to locate my extremely-well-hidden hammock and backpacks.

Temperatures can drop dramatically at night at the Tramuntana mountain; also prone to mists with 90% dampness. I sleep out in the woods in what I recall as my dampest nights. My clothes soaking wet even on the driest of nights. With no access to internet and no one to talk to, I embrace my solitude from inside the hammock watching the stars twinkle across the night sky. The night it rains the £1 worth DIY sheet placed strategically above the hammock keeps me dry whilst I lay there listening to the rain fall. In the mornings I awake to sounds of animals herding nearby, church bells ringing or by some breath-taking sunrise. Truly, there are no barriers out here between nature and I.

Tramuntana Mountain with its harsh and beautiful views is no trekking challenge for the faint-hearted. My hip bones where the lower backpack belt sits are bruised. Finally the weight becomes easier to bare from Day 3. After all, our bodies are designed to move and exploring the world on foot becomes a transformative experience.

My journey takes me through Deia, an ancient mountain village glued to steep terraced slopes that rise above the seashore. At the bottom of it I discover the dramatic cove beach of Cala Deia with its jagged cliffs and plenty of seaweed. The beach bar restaurant remains shut and for now it’s all mine to enjoy. The air is awfully clear out here. I take the time to watch the sea, it almost feels as staring into eternity.

Throughout the week, in the remote mountain areas cars stop to offer me a ride. But a lone female walker must always use common sense and listen to her gut. This being a famous peregrine route I excuse myself by saying: ‘No thank you, I’m walking with God, he doesn’t want me to take shortcuts I really must keep going.’ Speaking Spanish has its advantages and this sentence entertains the drivers.

At the delightful little town of old merchant houses named Soller, I spend a night at a Spanish farmhouse (finca). Its beauty lies in the simplicity of its architectural form and I’m grateful for having a bed to sleep in. The owner Charli, welcomes me into his family the same way one reunites with old friends. That night I am invited to join them to a scrumptious dinner and some much appreciated Spanish Rioja. Nieves, the Mum has just returned from an adventure in Morocco and it doesn’t take long to see that she’s an extraordinary woman. We discuss the importance of being creative, open-minded and adaptable. She has a wisdom that’s hard to describe. One needs to meet her in person to understand. The following day she offers to be my local tour-guide, joined by her teenage daughter, Blanca and take me to some of their favourite island spots. They teach me about their lifestyle, traditions, history and about their local dialect.

Sa Calobra is particularly memorable. A black cat leads us through the partly tunnelled walkway to the mouth of the Torrent de Pareis river. The setting is gorgeous, sheer cliffs rise on every side. The sea has a beautiful luminous blue, owed to the high levels of phosphorus found in the water.

Before we take our separate ways she says: ‘Addi, if you are around at Christmas you are very welcome to join our family. No need to call- just turn up’.

The tourist industry shuts down In December until season starts again. In the pretty hill-town of Vallermosa, a shops door sign reads: Closed till February. Physical tiredness and the excitement of being immersed in nature help me forget about being hungry.

Somewhere in the village of Inca I experience a very humbling moment.

A tapas-bar owner impressed by my solo adventure offers me a handful of muffins, biscuits and a warm cuppa and says: ‘Here. Take this for the journey, to give you some strength’. He goes as far as to ask one of his regular customers to drive me a few villages further down, giving my legs and back a rest that evening.

After several days of solo trekking, on Christmas Eve, I return to my favourite Majorcan finca. One of the uncles cooks underneath the winter night sky a Christmas favourite; meatballs and pasta soup. The pot is large enough to feed an army but this is a large family after all. ‘The secret ingredient...’ he whispers in my ear ‘...is the stock I made from the bones and the meat’. He blows on the spoon and says proudly: 'Addi, tell me truthfully that this isn’t the tastiest soup you've ever had!’ Yum! it tastes like heaven. A few minutes later his wife appears taking over the cooking but not before asking with a raised eyebrow: ‘Did my husband tell you he cooked all of this?’ I nod- She bursts out laughing.

Back in the kitchen different family members take turn to cook their speciality. A man marinates freshly caught seafood that still smells of sea, before it goes on the hot grill. I spot Nieves cooking, surrounded by relatives all chatting merrily. Even from a distance it’s easy for one to sense her charisma and warmness.

Tables laden with delicacies line the living room. Everything one can imagine of, lie in wait. Whole roasted langoustines and Spanish jamon thinly sliced. Huge platters of goats’ cheese. Bowls steaming with the warm meatball and pasta soup. Breads, vegetables, sweets and red wine.

An evening where fascinating stories and laughter are exchanged. We toast to all the good people present in our lives and to those who are no longer with us but will always occupy a special place in our hearts.

The backpacking adventure is not as important as the new friends made along the way. Once more I conclude that there is more good than bad in this world and feel hugely optimistic about our future-

On my final day on the island, I visit a jewellers and decide to buy a pair of pearl earrings (traditional product of Majorca.) My Spanish God-Mother, an expert gemmologist taught me that pearls are the best accessory a woman should wear. Did you know? When a grain of sand gets into an oyster it’s so irritating that to defend itself, it secretes a nacreous substance. The defensive reaction produces a material that is hard, shiny and precious; the pearl.

My pears are an emblem of my resilience, a reminder that adventures cultivate and evolve us.

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