Before last weekend’s escapade from Valldemossa to Deia, I assumed that hiking was something that you did in the sunshine with wonderful snacks tucked away in your backpack, just waiting for a glorious view of the mountains and the sea where you could sit down and enjoy your sandwich and listen to the waves crashing against the rocks below (See Mallorca: The Land of “A Good Place to Eat a Sandwich” blog post).
Well, last weekend had something else in store for us.
Looking back, the ominous black clouds probably should have been our first clue. But as you’ll soon come to find out in Mallorca, weather apps mean nothing and the weather itself is even more unpredictable. It can say 70% chance of rain and you’ll see nothing but blue skies all day. When it says beautiful and sunny, prepare for a complete downpour in the morning followed by a pleasant sunny afternoon followed by a light drizzle and thunderstorms by 5:00pm.
Wanting to believe in the validity of our oh-so-trusty iphone apps, we set off for our hike ignoring the warning signs overhead. It couldn’t be that bad, right?
The trek began in Valldemossa, a quaint little town on the west coast of the island that Chopin was known to have stayed at for some time. This is another “must-see” on the island with cute little cafes and cobblestone walkways. It reminded me a lot of Fornalutx (click here for blog entry on this hike), but there seemed to be a bit more life in Valldemossa—more people, more shops open, more bakeries… Which reminds me – Valldemossa is known for their coca de patatas, a pastry made from potatoes that’s sweet, fluffy, and delicious. Pair that with a café con leche, and you’ll be one happy camper before you set off hiking.
The trees were in full autumnal colors when we went, and for someone from a beach town in Southern California, I can tell you I was a little more than excited to see leaves bursting in yellows and oranges and reds.
In spite of the overcast sky and cold humidity, we started to get a little bit warmer once we found the trailhead, and our fears of freezing to death somewhat subsided. We started the hike on a dirt road thick with trees and shrubbery and rocks with florescent green moss that grew on everything, like a scene from Game of Thrones.
We had heard that there were some caves somewhere along the hike and were told to look for the “large pile of rocks” and then turn left. Well, considering we were seeing large piles of rocks everywhere, we were a little lost to say the least…
We soon ran into a man who worked for what I believe is similar to the forestry service, helping maintain the trails and making sure no one ruins the natural habitat. His name was Nadal which translates from Catalán to English as “Christmas”—our gift given to us from the universe to help lead our lost selves along the way. Funny how life sometimes throws these golden moments at you…
He and his dog walked with us for part of the way and showed us where the “caves” were which turned out to be a small hermitic dwelling set into the rock of the mountains. (More info on hermitic dwellings and life in Valldemossa can be found here). The sleeping mats and shrines and even some pots and bowls have been left in the dwelling, eerily making it feel like you’ve just walked into someone’s home unannounced.
After we had a look around the cave, we decided it was time for a snack, and cold and hungry and no epic “sandwich spot” in site, we sat down on a rock and took out our snacks to a scenery of drab grey and white mist and an occasional puff of our own breath.
About the same time that our limbs were turning numb and we decided it was time to get moving, one of the girls pointed to the horizon and we all looked up to see the mist clearing and between the two trees we had sat between, there lay an incredible, expansive view of the coast in front of us. A second later, the gap closed in, shrouding everything again in an ominous grey like some scene from the movie, The Fog. Nevertheless, I managed to snap a picture of the tail end of it (above), which doesn’t do the moment justice. We were all joking that here we had sat down at this epic sandwich spot and hadn’t even known. But after this tiny little taste of a view, we could only hope that the skies would clear and the sun would peak through enough to show us at least a little something.
We made our way up to the ridge which is supposed to have amazing views. Instead, we could just make out a few feet of rock and sheer cliff into nothingness and mist below. With the harsh weather and the big grey boulders and tall grasses and shrubbery, it looked like something out of Lord of the Rings or Braveheart. And with the wind picking up and the mist getting thicker and the cold getting colder, this would have been the part in the movie where the hero gallops into the scene on a warhorse and rallies the troops to avenge the death of so-and-so and to be valiant and brave in the face of their enemy (in our case, the weather) as they charge into the mist…
Yeah, I had a bit of an imagination as a child.
In any case, it was cold. And windy. But we squinted and trudged on and battled the weather. Luckily for us, we made it to the other side of the ridge, and as we took the trail down, the weather became warmer and we took off our hats and sweatshirts and unzipped our jackets. The mist started to clear, and there was no wind on this side of the mountain. We could see blue skies to one side. For a section of the trail, we shared the path with a wild mother goat and her baby.
As our limbs began to thaw, we could see carpets of bright green moss and large rock ruins, like something out of a fairy tale. As the sky finally cleared to perfect blue, we could see incredible views of the coast and little orange-tiled roofs below. We made our way down the trail to the town of Deia where pomegranate, lemon, and fig trees were in no short supply. Spanish-style houses and cafes lined the hillside with mountains all around and a stream running down below. Needless to say, Deia is another “must-see” for Mallorca visitors.
After we walked through the town a bit, we sat on a ledge and watched the sunset, the day culminating in this moment of brilliant blue and orange and pink and yellow. And we sat there and watched the symbolic closing of our physical and mental rollercoaster of a hike.
Here we were, happy and exhausted after the day’s tidal changes of cold and cloudy and misty and windy, to blue skies and sunny (and pretty much everything in between), thinking about we somehow, miraculously, made it to Deia. Through the fog and the wind and the confusing rock piles. How, with a little help along the way, we managed to find our way and end up just in time to watch the sunset.
Earlier in the day, as we were making our way down the back side of the mountain to Deia and were admiring the intricate twisting roots of the olive trees, I learned from one of the girls that olive trees have the ability to regenerate themselves from damaged or dead trunks. If the tree is burned from fire, for example, it can sprout new branches from the trunk and continue to grow. This is sometimes why the roots are so elaborately knotted.
I’ve always been fascinated by olive trees. They seem so ornate in their own way, beautiful and detailed and intriguingly unique. The way they wind up from the ground, twisting and turning along the way, to create this incredible coiling of wood.
And it gets you thinking how every now and then, we suddenly become aware that we, too, have been branching outwards and away for some time, and we notice the new little sprouts from which we've grown. And we realize how far off course we turned (or what we thought was “off course” at the time) and wonder how on earth we somehow ended up here. You see which boughs have withered and which have sprouted and which are sort of in between the two. You realize how these new boughs have shot you off in some unknown direction, not knowing where it would take you or where you’d end up or what you’d hit along the way.
And then every once in a while, in this confusing twisting and turning and winding as we grow, we discover these little moments of clarity into where the hell we’re going with everything. To help pull it all together and help guide us along the way.
So maybe it's okay to not know where everything is headed all the time. To not know which branches will grow and which ones we will grow from. It’s a process. Of exploration and of tasting the unfamiliar.
Maybe when it comes down to it, it’s about letting the rollercoaster of a hike, the flux in the moments of your day, the ups and downs of months and years shift you. It’s about letting it work its magic and alter your roots’ course. To not being so quick to clam up, but to being open to and letting change happen…
More often than not, we won't understand the twisting and turning and building and rebuilding, where the next shoot or branch is leading us off to. At the center of it all, our roots are still growing, and maybe this is sufficient for the time being. Maybe it's about finding your roots along the way and growing them because they are wild and beautiful and solely yours and loving the process because in the end, no one has anything quite like them. Maybe it's about finding these moments when you sit down and think about how lucky you are to have run into the Nadals just at the right moment to help guide you. Or how incredible it is that you somehow found your way, in spite of the fog and the bad weather and the confusing directions and getting off course every now and then, just in time to catch the fog clearing for an incredible view of the coast. Or how you made it just in time to watch an amazing sunset.
And suddenly, it all starts to make a little bit more sense.