Cambridge Underground 1990 pp 51-54

Not C.U.C.C. go to Mallorca

by Penny Reeves and Daniel Mace

Dan: Firstly, I would like to make it quite clear that we deserted C.U.C.C. for U.L.S.A. mostly because U.L.S.A. left the U.K. three days after Cambridge, and this fitted in better with our plans for Christmas. I had made up my mind to go to Mallorca with U.L.S.A. six months before the actual trip itself. Some would have said this was a rash move as the only other person I really knew on the trip was Penny, and if we were to fall out I would find myself not only sharing a bed with an ex-girl friend but also spending the day with eighteen complete strangers.

Things didn't start terribly well. Our flight was supposed to leave Manchester at 9am, a nice early flight that would get us into Palma for lunch time. I was really looking forward to spending the afternoon getting to know the thrilling resort of C'an Pastilla, where our hotel was situated.

We left Sheffield at a ridiculous hour in the morning and crossed the snowcapped Pennines to Manchester. At Manchester we found the airport strike bound. We prepared a camp, bought newspapers, cups of coffee and trashy novels and were just about to compare passport photos when we were efficiently bundled into buses and taken to Birmingham. Things went downhill from here. We were due to leave at midday (three hours delay isn't too bad when you have to change airports) and were whisked through the customs into the human cattle shed, sorry, I mean departure lounge. From here we could see our plane sitting all on its own looking rather forlorn on the far side of the airfield. It sat there for a very long time. Still it was a chance to meet everyone and get to know them.

It was at this point that I realized how old everyone was. In fact it was something of a shock to find that Penny and I were the only students. I thought they were meant to be the University of Leeds Speleological Society. University? These folk hadn't been near a University for years. The conversation revolved around all those things students normally talk about, you probably know the sort of thing. I'm always weighed down with such problems as whether I should trade in the SRi for a GTE, how I will cope with the running of Scotland's quarries, or how the poll tax will affect my second home!

Penny: Inevitably people got fed up. Quite a few of the other passengers had toddlers and babies with them, and they were getting bored and frustrated, and progressively more irritable and quarrelsome. The children, however, were quite happy running riot around the departure lounge or sleeping. Sally, who works in a customer relations department and hence is very good at complaining was on the verge of getting free food for everyone when we were finally shown on to the plane. It was three o'clock. The only consolation was a free bottle of gin compliments of Britannia; not much substitute for half a day of holiday but better than nothing.

We flew into Palma after dark but made the hotel for the evening meal. After dinner we took a quick walk around C'an Pastilla to introduce Dan to the delights of a Mallorcan holiday resort. Then we headed for bed, feeling a bit more human again after what had been a very long day.

Dan: First thing next morning we got into the car and headed for the Continente hypermercardo. This was when I remembered the Spanish driving phenomenon. Drivers are just as bad in Mallorca as they are in North Spain, where I have seen a learner driver being put through his paces on the principle of overtaking. In Spain (& Mallorca), this means that if you catch up with a car that is traveling slower than you are, you overtake providing you cannot see a car approaching you. Hence hairpin bends are ideal for overtaking.

Penny: I wish I could reproduce the Continente jingle here but paper sings even less well than I do. Within minutes it had been droned into our minds and would be with us for the rest of the week (in fact it is whirring around my head right now). I had experienced Mallorcan package holiday hotels before, so I insisted that we stock up on fruit, cheese and wine to supplement our meagre packed lunches. The Continente was beautifully decorated for Christmas (very strange when the temperature outside is twenty degrees) with streamers and tinsel all over the place. The meat counter surpassed all these efforts with a vegetarian's delight - a beautiful little crib made of slabs of beef with bacon straw, black pudding kings and a small baby Jesus sausage. What style and imagination.

Lunchtime arrived and we opened up our hotel packed lunches. We were a little surprised to find three bread rolls, some cheese, a chicken leg, a Spanish omelette with salad, several pieces of fruit and juice to drink. Our trip to the Continente had been somewhat wasted. There was no way we could eat all of this. Fortunately Mallorca is populated by several thousand starving feral cats. These are ideal, if a little enthusiastic, waste disposal units and so most of this lunch was fed to the cats at Cala Sa Vicente. Unfortunately cats do not eat fruit and it seemed far too good to throw away. We stored it carefully on a shelf in the car to eat later.

This account is supposed to be about an alternative trip to Mallorca so we won't bore you with things that you know only too well such as Sa Campana and Drach.

Dan: We had a copy of an excellent book of walks, 'Walking in Mallorca', by June Parkcr (published by Cicerone Press). The first walk we did was the Camino de l'Arehiduque Louis Salvador, which runs along the coast near Validemossa. This camino (path) is rather like a mini Hadrian's wall. The Archiduque had it built so that he could ride his horse whilst admiring the spectacular views with no danger of falling several hundred metres down the precipitous cliffs that line the coast. I feel very sorry for Louis' friends and relatives who probably got dragged out to walk the camino each time they visited. It has recently been restored by I.C.O.N.A. (the Spanish National Parks authority) and is now a fine path with excellent views. The day we walked it there were terrific gales blowing in from the sea that made it quite difficult to walk as well as admire the stunning views but it is well worth visiting.

Penny: The next day we descended Avenc del Pla de les Basses, a cave on Formentor. We went with Watty, the rather vague U.L.S.A. president. Vague is probably an understatement. Quotes from Watty run something like this:

Watty "What's John's surname ?"
A.N. Other "I don't know, which John ?"
Watty "John Glover"

He has also been known (after a long evening in the New Inn) to have dreamt that he soloed Bar Pot and then woken up in Clapham car-park to find his caving gear and some tackle ominously muddy.

Therefore we were not in the least surprised when we found that Watty had left his S.R.T. gear in someone else's car which they had driven off to some unknown destination. Fortunately for some reason he had all the abseiling gear from a previous day's Sa Fosca trip with him, and so had a collection of cowstails and several descenders. With our spare jammers he was able to cobble together a reasonable set of S.R.T. gear.

Plas de les Basses is not somewhere you want to go if there is the slightest hint that it might rain. It is situated at the lowest point of a large flat basin that looks as if it is water logged for much of the year. The basin is surrounded by low hills and there is only one place for the water to drain - the cave entrance. The first pitch (about 30m) is large and airy, but the cave then becomes much more drain like and narrows into a vertical tube. Dave Elliot has been here and there are lots of nice bolts although none of them are red. In fact there were rather more bolts than we had maillons for and Watty rigged down discarding various bits of his cobbled together S.R.T. gear at each pitch.

After a rather awkward and interesting squeeze (you know the type, it starts off vertically and then goes horizontal before opening out again) we were within sight of the bottom. Incidentally the squeeze was deemed impassable for many years. Finally we rigged the penultimate pitch from my cowstails and threw the tail end of the rope down a short climb (U.L.S.A. 9mm rope is indestructible) to land in a sump at -127 metres. Well it was supposed to be a sump, when we were there it was a rather salty muddy quagmire. We hurried on out with Watty reassembling bits of his S.R.T. gear as he went. We were relieved to see that there still wasn't a cloud in the sky. The place really is mostly just a small vertical tube and obviously gets very wet indeed. There are few, probably no, places where you could sit out a storm and I expect it would flood to the entrance (!) very quickly.

Dan: Another excellent walk is the climb up Puig Tomir, the fifth highest peak on the island. We started from the Binifaldo bottling plant and made a rapid ascent to the summit stopping only to admire the vultures which circled us. From the summit there are spectacular views of almost the whole island. We found yet another crib, this time made of clay rather than bits of flesh and forced down some of our lunch saving the fruit to put on the shelf in the car. We then continued over and down the mountain and circled around the southern flanks following a small path along a particularly green and verdant valley. It was deserted and extremely beautiful. The valley broadened and the path narrowed until the path disappeared altogether and we were lost. We knew that the derelict farmhouse at Aucanella was near here and found it remarkably quickly. This was very reassuring as we now knew where we were even if we didn't know where we were going. This relaxed feeling rapidly disappeared when we discovered a blanket, the remains of a fire and a partly chewed sheep's leg in the farmhouse. Dusk was not that far off and neither of us wanted to meet a half-crazed sheepgnawing Mallorquin tramp. After thrashing our way through the undergrowth for some time we regained the path and were soon well on the way to the bottling plant at Binifaldo.

On our last day, we decided that we had to visit Bikini Cave. We had seen the slides ad infinitum in Cambridge and we now had some excellent directions from Julian, who thought it was on a building site either somewhere near Cueva del Arta or possibly next to Cuevas des Hams. Armed with these detailed instructions we headed off to Arta and had a good look around. Things looked promising as there was a huge building site nearby. However we could not see the cave entrance and decided to head for Hams. As we drove off we noticed a workman emerging from a very obvious hole pulling up his trousers. We reparked the car and investigated. Keeping a careful eye open for any deposits the workman had left we entered Bikini Cave. It is very impressive. It was once even more impressive. It is a great pity that a cave that is so beautiful but is unprotected (no sump, duck, crawl or pitch, only a low entrance) has been so desecrated but I guess that is predictable. It almost makes one grateful for the Daren entrance series.

Penny: On our last evening everyone headed into Palma to Cardinal Poo street (you won't forget that name) to an excellent Mallorquin restaurant. Many local delicacies were featured on the menu, including swordfish and thrushes. The place was full of locals and the wine was continuously flowing. When you finished a bottle they simply refilled it from one of the many huge barrels in the room. We then headed off to the La Luna bar and kept the staff working until dawn serving large gin and tonics.

The next morning we struggled with our hangovers as we packed and headed off to the airport. We stopped only to throw away the large pile of rotting fruit that had been accumulating on the shelf in the front of the car for a week.

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