Saturday, 9 May 2009

Island Tour Supreme

Following on from where I left off last night, the Wednesday morning we had to be first in the breakfast queue at the dining room to be at the pick up point by 8.40am. We also picked up our picnic hampers which were more than adequate for the day.

Our driver deserved a gold medal negotiating the mountain road with this beauty.

We were picked up on schedule and the driver had to make a few more pick up’s before the tour properly got underway. The coach was a fairly new model and one feature that we hadn’t seen previously was that there was a camera on the front of the coach which was relayed through a TV screen above the driver which gave us a drivers eye view of the road ahead.

Leaving Alcudia we headed off to the Tramuntana mountain range which we were to cross to get to sa Calobra to pick up a ferry to Port de Soller (pronounced Soya). Now I am not the best of travellers unless I’m in the driving seat so I concentrated on the road ahead on the TV screen. As we got further into the mountains the road became narrower and more windy. By the time we reached the rest stop at the half way point I wasn’t feeling exactly brilliant and couldn’t get off the coach quick enough.

Underway again on the descent to sa Calobra the journey was a lot slower as the road became even narrower and twisty with the road at one point doing a 280deg turn on itself passing under a bridge where we had been only minutes before. A bit like the Raurimu Spiral in New Zealand for those that are familiar with this railway spectacular. The driver had his hands full as he had to use the total road width to negotiate “U” bends that did 180deg turns with only inches to spare, not just once but numerous times. Luckily we only met a few vehicles travelling in the opposite direction as passing room is very limited. This was not a road for the faint hearted I can assure you. For those in New Zealand the Rimutaka hill road is a doddle compared to this road.

Upon arrival at sa Calobra we all agreed that the driver deserved a gold medal for his superb driving skills. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on that road later that day because there were 8 coaches awaiting the arrival of the ferry to transport nearly 400 people back over the mountain road we had just traversed.

Not a road for the nervous. This is the Tramuntana mountain range.
The driver needed every inch of road to negotiate some of these bends.

The ferry trip around the coast to Port de Soller took just on 45 minutes. The cliffs and caves between the two ports were rugged, colourful and amazingly scarce of bird life. We did see some Dolphins or Porpoises in the distance but they didn’t come close enough to positively identify them. It was suggested that there are no Dolphins in the Mediterranean, perhaps somebody could confirm or deny this?

Once inside the port we could see that the next stage of the tour was going to be very interesting indeed. We had a little over an hour to explore the old town of Port de Soller with its narrow cobbled streets and alleyways of hundreds of steps with just a pathway for prams or bicycles down one side. Back in the town centre we caught the 80 year old Tram for the 30 minute journey to Soller railway station. Between Port de Soller and Soller town we passed through narrow streets where the tram ruled supreme and motorists had no access or had to get out of the way. Interesting back yards and citrus orchards gave us plenty to see and photograph.

Narrow streets and alleyways of old Majorca.
The path on the left of the steps is for pushchairs and cycles.

Once we reached the railway station we again had time to look around at the the town and its beautiful old church and bank building. This was what we had come to Spain to see and what a glorious day it turned out to be.

The tram station with 2 driving cars and 2 trailers between.

Back at the railway station I was in my element as the tram sheds and the engine shed and workshops are on either side of the main line and they both share the same track in places. The railway and tram system are privately owned by a consortium of businessmen of Soller who’s families originally built the railway 100 years ago to transport their citrus fruit and olives to the port of Palma for export around the world. These days there is no freight carried on the line but it does cater for over a million tourists a year.

The railway started off with steam loco’s but these were deemed unsuitable and in 1929 4 electric loco’s were built in mainland Spain and the line electrified. Those loco’s are still in use to this day as are the beautifully maintained original Teak carriages. Because of the many tour coaches that connect up with the train a new station and car park has had to be built on the outskirts of Palma to alleviate congestion at the main terminus. This hour long journey was over all too quickly and we were back on the coach heading back to our hotels this time via the new motorway system built around the island.

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