Life is full of choices.  Usually, at the time, we are convinced that what we have chosen is the right thing.  The reality is that we rarely truly know if it was the right choice until much later.  I chose to live in Mallorca six or seven years ago, and, as I have discovered, this was a good choice.  Whilst living here was never part of a big plan; I do think it was the right choice, for the right reasons, at the right time.

The sunset.  Again.  What might seem like the endless spectacular sunsets.  I was looking for a good omen that would ensure that today was a good one, and I found what I was looking for when I went out on deck last night.  The whole ‘old sailor’ thing about ‘red sky at night, sailor’s delight’ is cute, but the reality does seem to be that we have had quite a few evenings where the sunsets are beyond fabulous.  I read someplace that there are over 250 shades of red, and that night, they were all evident as the sun slowly slipped down to the horizon.  The sailor thing does seem to hold true, and when the early evening sky does glisten with the warm glow of red, the next days do seem to bring good things.  Well, good things within reason, of course.  Today wasn’t much different. 

I struggled to get out of bed this morning – too many aches from probably two much swimming distances more than the length of a pool.  Yesterday I had done my now-almost-standard-mile-long course in the morning before breakfast, and then again in the afternoon.  Just so you know, I do not restrict my exercise routine to just the swimming and rowing routines I have establish; I also get exercise by popping open several of those blister-pack units that contain 600 mg tabs of ibuprofena multiple times each day.  So after all my aches this morning, I staggered into the galley but on the way, did manage to look outside and saw that the sea was pretty much dead flat, so….into the water I went.  After doing the mile thing, I did have breakfast and then set out for a pretty much chocker day. 

First I drove back to Sol y Mar.  Yes, it was one of my every-two-or-three days back to water the plants and check the post and do other miscellaneous house-stuff.  Then after ticking all those boxes, I drove out to La Antigua to see if that house was still standing and if the courtyard was filled with leaves from the bouganvilla plants that have grown this summer even larger than they were before.  Then it was back in the car to drive to the port again.  But instead of heading back on the Puigpunyent-Palma road, I decided to take the more scenic route. 

The term ‘more scenic’ is pretty apt, but like many things seem appropriate at the time, there are some unintended consequences.  Today was one of those times.   The ‘scenic’ route I took went from Puigpunyent, through Galilea, to Es Capdella, and then on to the other side of Andratx.  The reason I call it the ‘scenic’ route is that this little road (little meaning narrow-as-shit) should be in the Oxford Dictionary definition of serpentine.  And if all the windy-bits are enough, the road takes you up and over one of the minor-mountains here on the island.  When I first discovered this road just after moving to Puigpunyent, I quickly also discovered that about the only safe way to drive it was to hit your horn a couple of times as you approached a spot where the road twisted around some rock wall.  For some reason, the brain-trusts that designed this road didn’t think to make the road a tad wider on the corners, and because all the twisty-hairpin-like corners through the mountains do not allow for seeing who might be coming the other way, using your audio indicator is about the only way to let someone know that you too are trying to avoid either scraping your car along the rock-side of the road, or, if you are going the other way, trying to avoid having one or more of your wheels slip over the edge of the road (which would, of course, cause your car to slide down some massive hill to the valley below).  I suppose that when the road was built, cars were quite a bit smaller than they are now (or maybe the road at the time was well-and-truly wide enough for two donkey-carts).  All I know is that whilst I do love driving on that road, several times that day I found myself slowly going around a corner only to encounter someone in an over-sized car who must have had his or her iPod on turbo-decibels preventing him or her from hearing my little horn go beep-beep.  And if those experiences weren’t enough, I also encountered a amateur peloton of crazed, matching-spandex-wearing bicyclists who thought that riding 3 and 4 abreast was clear evidence of their manliness.  In their matching spadex cycling kits.  Right.  Whilst it was quite tempting, I did decide to not cause some of them to careen over the edge.  But after another dozen or so twists-and-turns, I was over the top of the mountain and the road began to straighten out as I cruised along the valley.  And that is where it all hit me.

The valley was…well, it looked like a Robert Altman painting or Diane Arbus photo.  Stark.  Lonely.  Desolate.  Almost alien looking.  And whilst even the starkness and desolation of what I was looking at was majestically beautiful, I realized that it seemed so removed from what most people believe that Mallorca is like.  If you believe all that you read about Mallorca, it might be understandable why you might think that this is an island chocker with incredible calas and beaches.  Well, there is no doubt that we do have some spectacular calas and fabulous beaches, and they hopefully do entice tourists to come here on holiday (and leaving their euros or pounds or dollars for sure).  But this is one of those ‘context’ things.  Our calas and beaches are fabulously beautiful, but they are just two parts of what Mallorca is all about.  What it takes to discover the real Mallorca is the willingness to get out of the tourist areas and explore a bit.  In other words, in order to really be here, you need to really “be” here.   This was one of the big reasons of why I moved to Puigpunyent (no metropolis or touristy areas there); and it also is the reason I live where I do now. 

And on a side note that is not entirely unrelated to my story…I recently was reading a book in which the author wrote about the fact that one grain of sand from any beach compared to all the sand in the entire world, is still bigger in proportion than the earth is in relationship to the universe.  He went on to mention that dinosaurs had roamed our planet for over 600 times longer than we (man) have been on ‘our’ planet.  And we still call it ‘our’ planet.  The term ‘delusional’ does come to mind.  Perhaps it is time for all of us to adjust our mental models folks and put them all into some type of context.  Personally, I think it is pretty great to know that we are just a tiny speck in a huge something. 

In all fairness, a bit of clarification here:  Admittedly, when I first came to Mallorca in 1970 or 1971, I also thought that the island was all about the calas and the beaches.  It took me pretty many years to return, and to finally ‘get it.’ 



250 at least...count'em if you don't believe me


...245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250....see?


well before I even knew about Mallorca


happy plants on one of the terraces


pretty stark


just like an Altman or Arbus


and then the evening settles in

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copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011  James B. Rieley