The Cami de s’Arxiduc is one of the most popular and spectacular walks on the island of Mallorca and is one of my favourites. At the moment a lot of conservation work is going on and access to certain areas is restricted. Permission has to be obtained to go on the walk and only a certain number of people are allowed each day.
The conservation work involves the recovery of the oak forest by means of selective cutting and repopulation with seedlings. Some of the old wells, lime kilns and charcoal burners huts are also being restored.
We followed the original route climbing steadily through the oak woods until we reached the wall just before the well at Es Pouet. Here a signpost directed us along the new path.
We met a couple of the wardens who were leading some mules.
We continued to climb and there were some tricky moments.
Our path took us close to the Cova de s’Ermita Guillem but I guess that most people to not notice it. It is an old hermits cave and of course Greg had to go in. There is a bed and some basic cooking implements and lots of religious artefacts on the walls.
I heard people approaching so while Greg sat at the desk, I invited them in. I said that the hermit was at home and was welcoming visitors. “Please come in” A couple of young hikers ventured inside. When they saw Greg the girl squealed and then burst out laughing. “You got me” she said.
We continued to climb and as we looked down we could see the cloud drifting in below us.
The main section of the path is super.
It was way back in 1867 that Archduke Ludwig Salvator visited Mallorca and fell in love with the island. He purchased several properties and constructed this bridleway along the edge of the cliffs so that he could enjoy the view. The path is 1.5 metres wide but there is a drop of several hundred metres to the left. Not too scary but you do need to concentrate.
The path moved away from the edge as we reached the plateau.
We passed the cairn indicating the descent to Deia and then reached Puig Caragoli, a rocky knoll that marks the highest point of our walk at 944 metres. The cloud continued to roll in and it was looking increasingly bleak towards Teix.
We did not go as far as Teix but turned right to return down the Coma d’es Cairats.We passed the picnic area at Font d’es Polls and then saw some goats grazing on the hillside.
Along the way we saw some ancient Charcoal Burners Huts. The charcoal burner, known as a carbonero, would rent an area of woodland where he would build a hut. These huts were usually circular with dry stone walls and a roof made of tree branches and grass. A separate oven would be built so that bread could be baked. Nearby would be the charcoal production floor known as a sitja. The stones at the base of the sitja would be arranged to allow sufficient air to circulate so that the wood was carbonised without it igniting. The branches were then placed on this base in the form of a cupola with a central chimney and then covered with a layer of clay or gravel. The carbonero would start the process by dropping live coals down the chimney. The process took about 12 days and the carbonero wo0uld have to keep constant watch over the process.
We also saw some old lime kilns. These were circular and made of dry stone. The lime burners would convert the calcareous stone into quicklime which was then used as a whitewash for walls and to make mortar in the construction industry. The process required temperatures of up to 800 degrees C and the fire had to be watched over and maintained for up to ten days. Finally the quicklime had to be removed and transported to its destination using mules and waggons. A bit like those we saw earlier in the day.
After about five hours walking we were back in Valldemossa and ready for a pint.
Another amazing day, fantastic views and a bit a rural industry.