Mallorca Easter Tour
easter tour 1999
- Ben Ogborne
- Mike Rogerson
- Edward Austin
- Tom Ayles
- Colm Carroll
- Stefan Holmgren
- Anna Thanning
- Jakob Forestier
- Martin Pattenden
- Andrew Jurd
- Henry Hunt-Grubbe
On a sunny Saturday afternoon we all gathered in Beit Quad to assemble our gear. After the usual faffing and heading home to pick up forgotten necessities, we were ready to go. Goaty persuaded everyone to wear 5 hangers each on our belts to ensure our baggage kept within the weight limit of the plane. Suitably armed, the eleven hardened cavers jingled down Exhibition Road on the first leg of our journey to Majorca.
Despite being talked about for months, the trip had only been booked the week before, and there were times when we wondered where our deposits were going. Nonetheless, the intrepid duo of Goaty and Ben, came up with the goods and everyone was looking forward to seeing the amazing formations and massive chambers that had tantalised us all year.
On arrival at Palma Airport, we quickly hired cars and in no time the Punto trio were zooming off down the motorway to our apartments in Alcudia. The temperature that night was about 4°rees;C, so it was a cold group of cavers that finally emerged from bed at about midday.
Cueva de Sant Marti
After getting our bearings in the 'beautiful' resort of Alcudia, we all decided to head en masse to nearby Ceuva de Sant Marti. Finding this cave was slightly tricky due to several roads being resurfaced, but after tearing down a dirt track, the Punto posse finally got there. This pothole is quite well known in the area as being a holy cave, consisting of a large open shaft with an altar on one side. Despite the warden being nearby, we climbed the gate and started our first bit of caving. The first thing we noticed was the blast of hot air, everyone was sweating within seconds. Then a fluttering in the air revealed a buggery of bats, dozens of them flying all over the place. A bit of crawling around, trying not to damage the floating calcite crystals lead to a tight squeeze with only the root veg mad enough to attempt it. Emerging to the cooler temperatures was such a relief that Goaty, Tom, Ben, Ed, and Colm decided to hit the town. Unfortunately, the town didn't seem to realise that IC3 had arrived and there was not a party to be seen.
Cueva Sa Compana
Next day saw normal Majorcan weather return, and with it, the proper caving started. The posse quickly split into three groups, with the cool dudes of Colm, Ben, Andrew and Henry heading to Cova sa Campana. This cave is well known on the island for being big, and all I can say is 'Wow!'. The cave consists of a series of massive chambers, with the biggest being able to hold Palma Cathedral. There is the distinct possibility of getting lost or disorientated , but we brought a candle with us to guide us on our way out. When we emerged from the cave we drove down to the end of Torent de Pareis gorge, quite a sight during daylight.
Avenc de Pla des Basses
Suffering from SRT withdrawal symptoms, I managed to persuade Tom and Henry to come with me to Avenc de Pla des Basses. This is basically a vertical pot that wouldn't be out of place in Yorkshire. The entrance is quite close to the road, but to get to it, we first had to cross the hazardous Serengeti Plains. In rainfall, these plains drain directly into the cave, making it quite a dangerous place to be, but, without a cloud in the sky, we felt quietly confident. This cave had been bolted by Dave Elliot, so the were spits all over the place. Easy rigging down several pitches led to the squeeze which was only for 'thin British cavers'. This proved to be dead easy and we were soon in expedition rigging mode due to running out of equipment. A couple of pitches past the squeeze we came to the dried up sump, unfortunately it was silted up so we couldn't go any further. On the drive back from the cave we somehow acquired a 'big game' sign, God knows how it got there.
On Wednesday, it was time for Tom, Jacob and I to see the prettiest cave on the island, Penya Rotja. A pleasant mountain drive led to the car-park and the start of the track to the entrance. The turn-off to this hugely picturesque cliff-top walk is obvious, even Bruce could find it (this is not a dig at Goaty or anything). A bit of thrashing around in the flowers leads to the entrance. As Tim described last year, this cave is an 'upside down bowl' shape. We first of all headed uphill to the Salle des Ossos, this is an extremely wide chamber, but no more than about six feet high. Everything is extremely still and peaceful, and this, coupled with the warm air makes it a very relaxing place to be.
Supposedly there are the bones of some extinct animals in the chamber, not that we could find any. After a wander around for a while, we headed downhill to Via d'Antigua. This is a climb down which gradually gets steeped and steeper until a rope is required. Rigging off a bit of stal brought us to a viewing platform overlooking a fine pitch. Rebelaying off a handy grill gives a nice hang into the spectacular Gallerie de la Roma. The walls are decorated in church organ-like stal, with little flowstone grottos all over the place, undoubtedly the most beautiful chamber I've ever been in. After faffing about for about an hour, we exited the cave to a cool evening, with a pleasant walk back to the car.
Cueva de les Rodes
The original plan was to have Thursday off, but being 'ard bastards, we went caving instead. However, we first needed to stock up on carburo, so the resourceful amongst us went to Sa Pobla, and managed not to get lost for once. After investing in a few kilos, Ed, Tom, Ben and I motored to the cave. Cova des les Rodes is situated in the seaside village of Cala St. Vincente. We parked in the beach car-park and walked the '200m' away from the beach, then turned off to the entrance. Climbing over a metal gate led us to a driveway as described. We followed this road halfway up the mountain before deciding we'd gone totally wrong. All the same, we did find a pointless mine just off the track, and had a bit of a wander around there. Made it back to the main road and carried on another 50m to a second turn off, this proved to lead directly to the entrance.
The cave consists of dry streamway passage, unfortunately spoiled by graffiti. Climbing down an easy pitch leads to a pool of water, which can be climbed around. We explored a bit more dry passage until we ran out of rope at the top of a short pitch, also ending in a small pool. According to the survey, this passage leads onwards for quite a distance, but there isn't much to see. On the way back, Ben and I decided to check out where the first pool went. Unwilling to get my clothes wet, the naked branch of IC3 was born. We ducked underneath an archway to see the pool continue onwards. Around a corner and through a deep section led to what seemed to be a dead end, but a quick look underwater showed a free-divable sump. A deep breath and quick soaking later and we emerged where we were before, deeper into the cave, we'd found a pitch bypass, albeit a wet one. After a bit of faffing in the water, we headed out of the cave and drove to the end of the Formentor Penisula for a quick trip down Avenc de Sis Theresa.
Avenc de Sis Theresa
According to the guidebook description of this avenc, the first hanger can be placed without leaving the car. Seeing as it was about one in the morning, we stopped our car in the road, right at the entrance, and everyone stayed in the warmth while I rigged the pitch. A bit of swinging, and three of four deviations later, I was at the bottom. After spending at least thirty seconds exploring the end of the cave, I was ready to exit. Tom quickly arrived, and I hammered up. Just below the lip, there was a really mad rub-point, with the sheath almost all the way through. I tied a butterfly in it, Italian style, and sorted a quick rebelay before heading out. Ed and Ben followed, and I sat in the car waiting for them. Unfortunately, Ben hadn't re-rigged the rope, so everyone was struggling on the changeover, I took the opportunity to do a rev test on our Punto, and shout abuse at the prussikers from the comfort of the drivers seat.
Friday was spent driving inland to get a feel for the island. We found a 200m stretch of motorway connecting nothing with nothing, and, after tearing up loads of private driveways, visited a small town called Buger. The fascists took the opportunity that evening to consume vast quantities of San Miguel, at a pound a litre, there was plenty of it.
Our final day dawned lovely and sunny, with a surprising lack of headaches. After a quick dip in the Med, Goaty, Tom, Ed, Ben, and I drove down to Porto Christo to visit the caves of Drach. These caves are quite well known for their beauty, even the great Martel took time out to visit them, and now there's a massive lake named after him. As we waited for the entrance to open, coach after coach turned up regurgitating hundreds of fat German tourists. Eventually, we all entered the cave, and followed a path between the amazing formations. Goaty and I kept an eye out for the chance to arse-dip, but there were too many Spanish bouncers around the place.
Eventually we arrived at Lac Martel and were forced to sit down while an orchestra rowed by on a boat. As soon as it was gone, we couldn't get out of the place fast enough. We stopped on the way back for another quick swim, and then tidied our incredibly dirty apartment before beginning our return journey to Palma airport. After stopping in the gents to relieve ourselves of the 'Big Game' sign, we boarded our flight back to Gatwick, arriving back in Beit Quad the following morning after an extremely enjoyable Easter Tour.