I sit watching the sun rise over Puig Ferrer, climbing higher in the sky and already warming the terrace. Songbirds chirp in the trees, there’s the faint hum of the occasional passing car visiting Lluc, and the chink of dishes inside Refugi de Son Amer.
In a recent twist of fate, I find myself writing not as katherinebikes, but as katherinehikes. Or perhaps more accurately katherinedrives, katherineorganises, katherinepays and katherineserves.
Today is the last day of a four day trek across Mallorca from Deia to Pollenca, following the national GR221 trail. Ten Dutch ladies are tackling the trek, with Mountain Leader Dave Barrow leading the way. Some are experienced hikers, and for some it’s the first time, but with 70km of dry stone trails to cover across the Tramuntana mountain range, it’s a challenge for everyone.
The GR221 is a popular trail, visited by walking enthusiasts from all over the world and punctuated by tranquil mountain refuges, dividing the route into manageable stages. We’ve stayed high up on the clifftops watching the sun set over Port de Soller, in an almost inaccessible refuge called Tossals Verds, meaning green hills, and lastly here overlooking the breathtaking monastery in Lluc.
The guiding life
Ten years ago I was starting my Duke of Edinburgh’s awards, a British scheme that was established to encourage young people to learn more skills, volunteer in the community and to complete expeditions, usually on foot but also by bike or horseback. Our team of six or seven started with a two day walk across local East Devon, and within three years we completed a four day trek into the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, completely unsupported with the exception of essential water top-ups.
I had never dreamt that a decade later, I would be doing the same, but leading a group, twice my age. These people are looking up to you for your guidance, your advice, and put faith in exactly what you recommend. That’s pretty daunting, and I’m glad to have Dave as our leader, as a fully qualified ML with plenty of years’ experience under his belt.
My assistant role is really more involved that I originally imagined. Apart from my main duty of driving the car which has all the overnight luggage, there’s meeting up along the route where possible to deliver water and snacks, finding a way to draw out cash each day, finding the refuges and checking in as well as making up bunk-beds and hauling luggage where I can. Anything that I can do to make the day that little bit easier for the ladies once they reach their destination on weary legs.
The day doesn’t end when the group gets to the refuge either. Whether it’s preparing and briefing for the next day, making sure that dinner goes smoothly and everyone has what they need or simply socialising – it’s all part of the job. Thankfully Dave knows a fair few party tricks from his days of working with kids and our attempts at Charleston lessons never fail to amuse!
I’m honoured and humbled to be in this position, showing these ladies this wonderful island, introducing them to the simple beauty of mountain refuges and encouraging them into the serene world of mountain hiking. It’s a far cry from their usual holiday type, but I’ve been impressed by their willingness to adopt the mountain lifestyle and friendly attitude towards their fellow walkers. We mustn’t forget everyone else that we’ve met along the way; the two German girls, the Swedish hikers, the German siblings with the drone, English Richard and countless others. Each member of the Refugi has a story, and we all muck in together.