Being in nature is the number one way for me to drop out of my busy head and into my body. It helps me do less thinking and more, being. (Which, incidentally, is said to one of the best ways to boost creativity.) It’s one of the best ways for me to switch off from stress and feel alive. Combined with exercise it’s a sure-fire way to recover from the demands of a fast-paced job and tough workload. I love hiking and being around the sea so the the 185km trail around the coast of the island sounded like the perfect antidote to burnout.
The path has existed since 1330 and was used to keep watch by settlers with armed horses in case of attack. The path was restored and fully reopened in 2010 and now provides a rocky route around the island. It’s divided into 20 stages of varying lengths and difficulties. Due to the fact that there is no accomodation (or much of anything other than gloriously unspoilt coast and deserted beaches for stretches of it) it’s best to be completed during the tourist season. If you’re sensible, you’ll use one of the logistics companies. They can help with things like:
- Booking accommodation
- Transporting your luggage between accommodations
- Ferrying you from the end of stages and start of the next to and from your accommodation as needed
- They’ll also tailor the tour for you based on the number of days you have available and will provide you with additional things like maps and apps
I booked extremely last minute and did not take advantage of anything like this. I was organising a multi-step, multi-stage project at work in addition to my normal workload and my already frazzled brain had no capacity to work out another multi-step project outside of work too. Literally the day before I left I had some free time and I grabbed a plan off the internet and booked hotels based on this 7-day plan. May I take this opportunity to advise you not to do that in a hurry!
I’m not one for taking unsubstantiated information off the internet and treating it as gospel. However, on this occasion I’d been searching for a plan I could follow to walk the island in a week (most people do it in 6 – 10 days apparently). I’d come back to this particular plan a number of times as it laid out the kms to be walked everyday and made it really clear where the end-points were and where hotels should be booked. In other words, it made my life easy! I also consulted the official website for the trail that laid out the 20 stages. It didn’t exactly match the plan I had but I put that down to the fact that you can walk multiple stages in a day and my stopping points were to coincide with towns with tourist accommodation rather than being conveniently situated at the end of stages.
- So with the minimum of packing:
- 2 pairs of leggings
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 3 tops/t-shirts
- 1 sundress
- 1 pair of trainers
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 swimsuit
- Underwear and socks
- 1 microfibre towel
- Essential oils, toothbrush and paste, soap bar, natural hand sanitiser, blister plasters, moon cup
- Notebook and pen
- Non-fiction book
- Water pouches
- Phone and wallet
(for those who wanted to know) I was off.
I made a mad dash for Decathlon in Mahon before I left on the first morning since I realised my 3 litres of water weren’t going to fit into my little backpack. The straps were also straining somewhat alarmingly so I decided a proper hiking backpack would really be a good idea. (I’m always the one out hiking in gym kit and trainers alongside people in all the fancy kit, but usually I’m overtaking them so I don’t let myself feel too intimidated about it. If I were going somewhere off the beaten track I’d invest in some proper walking boots/shoes but here “sturdy footwear” really just means, not flip-flops. However, I was keen not to have my backpack break halfway round, miles from anywhere so decided it was probably a sensible decision.)
To save time walking across the port I called a taxi to take me to the road that marks the start of the trail. It’s 5km walking along a busy-ish road. It’s the only time I felt a little unsafe and wondered if I should have thought a bit more about the fact I was walking this – sometimes quite remote – route on my own. The taxi driver was quizzing me about where I was staying, which hotel I was going to be at that evening. I’m sure he was just checking that I was going to be able to get there in time since I was heading off later in the day than planned. But it made me nervous and I made up a story about having to catch up with some friends and needing to check where they were. He waited for ages on the side of the road while I feigned texting my fellow hikers and only after he finally drove off did I feel comfortable to head off up the road in the direction he’d pointed me.
As I was walking I suddenly felt quite unprepared as all I had with me was a tourist map of the island I’d found at a petrol station in Mahon. I’d heard about a good book that I was intending to use but as I wasn’t starting in one of the most touristy areas I didn’t find it on sale anywhere when I started. Later on my travels there were several touristy shops selling it along with proper walking maps. Anyway, as I got to the top of the hill I spied the red signs of the Cami de Cavill and remembered I’d read the trail was well waymarked. Indeed it was. There were small posts at really frequent intervals along the path and larger ones with km info along the way. There was no need to be worried about getting lost (except for that small detour I took into someone’s private land when I didn’t see that actual path since it looked like it was taking me down a sheer rock face!).
The official ruling is that you walk the route anti-clockwise but in reality you’re free to tackle it any way you like. In certain stretches I passed many people coming the opposite direction who were heading out for a short, easy hike, taking a break from lying on the beach.
The first few days were the hardest stretches and I admit I had to miss out a couple of stages on the first two days thanks to the wildly inaccurate plan I was following! When I started on day one I was actually about 47km from my hotel rather than the planned 30km. When I was half way through the second stage I realised there was no way I was going to reach my accommodation before dark (nor was I in any fit shape to walk an additional 17km). All I can say is thank goodness for the excellent taxi service in Menorca!
It took a good three days of walking alone in nature to release the negative emotions and feelings of burnout that had built up over the past few months. I let out my anger, my frustration and my tears to the trees, wind and ocean.The first few days were hard – physically, too. I went from sitting at a desk 11 hours a day to walking 30km and climbing the the equivalent of 154 floors per day. I spent much of the first few days wondering why I’d thought this might have been a good idea. By the fourth day my shoulders were used to the weight on my backpack and my legs felt tired in a good way. I’d left work worries behind and was able to just be in the moment.
My face smiled reflexively at the butterflies that float around me, the Egyptian Vulture soaring above me and the tortoises I nearly stepped on. The azure blue of the ocean and the unpopulated countryside brought both elation and peace to my heart at the same time.
I’d trek the route again in a heartbeat (slightly better prepared next time though). If you happen to be having a resort holiday on the island I’d highly encourage you to have a go at one of the easier stages as a change of pace from lying on the beach or eating at the all-inclusive! All stages are well marked and suitable for children (depending on age and ability). Go prepared with water and snacks since many stages have no facilities.
For more information about hiking the route see the Discover Menorca site and the book above.