Charles Davis Goes Walking in Mallorca and Discovers the Canaleta de Massanella

Posted on 02/05/2013

In the third of his guest blog posts, Charles Davis goes walking in Mallorca and tells tales of wild boar, pigs, and supermodels.



As the Mallorcan walking season gets into swing, I find my mind turning to pigs. This may not seem very promising as a premise for a piece about mountains. After all, the appeal of the pig when it comes to the outward bound business is limited.



I once had a close encounter with a sounder of wild boar in a barranco in central Spain that put enough wind up me to inflate a hot air balloon. Moreover, the famous patas negras that are transformed into all those delicious hams in Andalusia have put me off my picnic on several occasions with their intrusive curiosity - it's a bit infra dig, tucking into your pan con tomate and  jamon serrano while the comestible's cousin looks on, edging ever nearer in case you might be doing something interesting.

As for the wild pigs of Corsica, they are notorious for staging carefully planned raiding parties on unsuspecting tourists who happen to be in possession, albeit briefly, of a hamper. One of these beasts left a friend of mine traumatized for life when it cornered him in his hire car, placed its trotters on the bonnet, and proceeded to eyeball him through the windscreen while my mate prudently reversed down the mountain, pursued by pig.


But the pigs that bring Mallorca to mind are more benign, for they were the creatures that inspired Jacint Josep Fontanet i Llebrés (1706 - 1762). You've got to admire a man with a name like that. If I'd had a name like Fontanet i Llebrés, I could have gone far in life. Admittedly, it doesn't have quite the same ring to it in English. If my very approximate Catalan is to be trusted (it isn't), Jacint Josep's family name is something like Plumber & Hares, which might do for the name of a pub, but lacks the sonorous cadence of the original. However, there may have been an element of nominative determinism here, because our man is most famous for his work with water.


Back in the 1740s, Mallorca was experiencing a prolonged drought and the shortage was particularly acute in the villages on the southern side of the Serra de Tramuntana, notably in Mancor, where Jacint Josep made his living as a pig farmer. Being a man of both means and initiative, Jacint Josep conceived the notion of tapping the aquifers of the high mountain and canalizing the water down to the plain where his pigs were getting thirsty. He duly consulted the finest engineering minds of his generation, all of whom took one look at the jagged summits, grimaced, and said, "Can't be done, guvnor." That didn't go down at all well. A man of means and initiative, Jacint Josep was also bloody stubborn.


This is quite a common characteristic in Mallorca. The Mallorcans are not a people to whom you want to say "Can't be done" casually. Indeed, they don't take kindly to negation of any stripe. When Claudia Schiffer bought an estate on Cap Andritxol in the West of the island (see the ViewRanger trail map Walk! Mallorca West, Itinerary 9 or buy the Walk! guidebook) and in the name of privacy tried to close down a popular walk on her new property, the place was positively swarming with Mallorcans, many of whom had never been on a hike in their entire lives before; but they all had a pair of wire-cutters at home and they weren't having some foreign supermodel fencing off their mountains. Like I say, you don't want to say 'no' to a Mallorcan. Whether prohibiting access or pretending something is impossible, you're asking for a swift response.


All the finest engineering minds of his generation were telling this Mallorcan pig farmer there was no way you could construct a conduit bringing water down from Font des Prat to Mancor, so Jacint Josep went ahead and built the thing himself. And it's still there and was still in use 250 years later.

1 The Canaleta at source.jpg

2 The Canaletta as seen from the GR221 (see Discovery Walking Guides' Mallorca's Dry Stone Way).jpg

3 Crossing the aqueduct.JPG

4 A vertiginous stretch.jpg


Best of all, the Canaleta de Massanella now provides one of the most spectacular walks (see the ViewRanger trail map Walk! Mallorca North & Mountains, Itinerary 19 - or buy the Walk! Guidebook) in Mallorca, an island not short of spectacular walks. You wouldn't want to suffer too acutely from vertigo, but for anyone with a head for heights, a passion for remote places, a love of adventure, and a taste for grand views, it's a must.


And all thanks to a thirsty pig.


A word to the wise, though. If you meet any Mallorcans up there, don't say "can't" to them. You never know what might happen.

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