Mumble years ago when the Carmichael clan rented the bucolic farmhouse/villa between Pollenca and Puerto Pollenca in the days when air con was an unheard of luxury but dead roosters in the swimming pool were not, we decided on a longer than average outing half way through our stay (in full knowledge that, “Are we there yet?” would feature frequently in transit conversation). We believed and still do that seeing new sights is almost always a good thing.
We chose the Cuevas del Drach near Porto Cristo because the girls had yet to be introduced to the soaring beauty of a tite and a mite and I’ve always thought that Mr Carmichael could do with some time in a Stalig of one sort or another.
Anyway, we bought our entry tickets and ice creams at an ice cream/entry ticket booth carved into the rock face overlooking the Med and enjoyed a superb tour of the underground grotto with about twenty other tourists. The girls may have preferred the ice lollies to the subterranean lava encrusted limestone caves but all in all it was a successful day out. I even managed to get my derechas and my izquierdas correct which is another good thing when you are designated navigator.
So, it was a foregone conclusion that this time we would, on one of our two hire car days, repeat the experience sans offspring.
Here is the car we hired:
Here is the car I wanted to hire:
Still, nil desperandum, have wheels will travel and, with my new found confidence in the driving seat in countries that insist on cruising the wrong way on roads we set off into the heartland of Mallorca, Mrs Carmichael at the wheel.
We did get a little lost in Alcudia, pulled up outside the, thankfully, closed gates of its port (who knows what trouble we might have experienced had they been unlocked and a gangplank readied for action) and managed to rejig the iPhone navigation support with only a nine mile diversion and nary a cross word.
It was all good so far.
The nice hire car man had given us a couple of pointers.
1)” Your car’s outside the hotel somewhere. It’s white and this is the number plate.” 50% of that intel was correct which I guess is a good thing but took a tad longer to find our silver Fiat Panda.
2)”Don’t go to the caves behind Porto Cristo, way too touristic. Go to the ones ahead.” As he stabbed the map with his biro the ahead and behind got lost in translation. I attempted correction/confirmation a number of times, almost got the giggles and gave up. How hard could it be?
Quite hard as it turns out. We discovered this hurtling past the first set of cave signs lured onward by a GIGANTIC poster for Las Cuevas del Drach that hove into sight on the foothills of Porto Cristo.
Ah well, another nil desperatum moment and still a preternatural concord in the Panda.
Wending our way through Christ’ Port we failed to recognise a single landmark from the previous visit. But agreed it was very cute and worth the detour.
And then we arrived at Drach.
The car park should have been a clue. The bus park, an even bigger one. But we were here now. I was bursting for the loo. Did it really matter so much?
Possibly it did.
Still, the tickets were reasonable and the queue to buy them even more so. Perhaps we were in the right place.
This was the proverbial tip, iceburg-wise and everybody seemed to want to be at the front of the queue. Why oh why?
This was the 12.00 o’clock entry. We estimated our cohort at two to three hundred.
How wrong we were.
But first the limestone, the lava, the calcium, the stalactites, the stalagmites. Oh yes, oh wow, oh joyful photographic opportunity.
Here follows a viciously edited selection from inside the bowels of Drach.
The walk down the subterranean lake was fantastic and well worth the 14.00 odd euro entry fee but in our enjoyment of the wonders of nature we, Carmichael mere and père, had utterly obliterated the promised concert and boat ride from our minds.
As the crowd slowed and compressed and the heat and humidity rose we were crammed onto benches in the almost pitch dark along with what we now realised were 998 other poor souls. I am not joking. Mr C is a good counter.
My claustrophobia quickened with the temperature and the delay in seating the multitude. I flick flacked between fury, hysteria and heatstroke. I peered through the gloom for a way out. There were no exit signs. Others prepared their cameras/videos/mobile phones. I did not. I’m sorry I regret that now but only because I’ve missed the opportunity for a cheap laugh.
Three row boats, lit with bare bulbs finally skulled the water towards us. One contained a woman playing an accordion or some such. It was horrible. They went around a stalig-lit corner.
“Thank God,” I stage whispered to Mr C. But I had spoken too soon.
It was not a circular lake more’s the pity and they returned playing the same bloody tune. Right back up to the top of the lake.
“Please no encore,” I said with gusto and the desultory applause indicated we were not alone in our discomfort. Mr C informed me that he would pay twice as much to miss the performance if he ever found himself in this nightmare again.
But then we had a bit of luck.
As customers scrabbled and scrambled over benches with no mind to health and safety in a vain attempt to beat the queue to the three row boats designed to carry us out over, we guesstimated the next three hours, we caught, in the corners of our eyes, a line of people actually moving.
We climbed under a fence and joined the moving throng. In this way we avoided the boat ride that, it turned out,was only the length of the musical lake.
What a swizz! But how clever were we?
As we sat, waterside, in Porto Cristo enjoying the cheapest meal of our holiday (see bill)
one of a number of tourist buses crawled past our restaurant heading goodness knows where with the poor souls who chose the miniature and not perfectly formed row boat trip over Shank’s pony.
I think a thumb’s up and/or a pat on the back is more than deserved, don’t you?
And so, dear friends, I leave you with the considered suggestion that you do make the time to explore underground caves in Mallorca. They are wonderful. But for the love of God avoid any that mention concerts. I promise it’s for your own sanity. And that has to be a good thing.
That night we dined in the Port and being sensible drivers where alcohol is concerned left the silver Panda quite a ways from the hotel intending to walk back in the morning, have breakfast en route and return it before the 48 hour hire period expired.
I was woken by the apartment phone early doors and asked why the keys were not in reception. Could I bring them over right now? Someone else wanted the car etc etc.
In return I suggested they come and collect the keys from me unless they wanted to wait for Mrs Carmichael’s beauty routine to be effected.
They came and got the keys while we, once the door was shut, collapsed with laughter wondering how long it would take them to find the car in the depths of Puerto Pollenca with no directional guidance from us.
“Don’t forget it’s a white Fiat Panda,” I said to their retreating backs.