Although it is one long-distance trail, the Northern and Southern half of the Cami de Cavalls (GR 223) around Menorca offer a very different hiking experience, even in winter. Both are about equal in length (around 90 km each), but the Northern coast has somewhat higher cliffs, fewer settlements and a rougher atmosphere – more North Sea than Mediterranean.
We walked almost the whole trail in November / December, which is complete off-season and the villages along the Menorcan coast are practically uninhabited. It is also the season of the salty and stormy “tramuntana” North winds, but the severe rainstorms that forced us to skip one day because we simply couldn’t walk on against the gusts were very unusual weather, we were assured by locals.
In the Es Grau Biosphere Reserve, an elderly couple is walking among the pines, and later on we meet a mountain biker, but that’s it for the day. The core zone of the protected area is a swampland somewhat sheltered from the north winds, but as soon as we get closer to the cape of Favaritx, the cliffs become higher, the dunes lonelier, and the wind freshens up. The storm hits when we are right at the cape, and all we can do is stagger back to the next hills and bushes. The rain and storm didn’t stop for the next 30 hours or so and we had to skip the next stage and start again in Platges de Fornells right on the Northern coast.
From Fornells on it’s 35 km without any settlement, although two or three access roads lead to secluded beaches and harbours. We have brought enough food, but again, drinking water turns out to be the more serious problem, despite the torrential rains of the previous days.
Finding water is difficult
We have been trying to find water at the beach restaurant of Binimel-la beach, which was shuttered, and all the water pipes turned off, or from the small stream flowing into the bay, which was too brackish to drink. Just as we are taking off our boots to wade through, we encounter the only other hiker we meet that day, who is too shocked (by the stream or by us?) to even return our greetings and soaks his shoe jumping over the stream. The trail then leads up and down several moderately high cliffs, always dipping down into picturesque bays with raging waves and bizarre rocks.
In one of the bays a group of surfers is paddling out into the water, in another one we meet two anglers walking back to their 4WD. Apart from that: a few cows, two donkeys, and a unicorn. Finally we found a small rivulet with reasonable clear water that we could use to cook our dinner.
The next person we encounter is a plumber doing repair work in the deserted village of Cala Morell. “An open bar?,” he laughs. “In winter? No, everything around here only reopens in April!” For him, though, winter is a busy season because all the holiday homes and hotels have to be fixed for the next season.
We didn’t expect to find any shops on the North coast, but it was indeed even lonelier than the South. And although we eventually walked a day less on the Northern part of the way than on the Southern half, the cumulated altitude of the trail (around 2000 m) was as much as in our 4 days along the South coast. The path was well-marked and most of the time well constructed, but at times steep, washed out, and generally a bit more demanding to walk. Nevertheless, we found both parts of the trail equally stunning and beautiful.