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Phespirit goes to Formentera
Cala Saona     July 2005

Ten years of travelling abroad yet not once to the Balearics.   Something had to be done .....

The four primary inhabited islands of the Balearics are Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, each of which has a scattering of little satellite islets. Phespirit once attended a charity quiz where the question was asked: "how many Balearic islands are there?" The team to which he belonged answered four, as did many others; the quizmaster, however, declared the correct answer to be three. Predictable uproar followed, which turned into amused bewilderment as he went on to announce: "I'll allow three or four as most people only count the three main ones". Phespirit's innate attraction to all things obscure required him to visit the fourth: Formentera.

Staying at Cala Saona has advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the small sheltered cove has soft, clean sand and warm, brilliant turquoise water. There is little in the way of tourist development, with just the one hotel conveniently built right on the beach plus a handful of unobtrusive beach bars on the outskirts. On the down side, the smallness of the cove means it is liable to be uncomfortably busy in the high season, with half a dozen rows of sunbeds - mostly occupied by Italians - down by the water's edge. Furthermore, with Cala Saona being geographically isolated in the middle of the west coast and only served by public buses on Wednesdays, it becomes necessary to have independent transport .....

So Phespirit hired a bike. It was the first time he'd been on any kind of pushbike in about fifteen years. Fortunately riding a bike proved to be ..... just like riding a bike. The old magic was still there. Aside from initially barrelling off up the wrong side of the road and picking up a few grazes around his ankles during the course of his stay, Phespirit got along just fine - albeit painfully slowly. From Cala Saona, it took him an hour to get to es Ca Marí at the west end of Platja des Migjorn (Platja being a beach), an hour to get to the es Trocadors peninsula at the north end of Platja de ses Illetes, and forty minutes to get to La Savina port.

There really is no reason to spend time on Formentera other than to get away from it all and enjoy the beaches. Phespirit did a spot of sunbathing on each of Cala Saona, Platja des Migjorn and es Trocadors but his favourite location was s'Espalmador. This small island just to the north of Formentera is reached either by wading / bobbing / swimming across the es Pas strait from es Trocadors or by the Barca Bahia boat from La Savina, €12 return. Phespirit tried both methods and found the boat to be simplest.

Whilst the development of tourism has been meagre on Formentera, it has been utterly non-existent on s'Espalmador - no hotels, no shops, no restaurants, no bars, no hawkers, no ports, no piers, no roads, no scooters, no bicycles, no telephones, no noises. The boat from La Savina simply glides to a halt on the sand. Private yachts are moored at a marked distance, from where their owners can make their way ashore in motorised dinghies. The sand is perfect, the sea is perfect ..... and the mud is delightful. There's a natural mud bath in the middle of s'Espalmador, which provides the one and only novelty feature on the island. Beach-goers simply head to the far north end of Platja de s'Alga and wander along narrow trails of scorching sand through the scrubby grass and bushes behind the beach, to emerge at a broad salt plain with a pit of liquid mud. They slide into the pit, wallow in the mud, get completely covered in the stuff, and then wander back for a drying promenade followed by a wash in the sea. It probably has no therapeutic merit whatsoever, but it's fun.

Phespirit went to Formentera in search of warm sunshine, soft sands, an absence of crowds and a near perfect silence, disturbed only by the gentle lapping of waves on the shore. He found all of these things. The mud bath was a bonus.

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