Discovering Mallorca: Sa Calobra and the Torrent de Pareis
It’s funny how fate works. Some time after my first visit to Mallorca in 2011, I set about painting my Autobiographical Mobile, a painting which was to be the end point of my 2014 exhibition, and which told the story of my life up to that moment, with good and bad balanced out on a Calder-esk mobile on a beach. For whatever reason I decided to set the story of my life on a Mallorca beach, having no idea that I would move to the island some two years later. Not only that, it was the beach of Sa Calobra where I had never even been – my painting was inspired by a postcard I had picked up at the airport. So now I am here, I always knew that in discovering Mallorca, one important place would be the beach I had painted in that signature painting three years ago. And this week I went there.
The journey to Sa Calobra, on the North coast of Mallorca, is as memorable as the bay itself. The twisting road is something of a feat of engineering, looping and turning around Puig Major plunging some 800m in just 12km, turning 270 degrees at one point to loop under itself (a feature known as the ‘Knotted Tie’). I lost count of the number of hair pin bends, and indeed at one point it felt as though the road would go on forever. But a glimpse of startling turquoise sea between one mountain valley revealed that our destination was close at hand.
The road to Sa Calobra
The port of Sa Calobra is surprisingly civilised considering how difficult it is to get there. But the extent to which the little village has been decked out with nicely laid paths and eating facilities is probably testament to the number of tourists who flock to the area each year, numbers which were mercifully lacking during our visit. With its little stone houses, the port is pretty, although it is easily outshone by the incredible colour of the turquoise sea which crashes dramatically against the shore – water whose colour is so vivid a camera is barely able to capture it.
The port of Sa Calobra
But the real treasure of the region is not Sa Calobra, but the Torrent de Pareis, the setting for my painting. Reached through 200m of tunnels carved through the distinctive twin mountains of the beach, the Torrent de Pareis (‘twin streams’) is a naturally occurring vast mountain gorge formed at the confluence of the torrents of Lluc and Gorg Blau. Up to 400m high and only 30m wide, with some sections never seeing daylight, the dramatic gorge culminates in a small pebble beach punctuated by pools of water and mysterious looking plants.
The Torrent de Pareis
Enveloped in a mystical kind of light, with drooping trees and dramatic lone rocks, the scenery of the gorge is unlike anything I have seen before. Feeling more Tolkien than Spain, there was a menacing scale to the mountain scenery which contrasted uniquely to the utter stillness of the wetlands lying in the gorge. What struck me most of all were the bands of different colours, like horizontal planes of richly varying tones of turquoise and green and grey.
Textures of the Torrent
If I hadn’t painted it already, there is no doubt the place would have inspired me. And now I have experienced it, my painting, completed some 3 years ago, has come alive more than ever before.
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