Dear Sir,
I think that you, your resident readers, visitors and their hotel managers and tour reps should know of the following story. Last Saturday (9th Nov) I was on a coach tour of the island organised by a local tour company. It was to be via Sa Calobra, Soller and return to Palma. The leg from Sa Calobra to Soller was to be by boat after lunch at Sa Calobra. But my friend and I missed the boat. Whether it was the mumbling of the courier or our fault in not getting the right departure time does not matter. It seems that the company, and almost any other tour company, just trusts to luck that the requisite number of tourists make the trip.

This is because a number of people pass on the opportunity to travel by boat and leave on the coach, any number of other tours are also doing the same thing (there were five different coaches when we were there) and for all we know locals could also be using the boat. So a proper head count is out of the question. We had gone though the waterside tunnels into a small cove/lagoon. Sa Calobra is so small that a search could have been made. What if one of us or both had had an accident? The company seems to have no 'fall–back' arrangements. At what point they discovered we were missing (if they ever did) we don't know.

So we got back to the jetty, and what did we find? Nothing. No waiting guide, no emergency number, no boat timetable no open restaurants – nothing. What else was there to do but start walking. Readers with knowledge of the mountainous west coast should now be coughing on their morning coffee and croissant. Readers unfamiliar with the area but planning on going on such a tour should imbibe something stronger.

So we walked. And walked. And walked. I'm 48yrs old, over 16 stone, not dressed for walking and carrying a bag of effects (including a camera kit) that seems to increase in weight proportionally to the number of steps taken. What would have happened if something similar happened to someone less fit? We went up, we went down (but not very often) we went through a tunnel, passed a lake (or two), passed a decomposing cow on the roadside and looking at the map back at the hotel we reckon we arrived at a point just before a curve in the road that is labelled ”Coll de Puig Major”, but this can be confirmed.

We were both nearly unable to carry on mentally or physically, but our luck changed. We encountered a 'Checkpoint' for a car rally that was taking place overnight on the road that was being closed for the event. In my 'Spanglish' I explained the situation to amazed officials who could not believe that we had walked that far. The rally was being organised by firms in Inca, and an official offered to take us there once it was closer to the race start as he had to check that the road was clear for the race. This he did, to the concerned amusement of other officials that he stopped to talk to on the way. He dropped us in the centre of Inca and we found our way to the railway station, thence to Palma and eventually – approx 8pm – back at the hotel. What would have happened to someone in the same situation that spoke no Spanish or had it happen on the other 364 days of the year when they would not have encountered a road race? Or never had any money as it was on the coach? Could they have died? We did try 'hitching', but got no response and it was getting darker all the time.

Our very grateful thanks must go the organisers of the rally. The driver that took us to Inca would not take any money when I offered it, but I insisted that he take it for his children that were in the back of the car throughout.

When our hotel owner called the tour company they said it had never happened before in 32 years and being in the right place at the right time was our responsibility. Personally, given the departure arrangements at Sa Calobra I find the first part of that statement difficult to believe, but in a way I'm proud to be a first – at something. The second part of the statement is damning. What it does show is complacency and a lack of planning on the part of the tour company that this was allowed to happen without there being check/balances and emergency or backup provisions in place. I could recommend some, but it's not my place to. They're the professionals after all! We are back, and alive, but effectively lost two days of our holiday: The Tour day itself and the day after when we needed to recover (that's not to mention the additional expenses incurred in our expedition).

As a service to your readers, I think that you have a duty to warn them of the perils of complacency.

Yours
David Fionda

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