I've been there. Ivebeenthere. Co.uk. This "Guardian" operated website, which allows those who have been somewhere to tell others where they have been, is, like most recommendation websites, quite useful. Being the "Guardian", the places travellers have been to tend not to be the usual fare. Chris2005 who is, to use the ivebeenthere vernacular, its "top tipper", has been to 235 places, while the second top tipper, Sissi, has seemingly spent an entire lifetime travelling the world and notching up 196 places to which he or she has been. "I've been everywhere, man."
Chavan, on the other hand, hasn't been everywhere. He or she has only ever been to one place. Or had, as of 9 May. It's never easy to understand the derivation of website nicknames, but one supposes that Chavan is not a chav. You don't get many chavs hacking along the GR221 dry stone route in the Tramuntana mountains. Regardless of the origin of the moniker, Chavan has taken to the route and joins other Mallorcan tippers (74 in all), who invariably seem never to have set foot in a karaoke bar, in informing us as to where he has been (let's just settle on a he, shall we, as I can't be bothered keep on typing he or she).
GR 221, and this is the main point of Chavan's tips, takes in not just dry stones along the route it also takes in refuges, five of them in all. You can stay in one at a ludicrously cheap price. Eleven euros a night. Chavan tells us that the government in Mallorca (by which is meant the Council of Mallorca) "provides stunning refuge accommodation for hikers", one of the refuges being in Pollensa. Near to the Roman bridge, it had a slight problem with the roof in that part of it fell in, or to be more accurate, the skylight fell in to the dining area where, as Chavan points out, you can have an "optional dinner at 8.50 euros", which is indeed "brilliant value for three courses including a carafe of wine", but then so are many menus of the day. Or it would be brilliant value, assuming the refuge had actually reopened. Maybe I've missed something, but as far as I know it is still closed. Perhaps someone can advise.
The value for money that the refuges offer has not gone unnoticed. If you were to pitch up any time in the next few days and look to unlace your sensible walking shoes, unhitch your rucksack and seek to relax in eleven-euros-a-night stunning accommodation, you would in all likelihood be told that there is no room at the inn. The refuges get booked up in advance, and at eleven euros a night this isn't surprising.
But for how much longer might the refuges operate in such a fashion? Two of them, including Pollensa's, are up for some privatisation. The Council of Mallorca may currently provide stunning accommodation, but it's costing them an arm and a leg to do so. There is a shortfall of some 600 grand per annum, again not surprising when the nightly charge is so low and the refuges themselves are fine old piles that require a fine old amount of looking after or repairing, as in when the skylight falls in.
The spectre of privatisation hasn't gone down that well in Pollensa. The refuge, so some local businesses suggest, represents unfair competition. In private hands and the competition would be more unfair. It is hard to see how, though. Even in private hands, the refuge can only accommodate a maximum of 38 people. If anything, a private operator might want to up the rates, though it presumably wouldn't be allowed to (or not significantly), which would draw into question whether privatisation would in fact be feasible. Moreover, as far as accommodation is concerned, Pollensa town is hardly awash with hotels, and those that there are, apart from the larger Son Brull on the outskirts, are small boutique-style establishments.
The omens for Pollensa's refuge and indeed the others aren't that good. If the Council cannot find private operators for the two it is lining up, there has to be the possibility that they would be closed. Noises from the Council have hardly been reassuring either recently or in the past; the previous administration's councillor for the environment described the hostels as not being economically profitable.
If privatisation were to go ahead and were operators allowed to bump up rates substantially, then the whole ethos of the refuges would change. Chavan, clearly grateful to a local government, for its stunning accommodation, might, when he is there in future, be disappointed to find that they have changed. This would be a huge shame. There is much to be said for the refuges, their character, their style and their appeal to a certain type of visitor. The dry stone routes are a minority interest for Mallorca's tourists, but it is a form of tourism that deserves supporting. Rather than fewer or no refuges, there should be more of them.
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