I wasn’t expecting a sleepover with seven strangers in a teepee tent, but I got one last night.
After a very early start, a four hour delay at the airstation and a life-saving taxi ride to get here, I was dropped off outside the wooden gates in front of the tiny temple and left on the road side with my oversized backpacks and bike box.
I was greeted, not by a friendly-faced monk, but by a shabby stray cat that looked like something out of a horror film. I think it had just been mauled by a savage hound; its ears were missing and in their place were two little pink lumps, it had bloodshot eyes and half a nose covered in coagulated crimson. The poor little thing made me want to cry and give it a hug, but I reminded myself that despite a childhood absolutely convinced I could speak to animals, I’m actually not Doctor Doolittle. Plus I haven’t had a rabies jab.
I found my way up the tiny woodland trail behind the temple and around the corner to the clearing where there are two teepees, some outdoor showers and a toilet. To the right there’s a small building with a communal indoor and outdoor seating area and a kitchen. Then above that there’s a pretty little veranda looking out onto tree tops and behind it nine rooms for the monks and more affluent guests to stay in.
I booked this trip on a little bit of a whim so it could have very much gone one of two ways, but día uno and I’m already ecstatic that I’m here. The retreat at Sa Roca is beautifully basic and basically, beautiful.
Within twenty-four hours I’ve met lots of nice dots on the planet….a Ukrainian kid with an Irish accent who’s doing his gap year, a Deutsche Studentin from Berlin who’s studying nutrition and loves bicycles as much as I do, a buddhist traveller from Brazil and a wondrously eccentric lady from Helsinki.
I also got talking to Gen Samten who had been hosting last week’s retreat. He’s a British monk who now resides in KMC New York and after a discussion about the blurred lines of modern day mindfulness and meditation, he invited me over there for a three month silent retreat during the winter. (I said I’ll think about it).
Cycling round Menorca in my Active Wear
With a day off to explore the island before my volunteering starts, I hopped out of bed, threw on my Active Wear and headed down to the temple where I’d left my bicicleta.
I watched my Dad’s homemade how to assemble your bike video (so #adorable) and it was ready to ride, I just needed to inflate the tyres. After attaching pump and giving my arms one hell of a workout, I noticed the tyre seemed to be going down rather than up…my pump had a hole in it.
And if that wasn’t enough of a kick in the teeth, after all the hassle of getting bike over here in pieces and putting it back together, I find out they have two bicycles I can borrow whenever I want. So I took one of those road bikes that have handle bars like a ram’s horns and makes your bum stick up in the air higher than your head. Very uncomfortable and a little bit shaky at first ,but I soon got the hang of it.
A forty kilometre round trip got me from Sa Roca to Cala Tirant, to Fornells, then Son Parc and back again. Heading down to the coast was a whole lot of fun, freewheeling at speed with feeble breaks and limited balance. I whizzed down to Cala Tirant in no time.
Following the warm welcome of charming white buildings with pretty terracotta rooftops, I was a little more than disappointed by Cala Tirant’s beige sands and unexciting backdrop. And if it hadn’t been for the live Spanish Baywatch show, it would have been a complete waste of time.
The sun was blazing, but the winds were up and the waves were reaching well over ten feet. I sat up to lather myself up in Hawaiian Tropic when a incredibly athletic, bronzed young creature sped past me in his yellow t-shirt and red shorts carrying a float. I say sped, but I actually witnessed the entire thing in slow motion with I’m Always Here playing in my head.
He slowly peeled his top from his sculpted body and up over his shoulders before heroically diving into the ferocious waves and swimming out to rescue a little girl. And then, just as I thought the show was over, another one ran past me to help him.
The child was saved and it was a very happy unbirthday to me.
Life’s a Beach
Next I did a lap of the Fornells area and sat on a bench for a while to watch the thistles nodding in the breeze while the waves crashed against the cinnamon rocks below. There seemed to be nothing much more there than a few pretty white apartments, sea-view swimming pools and miniature palm trees, so I soon pedalled on to Son Parc.
The midday heat was grilling my face and fingertips and beads of sweat poured out of my helmet as I rode along through the deserted Menorcan countryside. The hills aren’t monstrous inclines, but they seem to last forever and it took a good few ups, downs and rounds to get to the next beach….but it was worth the wait.
Turquoise waves with foamy white fringes were tickling the soft pearly shore and there weren’t too many British Brats around to spoil it all. I pitched up for an afternoon of lazing, scribbling and saying some riveting things to myself in broken Spanish before heading back to my new home for supper.
Oh please don’t make me come back home.