The first day’s walking of our Puerto de Soller holiday takes us on a round tour of the Valley of Fornalutx. A beautiful morning; fresh legs; eager spirits. Our guide, Juan, describes how the Moors introduced the sophisticated irrigation necessary for cultivating oranges and lemons on the terraced hillsides of the island.
The orange trees produce three or more crops a year, but May is when the juiciest oranges are to be had. The heady scent of orange blossom accompanies us for most of the day. On the near side of the valley what the eye sees is the painstaking workmanship of the drystone terrace walls. From a distance, across the river, the stones seem to disappear and you see only the lush vegetation, stepping up the valley sides like the hanging gardens of Babylon.
We follow mule tracks to higher ground where the oranges and lemons give way to olive trees. In the steepest places, the mule tracks form neat stone steps; where the going is easier, the stones give way to soft red earth. We stop for a simple open-air lunch in Fornalutx, amid the narrow alleyways that the Moors favoured to provide shade. The ancient houses have been handsomely maintained and restored. Removable wooden shields at the bottom of doors hint at how floodwaters can sluice through these streets after heavy rainfall.
Near the end of our walk we visit the only remaining olive press in operation on the island. Our host has laid out a delicate little feast. We sample his oil on squares of bread – but also, marmalade, almonds and olives – all washed down with a lovely local wine and of course … some orange juice.
The orange juice is a revelation: each sip so sharp at first it is almost like broken glass on the tongue; but just when it seems unbearably sharp, it is overtaken by soothing fruity sweetness.