This is the third year in a row that in August we sail to Cabrera. Two summers ago, Cabrera revealed itself as a historical crossroads of universal proportions, while last year, more modestly, we climbed up to the 14th-century castle overlooking the port and the whole island. It is impossible not to think again about the terrible agony of the Napoleonic soldiers who were abandoned here, but the hardships of life on the island are also recalled by a number of other stories. For example, at the time of the building of this castle, Mallorca was probably one of the places with the greatest presence of slavery in the Mediterranean. Captive slaves worked in the fields as well as in the city, and their captivity was the result of either a “good war” or a “bad war”. Those captured in a “good war” were lawful slaves, for their captivity could be justified by the existence of a declared and open war between two kingdoms. But there were also slaves captured or kidnapped illegally, for the only purpose of being sold as human merchandise. The slaves taken in this way seldom regained freedom.

As soon as we touched land, a seagull paid homage to us by perching on the engine of the boat

Some of these issues are documented in the Archive of the Kingdom of Mallorca. The castle of Cabrera had just been built when a Venetian ship under the command of Giovanni Musso sold at the port of Palma three Greek boys of about fourteen years, “Joan”, “Costa” and “Nicolás”. The documentation (ARM. AH S-29, ff. 222-223v) says that Musso had captured them on the Greek island of “Trufo”. We do not know which island was this. “Trufo” almost surely stands for “Tryphon”, a place name derived from the name of Saint Tryphon. This name is found in various places of Greece as well as along the Dalmatian shores, but never as the name of an island.

Joan was sold to a certain Maria, a fisherwoman, for 45 pounds; Nicolás to the master sailor Vila, for 40 pounds, and about Costa we only know that he remained in the hands of the authorities. The documents tell us that on a day like today, August 25, 1386 the affair was reported to the government of the kingdom. A long discussion followed until the first decision, which saw nothing punishable in the issue, was reversed. At the end an impartial judge ruled that the invasion of the island of “Trufo” was done illegally, in a “bad war”, and thus the slaves had to be immediately set free. By that time the Venetian Musso had already sold many more unfortunate captives in various ports. It is noteworthy that the newly freed persons were then handed over to other local Greek freedmen to take care of them and to teach them a profession chosen by them. Joan learned carpentry with a Greek called Todor; Costa learned to weave blankets with a Greek called George Vanover, and Nicolás became a tailor. The only restriction imposed on them was that they could not leave Mallorca. G. Llompart (Historias de la Almudaina. La vida en la Mallorca del siglo XIV, Palma: Lleonard Muntaner, 2007) confirms that the blood running through the veins of the Mallorcans, although this is hardly mentioned in official history, includes a noteworthy proportion of slave blood from the Eastern Mediterranean.

Entrance into the port of Cabrera, with the coast of Mallorca in the background

This year we spent a night in the port, waiting to see the last tears of St. Lawrence fall off the sky.We had no luck: the clouds followed us. But this was not the main purpose for which we got there. We wanted to climb the highest point of the island, Na Picamosques whose path had been closed for many years, and to share here some pictures of the trail.

From the foreground to the background: the entrance of the port, the castle, the island of Conejera and the contours of the Santueri mountain in Mallorca

As we started to climb up Na Picamosques (172 m), the first thing we found were two lime kilns. In Cabrera there is much stone suitable for producing lime. Once produced in these furnaces, it was shipped to sell in Mallorca.

The lime kiln of Sa Coveta Roja

If you climb a bit higher, there is another, restored lime kiln, that of S’Espalmador

From a little more above one can distinguish from afar the southwest corner of Mallorca with the silhouette of the island of Sa Dragonera facing the small port and beach of San Telmo.

Nearing to the peak of Na Picamosques

This strangely eroded rock formation is known as Dents de ca (dog teeth).

Above, near the peak, the remains of a bunker with thick stone walls

In Mallorca, the silhouette of the Cura mountain, once inhabited by Raimundus Lullus

From above, after the “dog teeth”, facing south, we can see the N’Ensiola lighthouse. There we went the next morning

Els estells, the cliffs on the southern part of the island

The characteristic turtle-shaped S’illa de ses rates (the island of the mice)

The ceba marina (sea onion) grows up among the dry stones and flowers under the merciless sun

The houses around the lighthouse, with a large cistern. To reach the lighthouse, we crossed the
valley of Coll Roig, then climbing up zigzag. The lighthouse was built in 1857,
during the reign of Isabel II, of stones from Santanyí, imitating
the Formentor lighthouse.

The only inhabitants of the N’Ensiola lighthouse are the sargantanes, the endemic blue lizards

They approach without the least fear the drops of water we leave on the stone

On the way back to Mallorca, with the bow towards the port of Sa Ràpita, in a cove we discover the yacht Fortuna of King Juan Carlos I who is certainly spending the day there. We are sailing calmly. The king  is personally watching over the island. No Venetian devil will dare to attack and sell us as slaves in some remote island.