Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.
The black and yellow cop car pulled in to the carpark beside me. Gravel crunched beneath the churning tyres. The ignition abruptly stopped, a heavy door swung open and a man, his eyes masked by a thick black pair of shades and his face painted with a scowl, got out of the vehicle.
Act normal. Maybe he’s here for another reason. Maybe he just wants some tapas or a cup of tea from the restaurant.
I stared off into the distance at the rolling hills in front of me, dotted with green shrubs and carved with winding roads. The gorgeous view in front of me was fading behind my ever-increasing fear which was threatening to take over, almost like a cloud obscuring the clear blue sky. My clammy hands fumbled with my white remote control, clumsy and disorientated.
Where was Lewis?
He had driven off down the mountain, along the numerous hairpin bends situated below me and now appeared to be nothing more than a spec on the horizon.
I risked a sidewards glance towards the cop.
Oh shit. He was heading towards me, his gait purposeful. I could vividly imagine his determined eyes as they locked onto me. What Do I do? Was I in trouble? Was I about to be fined? Or worse, jailed? And where was Lewis?
At that moment I wanted to melt away, fade into nothing. But I had to face up to the situation. Taking a deep breath, I turned to face the policeman and hiding my worry behind a great, fake smile, I greeted him.
Let’s rewind a couple of hours.
Lewis and I were cruising down the quiet country roads of Mallorca in our much-loved rental car, George the BMW X3, or, as my brother liked to call him, “the polished turd”. George was brown. But not like an ugly brown. He was more of a refined brown, hence the “polished”. If he was an ugly brown then he would have just been “the turd”.
After spending the last couple of days with my siblings, it was time for a day out just the two of us. How romantic, right? I had scrolled through TripAdvisor for any lunchtime restaurant recommendations and had stumbled across a restaurant ‘with a view’. Restaurant dalt d’es Coll was located in literally the middle of nowhere and was perched atop a mountain with even taller mountains on either side. Reviews were glowing so I was keen to give the restaurant a try and soak up the lush views which it promised.
I was equally as excited about the drive ahead of us. Google Maps had shown us that the restaurant was situated at the side of a winding country road that was filled with countless hairpin bends, one after another as the road gradually climbed upwards. It was lucky that neither of us were prone to car-sickness!
The drive was everything as fun as I was expecting. As soon as we had conquered one sharp bend, another was upon us, and George ate each turn effortlessly.
Then we arrived at the restaurant and this is when things started to go downhill (pun intended).
“Do you have a reservation?” They asked.
“No.” I mumbled, my heart sinking as I sensed the waitress’ next words.
“We are fully booked today.”
My face must have dropped. Maybe I looked like a lost puppy. Or maybe I looked like I was about to trash the place. I don’t think I will ever know but it didn’t matter either way as the woman replied, “If you just have tapas, we have an outside sofa you could use?”
“That sounds perfect!” I blurted out, unable to hide my delight.
Smiling, we were shown to our sofa which was equipped with a little table. I nearly gasped in astonishment as I noticed that we were in fact getting the best seats in the whole restaurant. The sofa was perched at the very edge of the garden, overlooking the valley below. We had the perfect view!
The food was every bit as wonderful as the view! We shared ham and cheese platters which were loaded with delicious goodies. After we had stuffed our stomachs, we enjoyed a pot of tea between us which was also sensational!
The service was also fantastic. As well as making sure they could fit us in, the waitresses seemed to love my very poor attempts at speaking Spanish and encouraged it. It was lucky that I knew a bit of Spanish as their English was a tad rusty. Perhaps the restaurant doesn’t normally get British visitors.
Once we had eaten, I decided to fly the drone. I had known the entire time that I wanted to fly Droney over the hairpin bends as no ground-level photos could do the extent of the stretch justice.
My first flight went well and I was able to get some stunning captures.
As well are merely capturing the bends, Lewis and I decided it would be a goo idea to film George driving round the hairpin bends which would provide us with some ace footage of both George and the bends in action.
We planned it perfectly. Droney was set up and ready to go for his next round. Lewis then hopped in George and began to drive down from the restaurant car park.
Droney was up in the air and Lewis started to drive George down the road. As he set off I noticed a black and yellow car approaching us. It looked like an official vehicle of some sort. Well, I’d only just flown the drone so there couldn’t have possibly been a complaint, I concluded. Other than a complaint of being a nuisance, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong so I continued to fly and capture some lovely videos of George taking on the bends.
That’s when the cop approached me.
“Do you have a permit?” He asked sharply.
“No but I have the relevant insurance.” I responded matter-of-factly.
I’ll point out here that I am not a rogue drone-pilot and always research places prior to visiting to ensure I am aware of the regulations and if necessary, acquire permits. I had a permit to fly in Namibia. I also have full insurance for my drone including third party.
“You are in a national park. You need a permit to fly here.” He grumbled.
Wha? That was news to me. At no point did I realise I was in a national park. Google Maps is normally a reliable source of telling me when I am in a national park. Even now, after extensive research online, I can find no record of this national park that I was apparently in. Nowhere. Maybe I am blind. Maybe I am stupid. Maybe I am both. I know that most countries don’t allow you to fly in national parks and I always make an effort to abide by this rule.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise this was a national park.” I replied honestly. “I will take the drone down. I will not fly any more.”
I started to steer the drone towards us. As much as I sounded like I was holding my nerve, I was shitting myself inside. My body was jittering (that always happens when I’m feeling extreme emotions) and as a result the drone was going allover the place. Was I actually steering it away into that mountain in the distance?
The policeman was not impressed. He kept pressing me for a permit. “You need a permit to fly here.”
“I didn’t realise. I am sorry. I am bringing it down.”
“Do you live here or are you on holiday?”
“Just on holiday.”
He grumbled before ringing someone on his intercom. My vague knowledge of Spanish couldn’t help me to understand what he was muttering about but his tone was less-than-impressed. One thing I learnt however was that drone is still drone in Spanish! He certainly repeated it a lot on his phone-call.
By now a scene had been caused and the restaurant’s waitresses had appeared and were watching with their faces wrinkled up in confusion. As if I couldn’t feel any more embarrassed by this saga…
The phone-call ended and I held my breath. What was my punishment? Was I going to be fined? Was I going to have to go with him to a police-station?
“You need a permit to fly in the national park and you do not have one.” He reiterated.
“I know and I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fly somewhere where I needed a permit and I will not do it again.”
When would this end? And where was Lewis? Did he think I was still following him with the drone?
Sighing, the policeman eventually backed down, “OK, in future you only fly with permit. You can go.”
Now the head waitress (who could well have been the restaurant manager) was heading over. She took the cop aside and they began discussing the situation. At first, I felt nothing but shame. I did not want to cause any trouble for the restaurant. I honestly hadn’t realised what I was doing was wrong. I expected the restaurant manager to be furious with me but instead she vented her anger on the cop. What?
I couldn’t tell what was being said but by her tone it appeared she was disputing what the cop was saying. She was arguing fiercely with him until he backed down. He nodded and became quiet before he got into his car to leave. Had she really just defended me? I wanted to express my gratitude but shock kept me routed to the spot.
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw George pulling back into the restaurant carpark. Oh, thank goodness! Lewis was back. As fast as I could, I jogged over to George, opening his boot and putting Droney away. I could still feel the cop’s gaze burning into the back of my head as he sat in his car.
Leaping into the passenger side, I turned to Lewis. “Just drive.”