Walking along the quay, back to the Delfín Verde after lunch, Ernesto,
Hannibal, Flipper and I found la
Marina deserted. The people of the
Port had vanished. Silence, silence everywhere, while the glorious
sunlight rained silently down. Even the quay itself seemed deep in
slumber, its worn and polished cobblestones captive to their antique
hibernation. You see, the siesta was taken seriously in Ibiza, in
the sixties. It was one of the many communal expressions of the
low-tension life style of the island. A style which Flipper
honoured punctiliously. Not once did he bark on our way.
was during this post prandial Port promenade that Ernesto made a
suggestion which quite literally was to bring me to one of the most
important decisions of my life. He suggested that I drive out,
right now, to a place called Santa Inés. It was, he said, a most
beautiful drive to a most beautiful part of the island. It would
be a shame, he said, not to see it. The idea was welcome. I
had seen enough of Ibiza town already to know that its remaining
treasures, the Old Town (a fortified acropolis), and the immense 16th
century military fortifications embracing it, would wait for me until
another day. They had been waiting for hundreds of years already.
Now I was anxious to see the landscape, the island itself, close up.
I was eager to savour the hills and the valleys, the indigenous island
dwellings called casas payesas, (old) country houses, and
the proud modern chalets I had seen from the deck of my ship when I had
first seen Ibiza rise up from the sea. It only took Ernesto’s
encouragement to convince me to undertake the expedition, pronto.
My siesta could wait. We all parted at the door to the Delfín with
a welcome invitation from Ernesto to visit with him that evening.
Hungry Hannibal was almost asleep on his feet and so gracefully declined
my suggestion that he come along with Flipper and me to Santa Inés.
So the little Renault was soon adding what sounded clearly alien in the
gentle tranquillity of the Port at siesta time, a modern, mechanical,
motor sound. We were off to Santa Inés, Flipper and I!
started our journey to Santa Inés on one of the three major asphalt
roads that had been built by 1964. It was the road between Ibiza
town and San Antonio Abad, then a little fishing village on the west
coast. The other main thoroughfares were the ones from Ibiza town
to Santa Eulalia and on up to San Carlos and the San José east-west
road. These roads were quite narrow two lane affairs, only
occasionally engineered where it had been absolutely imperative.
It appeared that the asphalt had simply been poured over the ancient
dirt roads with little or no effort made to improve the roadways
themselves. Trees abounded along the roadside where they should
not have been, ditches existed where there should have been shoulders,
and there was nothing in the way of properly graded inclines or
provision for water runoff in bad weather, let alone guard rails or
other modern refinements. The roads were elementary and therefore
accidents almost unheard of, few drivers being brave or fool enough to
speed along such twisting lanes. Besides, there were very few
drivers to begin with. There were cars in Ibiza in 1964, but only
a very few of them, relatively speaking. Today it is said that
there are two cars for every inhabitant.
it is impossible to actively and accurately recreate the pristine
atmosphere of that drive. Ibiza is now crisscrossed with well
conceived, well made, well marked, modern two and four-lane highways.
Many of the four-laners even feature safety dividing islands festooned
with blossoming Oleander plants and hundreds of palm trees. It
defies the imagination to picture these main arteries as once having
been simple dirt tracks meandering through green pastureland populated
by flocks of grazing sheep and centuries old olive trees. But that
is the case. Ibiza’s hectic, modern asphalt speedways, besides
affording touring ease from one end of the island to another, also
regularly kill people because of the high speeds they permit.
Yesterday’s dirt tracks boasted only relaxed mule and donkey
transportation and time to enjoy the rapturously beautiful prospects
provided by the undulating hills of the island. And it was a dirt
road - only a track, really - which I encountered when, at San Rafael, I
turned North West, leaving the main highway to San Antonio Abad.
Immediately the country opened out. Through open windows I could
see on either side the beautiful green hills of Ibiza. On either
side open pasture lay dreaming in the afternoon’s blessing of that
extraordinary Mediterranean miracle, enchanting sunlight. On
either side, half intoxicated by that light, grazed flocks of sheep and
goats, some with softly sounding bells suspended from collars ‘round
their necks. The road-hum of the little Renault’s tires - even its
engine noise - yielded to the softness all around; the soft dirt track
surface, the soft hills, the soft breeze, the soft light, and the end of
time. Flipper uncurled from the siesta he had been taking on the
seat beside me. He went up on his hind legs into his favourite
car-in-motion position, his head thrust forward into the draft created
by the forward motion of the Renault, his front legs securely purchased
on the window sill. He told me clearly and unmistakably that he
wasn’t going to miss a minute of this remarkable adventure.
track meandered through the countryside, occasionally discovering a
blazing white casa payesa slumbering in biblical solitude on its
own stone-terraced hillside, or, after making a slow, arcuate bend, it
would disclose a landscape prospect of such ethereal beauty that I would
stop the car to give me time to take it all in. In which case
Flipper would give me a quick look and an approving bark. He
always seemed to know what affected me most and he always let me know he
time the bland, rolling hills and open pastureland gave way to a rising
swell. The track began an unmistakable uphill climb. And it
said to us that we were becoming more and more alone. More and
more off any beaten path. More and more away from….what? It
was hard to say. But the feeling of aloneness, of separation from
the world, of peaceful isolation and surcease from strain grew stronger
with every passing kilometre. We were entering an El Amunts,
a mountainous area of high ecological interest and of only very limited
human pressure. Around us now was a deep forest of
wonderfully untouched pine trees. Their aroma was disconcerting,
almost hallucinating. And the further we went the more the trees
seemed to crowd in on our dirt track. The track was now so narrow
that I could reach out and touch the brush and occasional track-side
tree as we slowly pressed on. Overhead the sun still shone, but we
were in deep shade as we progressed. Flipper dropped down from his
window perch and curled up on the passenger seat, telling me he was an
open field-type dog rather than a forest dog. And, as he did so,
we came to a sharp rise, a difficult up-grade which seemed to have no
end. On and on and up and up we went. Until in one glorious
instant we were transported to a miracle!
were catapulted into space. There is really no other way to put
it. One moment we were in deep forest, darkly surrounded by
invading, forbidding pine trees. In the next instant we had burst out of
that darkling habitat into what seemed to be heaven on earth. We
had come to what I later discovered was called the “Corona”. It
was a spectacular mountaintop panoramic view of a vast circle of purple
coloured mountains surrounding an astounding low-lying plain of immense
size and incredible loveliness. There on that plain were
growing hundreds of thousands of Almond trees. Somewhere in that
flat and miraculous plain with those hundreds of thousands of almond
trees lay Santa Inés. And somewhere in my mind, I knew that this
was a moment of revelation which challenged my whole way of life.
came home strongly to me that I never wanted to be separated from this
island’s so special beauty and its gentle people. That I wanted
never to return to an urban life again. That I never wanted again to
face seven telephones on my desk. That I never again wanted to
become so drawn that hospitals looked like hotels to me. That, on
the positive side, I wanted nothing else in this world but to remain on
Ibiza and live my life out in its rolling hills and lovely light.
To be in its arms was to have the sea and the sun and the stillness that
were the things my heart had always loved….the things I had had as a
child, but which were only now to be had here on the land of this place
I had just found.
question was: could I again actually bring myself to make another
far reaching, impossible, life-changing decision….all in one moment?
I had become better at serious decision making during the War; but that
was a long time ago. And then, only two years past, I had again
found myself obliged to make a life-changing decision. I had
decided to opt out of a successful career in the business world and I
had chosen a new profession - at age 45. I had become a
photographer. But that decision had been almost obligatory.
Apart from my own compelling antipathy to the business world, its
stresses were, literally, threatening to kill me. The decision I
was facing now was one which was of an entirely voluntary nature.
Would I give up my base in America, would I give up my family, my
friends, my world? And resettle that world in Ibiza?
Somewhere in my mind rose the word “Rubicon”. Now where had I
heard that word before? And what did it portend? Ah, yes.
It referred to a vital and irreversible decision associated with much
danger to the decision maker. Ah, yes. It was the decision
of a great Roman general, name of Caesar, at a small river in northern
Italy called the River Rubicon. It was a decision which changed
the history of the world. He crossed it. And so did I.
At that moment, and on that spot, I committed myself to settling forever