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.
It 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 Ernestos 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!
We 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.
Now 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. Ibizas 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. Yesterdays 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
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 afternoons 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 Renaults 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 wasnt going to miss a minute of this remarkable adventure.
The 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
In 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!
We 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.
It came home strongly to me that I never
wanted to be separated from this islands 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.
The question was: could I again actually
bring myself to make another far reaching, impossible, life-changing
.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 in Ibiza.