“A CELEBRATION at the finishing line of an incredible ADVENTURE”

Time flies when you’re having fun, they say. And while I have felt every single step of our 239km journey around Ibiza, after ten Saturdays of walking Around The Island [ATI] it feels surreal to look back on the whirlwind of experiences we have shared. Sitting at my desk and typing up this blog, I can’t quite believe that what has become a weekend ritual is now… over.

For some of us regular ATI walkers, it has been life-changing. For most us, it has been hugely transformative – whether that’s physically, emotionally or even spiritually. And I dare to go as far as saying that even those who only joined us for one stage of the 10 walks have been left with a lasting impression. But let’s go back a little…

After just under three months of regular weekend excursions that would eventually build up to circumnavigating the entire coastline of Ibiza (as well as most of its mountains, it seems) on December 19th our group found itself at the starting line of the final stage of our amazing adventure. Setting off at 8am from the car park of the famous Amante beach club in Sol d’en Serra, a comparatively short and ‘easy’ last day lay ahead of us. It would lead us through Roca Llisa, Cap Martinet, the bay of Talamanca and finally Marina Botafoch before crossing the finishing line in the harbour of Ibiza Town.

With some hair-raising challenges and temperamental weather behind us (yes, we are still talking about Stage 8!), the prospect of a sunny day and only one (according to Walking Ibiza founder Toby Clarke) steep climb put us all in a great mood! With the sun rising over the tranquil sea to our left and wisps of fog floating over the waves, it was a magical start to this momentous day. But, of course, a few surprises were waiting just around the corner…

Climbing out of Sol d’en Serra onto the top of the cliffs we warmed up quickly, lactic acid burning in our legs. The blue sky, the stillness of the air and golden sunlight gave the morning a dreamlike quality, perfect for turning inwards to reflect on the last ten weeks of walking… and Toby’s word of the day: ‘celebration’.

Looking out onto the sparkling blue sea far below us, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in our group who felt that we have so much to celebrate and be grateful for: Ibiza’s incredible beauty. The fact that we are healthy and strong enough to be able to participate in these walks. Newfound friends, and the sense of community amongst our hiking group. And, most of all, how truly blessed we are to be able to enjoy this level of freedom on our little paradise island.

We continued our journey on rocky forest paths, having to concentrate to avoid slipping on treacherous loose gravel and rockface slick from the morning fog. A special shout-out has to be given to Walking Ibiza guide James, who had recce’d the route just days earlier to make sure it was indeed passable, clearing away any potential obstructions.

Leading us towards the pretty and petite beach of Cala Olivera, suddenly he stopped us in our tracks. Pulling a red rope out of his backpack, it soon became clear that it was – once again – abseiling time! As Toby had told us at the starting point, “18km might sound like nothing to you by now, but this is still a serious walk with its own challenges.” One by one, we made our way down the steep slope. The difference in our approach was noticeable as even those who were really not keen on heights at the beginning of the challenge now navigated this tricky bit with relative ease and confidence! “Trust the rope,” James instructed us – and we did!

After a slow ascent out of Cala Olivera we were onto the winding mountain roads that lead past the golf course and through the exclusive residential area of Roca Llisa. With the sun beaming down on us, we were soaking up the beautiful weather and views as we honed in on the popular beach of S’Estanyol – known by many under the name Cala Bonita because of the popular seaside restaurant of the same name that sits on its shores.

The coffee lovers in our group raced to the bar, while others started the celebrations early with a cheeky beer. “I’m actually quite glad that we’ve got Christmas and New Year’s Eve coming up, otherwise I’d be feeling really lost without the Saturday walks… but the holidays will kind of distract from that,” I overheard ATI veteran Matt say – who had told me on his first stage many weeks ago that he doesn’t like walking and only joined to humour his wife Sara. What a difference a few Saturdays make!

Making our way out of S’Estanyol, we pushed on towards the finishing line until a massive set of stairs – leading us ever higher up the cliffs – stopped us. “Who’s up for a challenge? “ asked Simon, another one of Walking Ibiza’s much loved guides, who had accompanied us for most of the ATI series.  After three or four hours of walking, you’d be surprised how many people still wanted to race up the steps and try to run all the way to the top – all of them eventually defeated by the steep climb, but elated nonetheless!

Finally, we reached the highest point of Stage 10 and were treated to stunning views all the way to the finishing line in Ibiza Town. Ahead of us, the bay of Talamanca marked the home straight, with the iconic silhouette of Dalt Vila appearing on the horizon. The closer we got, the more surreal it felt that in just a short while our adventures would be over.  Just a short dash across the shooting range on the cliffs of Cap Martinet (don’t ask) and a gentle stroll along the boardwalk of Talamanca, and we had reached the final leg of our hike – and the last part of an incredible journey that began ten weeks ago, back in October.

Due to the current Coronavirus restrictions, unlike in previous years we couldn’t be greeted with champagne spray and fanfare from our nearest and dearest as we crossed the finishing line by the sailor statue in the harbour of Ibiza Town. But later on, during our celebratory lunch at La Chickeria in Santa Gertrudis, the wine and emotions were flowing freely.

During our final ‘sharing circle’, each and every one of us reflected on our personal journey over the past ten weeks. The individual transformations we have witnessed, the friendships we have made, the experiences we have shared… I’m not exaggerating when I say the Around The Island adventure has given us unforgettable memories.

Charlie, a long-time Ibiza resident who wowed us all with his determination and commitment to the ATI series, put it perfectly when he said, “I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the world and experience incredible things, but apart from my wedding and the birth of my son, I don’t know that I’ve done anything as good as this.” Needless to say, there weren’t many dry eyes left in the room. “And all of this just by putting one foot in front of the other, “ Toby concluded. “Here’s to walking!”

As I sign off, I hope these blogs might have inspired some of you to join on one or two of the next Around The Island stages yourselves. You never know what it may spark in you!

After the success of this new Around The Island format, the next ATI series of Saturday hikes will start on January 16th 2021. Are you up for the challenge?

Written by Olivia Ebeling