“LOVE is all around us…”

“When I was trying to think of this week’s ‘word of the day’, at first I didn’t want to choose this particular one. I thought it would be too much of a cliché, but then I went with it anyway. So the word for Stage 7 is… ‘love’.” Walking Ibiza founder Toby Clarke tells us on this overcast Sunday morning in late November. “Maybe we could start today by going around the circle and sharing what ‘love’ means to us all?”

“That’s a bit deep and meaningful for 8am,” a little voice inside my head grumbles, but I manage to come up with something about “kindness and understanding” when it’s my turn. It gets me thinking, though. Toby always finds a word that ties in with the route we are tackling that week and on Stage 7, I come to realise throughout the day, the day’s mantra has opened our eyes to the love that surrounds us all on this beautiful island. So I apologise in advance for veering into mushy territory in this blog – but as the rollercoaster that is 2020 slowly draws to a close, I think we can all do with something a little heart-warming!

This weekend we are setting off from the famous hippy beach of Benirras before making our way past the mythical (read: incredibly hard-to-find) Moon Beach. From there, we will be heading towards Portinatx, passing the tallest lighthouse of the Balearic Islands and moving along what Toby has dubbed the Crystal Coast – more on this later! We will then descend into Cala d’en Serra before tackling the longest climb of the day and heading inland towards our finishing point: the cave of the Goddess Tanit. All in all, Toby estimates, it’s a juicy 28km – what’s not to love, eh? (If you’ll pardon the pun!)

We head off into the forest-covered mountain range that frames Benirras and are treated to a rather gentle start to the day, soaking up the fragrant air and happily padding along on soft, sandy grounds. The skies are grey after the previous days’ storms and the water below us is a turmoil of dark blue, turquoise and white sea foam. It’s dramatic, wild, and incredibly beautiful!

After two or three hours of following the coastline and navigating muddy forest paths, we pause for our first snack stop and tuck into our sandwiches in the picturesque Cala Xarraca, the waves crashing noisily against the shore. I see Siri, one of our four-legged regulars, squeeze up against her owner Patrick for a cuddle and it’s truly heart-warming. “That’s love right there”, I think.

After our well-deserved break, our route becomes a little more adventurous as we boulder-hop from one rock to the next to pass along a beach that is currently being lapped by foaming waves. Trying not to get our feet wet, we each take our turn in making a dash for the biggest stone from which we can clamber up onto the fishermen’s terraces. ‘Go,’ shouts Toby every time the waves retract for a brief moment, and it oddly reminds me of a Takeshi’s Castle challenge. It’s fun though!

All of a sudden Olga, who has joined us for several stages of the Around The Island walks already, spots one of her friends on the top of the rocks – patiently watching her partner fishing. “Now that’s real love,” she jokes.

Not long after, we pass a hidden cave that has been turned into a hippy hangout complete with a log fire, candles and dream-catchers made from strings and feathers collected from the nearby beaches. Someone has sprayed a graffiti in the shape of a red heart above the entrance. It seems like love really is all around us!

We walk through the tranquil resort of Portinatx, passing the hip Los Enamorados (The Lovers) boutique hotel (see!) and following along the coastline towards the striking black and white lighthouse. At 53metres high, it is the tallest in all of the Balearic Islands and Toby explains that “this is the light you see flashing ‘welcome, welcome’ when you fly into Ibiza.”

Beyond the walls surrounding this imposing building one of my all-time favourite Walking Ibiza routes awaits: The Crystal Coast, named so by Toby because of the shards of Clear Quartz and Selenite you can find in the ground. On previous visits I have – in a rather undignified manner – turned into a human magpie as soon as I spotted the first glittering splinters in the ground, so when we reach Crystal Canyon I am momentarily distracted from my musings on this week’s love theme.

Pockets heavy with rocks (only joking), we follow along the coastline ever further into the North of the island until we reach the small bay of Cala d’en Serra. Above this picturesque beach, an unfinished and abandoned hotel structure has been turned into a kind of open-air museum for street art, adorned with fantastically elaborate and colourful graffitis. We spend a few minutes marvelling at the pieces and taking pictures before tackling the first real challenge of the day: a long and steep ascend through the forest to the top of the mountains that are looming on the horizon.

I have been pleased to discover in recent weeks that all the uphill climbing and clambering across cliff tops appears to have boosted my fitness. That said; a 28km walk with close to 1,000 climbing metres is never not going to be challenging. Call me weird, but it is those strenuous stretches of muscle burn, sweat and determination that I have come to find oddly therapeutic.

Many walkers who have taken part in the traditional ‘Around The Island’ trekking holiday have described the experience as life changing, and even though we are experiencing it in a less condensed version I can see why. This year has been hugely challenging for most of us. From the general state of panic and chaos that has gripped the world since the Covid-19 crisis escalated back in March to fears for not only our own health but that of our loved ones– it’s been a tough one.

But when you walk for eight – or even ten- hours straight, the rhythm of your feet becomes strangely soothing, the burn of the lactic acid in your legs distracts you (at least for that moment) from anything else going through your mind and the physical stamina required to keep putting one foot in front of another encourages you to surrender yourself to the moment. Immersed in Ibiza’s majestic nature, the scale of its sizeable mountains, the silence of its forests and the sheer force of the sea put things into perspective. Suddenly, everything else seems faraway and small in comparison…

Alas, it’s still a challenge. After heading inland on quiet valley trails towards Cala San Vicente, past traditional farmhouses and impressive cacti formations, a ragged mountaintop sticks out in front of the setting sun. “Is that the last climb of the day, Toby?” I joke, convinced there is NO WAY he will lead us up there at the end of an incredible, but exhausting day. I am wrong. It is indeed the last uphill battle, and it’s a good one: long, winding and steep. I soon forget about the therapeutic effects of hiking I have waxed on about earlier and focus on the ‘word of the day’ from Stage 5 instead: WHY!?

Spurred on by the prospect of a hot meal at Can Na Hathai restaurant in San Miguel, where we have arranged to have dinner together after collecting our cars from Benirras, we push through the final part of today’s hike and are rewarded by views of a Full Moon rising over the tops of the trees that guard Tanit’s Cave. By our shared love for Ibiza, we have made it!

As we do our stretches and share our thoughts on today’s hike, Johan, another one of our Around The Island regulars, surprises us with an unexpected gift. He has brought personalised chocolate bars imprinted with a gorgeous sunset picture from one of the earlier stages and the Walking Ibiza logo – one for each and every participant on today’s hike!

“Thank you for being such a wonderful person… you are a great walking buddy” is written on all of the wrappers. With the onsetting tiredness from today’s walk, the Full Moon and our ‘love’ theme, it could be enough to bring a tear to the eye. “For me, this has reminded me that love can come from anywhere, even ‘Johan the Enforcer’ – that’s my nickname for him,” quips Matt – just in time before things get too mushy! “Chocolate equals love,” agrees Charlie. And who am I to argue with that?

If you want to join the next part of our ‘Around The Island in 10 Walks’ adventure, you better hurry because spaces are going fast! Are you up to the challenge? Book your spot here!

Written by Olivia Ebeling