“INTEGRATION: From Strangers To Friends”

Pick axes. Ropes. Waterproof mountaineering boots. After the rain, hail and cliff-climbing adventures of the previous Saturday, the Around The Island [short: ATI] group chat was dominated by banter about how we should prepare for Stage 9. But as if Walking Ibiza founder Toby Clarke had had a word with island Goddess Tanit herself, Ibiza showed itself from its most beautiful side for the penultimate walk in the ATI series of Saturday hikes. Just as well, because another hair-raising trek through the stormy December weather may have just caused mutiny!

Getting up in the dark to reach our starting point in Cala Llenya by 8am, many of us were mesmerised by a beautiful crescent moon and the planet Venus shining from the clear winter sky. I, for one, took it as a good omen for the day, which would see us walk 26km along Ibiza’s eastern coastline to our finishing point in Sol d’en Serra – a place many of you will know as the home of one of the island’s most famous seaside destinations, Amante Ibiza. My confidence grew as I clocked that Toby was back in his (dare I say iconic?) walking sandals for Stage 9 – rather than the chunky hiking boots of the previous week!

On the golden sands of the gently curved bay of Cala Llenya, we eagerly tried to guess what the word of the day might be. “Almost?” shouted Ricardo, referring to the fact that we are getting closer and closer to completing our 260km jaunt around the coastline of Ibiza. “Integration,” Toby told us. “Think about what you are going to integrate into your life from this experience after ten weeks of walking.”

Pssst! Side note! If reading the ATI blog has made you curious, Walking Ibiza is starting the 10-week series again on January 16th 2021, circumnavigating the entire island across ten Saturdays!

Setting off in the golden glow of the rising sun, we made our way past the long expanse of sand that forms the popular beach of Cala Nova – rejoicing at the mild temperatures and blue sky. We easily skipped across some boulders and navigated a narrow coastal path around the deserted resort of Es Canar, its potential perils fading into insignificance in comparison to Stage 8’s daredevil climbs. Spirits were high as we marched on with a spring in our step!

The coastal stretch from the famous Punta Arabi Hippy Market and camp site towards the bustling town of Santa Eulalia is a beautiful walking route, passing through several beaches and marked by picturesque sights including fishing huts, dramatic red rock formations and hidden coves. We moved along at impressive pace, and it was once again noticeable how much the group’s speed and stamina has increased since we started the weekly walks back in October. Merrily chatting away, making plans to meet outside of the ATI hikes, and discussing which curry to order at our now traditional post-walk dinner, it was also evident how the individuals who started exploring the island together two months ago have integrated into a little walking family.

After passing through Cala Martina and following the crumbly red trail towards the tranquil Cala Pada, the coastal trail led us across the golden sands of Playa Niu Blau before reaching the striking red miniature cliffs just outside of Santa Eulalia. Here, the first climb of the day awaited, and I surprised myself by thinking, “Great, I can warm up my legs!” It says a lot about how much my own strength has increased over the weeks that I would consider the mini mountain next to the Palacio de Congresos in Santa Eulalia a ‘warm-up’, but there you go!

After a blissful and sunny coffee stop in the marina, where we watched the sleek yachts and speedboats sway gently on the water, we continued with renewed vigour. After spending the morning walking through ‘civilisation’, when we reached Siesta we finally veered off into the wild again. And it was heaven. Climbing ever higher underneath a perfectly bright blue sky, walking in t-shirts in the middle of December, the sea below us dazzled in a myriad of blues. It was, simply put, paradisiacal.

Alas, Toby always seems to have some sort of adventure up his sleeve, and even on this relatively gentle stage there was an opportunity for the thrillseekers to get their adrenaline fix. Leading us towards a manmade tunnel dug through the one of the mountains between Siesta and Cala Llonga, we had the option to decide whether the views onto Cala Blanca on the other side was worth being hit on the head by falling rocks! By now hardened adventurers, we didn’t even bat an eyelid.

From here, the climbing section of the route began. Up and up we went on rocky forest trails to reach the mountaintop, tiptoeing down on the other side to reach Cala Llonga. Exhilarated by sun, sea and spectacular views, on the safety of the tarmacked ground we broke into dance to beat of 1980’s finest Italo Disco hit Vamos A La Playa. Or maybe we have just gone plain mad…

Faster than anticipated, we made it to the final ascend of the day: Cap des Llibrell. Putting our beefed-up leg muscles to work, we huffed and puffed our way to the top – but with noticeably less struggle and whining than in previous weeks!  We stopped at the ruins of an important archaeological site that dates back to the Bronze Age, once again reminded of the island’s incredible and varied history. When we reached the top, on this beautiful clear day we could see far beyond the starting point of our 10-week adventure. Looking back on Stage 1 and seeing – quite literally  – how far we have come, I felt a mix of emotions coming up. “It’s too soon to cry – save your tears for the finishing line next week,” I told myself.

Just one more – and only slightly treacherous – descent separated us from the finishing line in Sol d’en Serra. From high up, we could see the famous Amante beach club like a tiny white target below us. The thought of a well-deserved curry at the Indian and Nepalese restaurant Kathmandu in Santa Eulalila spurring us on, we took even the steeper sections of the cliffside in our stride.

As has become tradition, we finished a beautiful day of walking with a good stretch while sharing our thoughts on the word of the day. However, it was after our Indian feast and a few cheeky beers and vinos, that ATI regular Matt phrased the collective sentiment of the group so beautifully in the WhatsApp group, I’m going to have to share it here. “Every week gets better, and every week I think we integrate even more. Thank you all for being such a great group of humans. These walks truly are my weekly solace.” Much nicer than a picture of a pick axe, don’t you agree?

There is only one more stage to go on our ‘Around The Island in 10 Walks’ adventure so if you would like to join us, hurry, because spaces are going fast! Are you up for crossing the finishing line with us? After that, the next ATI series starts again on January 16th 2021.

Written by Olivia Ebeling