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I Remember Ibiza
by Harold Liebow

Part Four
How I Crossed The Rubicon


I Remember Ibiza

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 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!

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. 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.

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 knew.

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 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.

The 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 in Ibiza.

Harold Liebow