One of the most enjoyable, healthy and not
too expensive activities that we can practice here on Ibiza
at this time of the year is to take long walks through the
countryside and forests, anywhere all over the island.
The weather conditions are ideal for this
purpose; the afternoons are still long with the right temperature,
clean, fresh air, and an excellent quality of light that helps
to better appreciate our colourful landscapes. It's the perfect
time for photography.
This is also the best way to get to know
the island and its nature, devoting the time and effort that
such a job deserves.
Little by little, just by being there and
moving within it, one discovers - step by step - all the secrets
of our geology, climate, flora and fauna, our people, our
history and way of life.
It is especially true if you are lucky enough
to share these walks with a group of close friends, some natives
and/or long-time residents. But all, somehow, experts in things
like botany, biology, ornithology, ecology and chemistry with
a deep love and respect for both Ibiza and its nature. Some
have a deep knowledge and university studies of all these
sciences and disciplines, yet find it grows deeper and deeper
with each walk.
They all love their jobs and really enjoy
these walks (the pioneers have been doing it for twenty-five
years) and, what is more important, they love to share all
this knowledge with anybody who is prepared to learn.
So, every Saturday afternoon walk becomes
an open air, easy-going class, with practical lessons, but
without any examinations or tests to pass. It's a school were
we can see young boys and girls, just coming out of university
with their new degrees, willing to expand their knowledge
by applying what they have already learned from books.
There are also amateur naturalists; photographers
and just people that really appreciate a good, educational
walk with the right company.
Nobody has to book to come and nobody has
to apologise if they are not there when it is time to go.
The rest will just leave without them at the usual time.
Let's take last Saturday as an example.
The usual meeting place and time: Bar Madagascar, Plaza del
Parque. Ibiza Town. From 3:30pm till 4:00pm. Only eight of
us this time, two of the founders and real masters, Nestor
Torres, and Mario Stafforini, have already decided where to
go, according to the weather conditions and the season, what
grows and blossoms at the time and where to find it.
We drive to "Benirras," North
of the Island, always using the minimum number of cars possible.
We leave the two cars by the side of the road, not far from
the beach of "Benirras" and start walking up to
one of the valleys, actually, the now dry bed of a mountain
stream, that forms the cove and the beach.
This valley starts at the Western slope
of the "Atalaya de San Juan" (400 metres high).
It is well sheltered from most of the winds, so the bottom
of the valley is very green, covered with newborn grass. Most
is the common clover "Trifolium pratenses" menthe; "Mentha sativa" is also abundant, as well as other "Labiadae" and several small plants of the "Graminae"
family. There are plenty of fruit trees, especially citrus,
lemons and oranges, not ready to eat yet, cherry-trees losing
their leaves by now, lovely, red pomegranates "Punica
granatum", sweet, soft persimmons "Dyospyros kaki", both ripe at this time of year.
All along the valley there is a small trench
in which the water of several fountains has been running non-stop
for many centuries, ever since it was built by the Moors probably
more then a thousand years ago. These fountains are now dry,
for the first time ever.
If there is still water in the pools built
by the side and running in the trenches, it is because it
is being pumped out from artificial wells. They still use
the old irrigation channels to water the fields. In them we
can see common frogs "Rana perezi" and a rare little
autochthonous black snail, with a difficult name to remember.
This whole area and the surrounding hills
have suffered three forest fires within the last two decades.
There is very little left of the ancient, deep forest. All
the eco-systems have been altered, especially in the areas
where the newborn pine-trees were burnt for a second time,
before they could grow new cones. There were no new seeds
for new trees to be born.
Without the trees and their roots, the soil
gets washed away by the rain from the mountain slopes, so
the erosion is growing fast and we can see the naked rock
by the top of the hills where a thick green forest use to
be. It will never be again. A lot of the usual species, flora
and fauna, are now missing from these areas.
Even so we take a walk into the forest,
or what's left of it, to see what we can find.
We soon realise that this is the time of
year for forest spiders "Epeira diadema" (about
one inch in size, a bit more with the legs expanded, dark-grey-brown,
with a whitish cross drawn at the back of the abdomen) is
the most common. It is the local spider that weaves the largest
net of the lot: it can reach almost three meters wide altogether,
normally with the spider in the middle. It is very difficult
to move in the forest, at the present time without falling
into one of these nets. When this happens, my whole body goes
into shock, though even I know that this spider is practically
We also find one of the plants that we were
looking for, two specimens of a protected, tiny and beautiful
autochthonous orchid "Spirantes Spirales", and the
only one (out of more than twenty local species) that grows
and blossoms at this time of the year. We can't find the type
of narcissus that used to grow in the surroundings. There
are not many wild mushrooms either; the forest floor is still
too dry. Only a few of the early boletus, edible, but not
too good, "Suillus collinitus" and some "Inocibe
fastigiata," a dangerous little mushroom full of "muscarine"
and other neuro-toxins (some use the "inocibes"
as a psychedelic drug). It is much better to leave it alone.
After more than two hours walking, the sun
is going down fast. We heading back to the cars in the quiet
of the twilight. The sounds of the forest come through very
clearly. It is a real and proper country band. There is a
blackbird "Turdus merula" showing itself on the
very top of an almond-tree, giving us short saxo-jazz-notes
and a nightingale "Luscinia megarhynchos" somewhere,
playing a delightful flute concerto. As it is still hot, there
are still two or three harvest flies "Cicada pebeja"
still singing sssssccchhheeerrrrrreeng and chirping along
with the rest of the choir. One by one, the crickets join
This is when you know you are in the right
place at the right time.
José P Ribas