On the Road in the Real Ibiza

Muzik magazine

FLAME-THROWING midgets.  Topless uber-babes.  Boshing trance.  Irate British consuls.  Bald men with beards having podium sex.  Ruddy-faced beer boys up the West End.  6am kebabs.  Twenty-four hour gurnathons.  Dodgy sex with even dodgier strangers.  Yet more boshing trance. 

That’s Ibiza in a nutshell, right?  Not quite.  For there’s another White Island out there.  An island where the Brits are in a minority and which “Ibiza Uncovered” didn’t, erm, uncover.  A corporate-free zone of heavenly beaches, spiritual soundtracks and cosmopolitan clubbing.  An alternative Ibiza.  The real Ibiza.

OUR JOURNEY starts in space.  Well, more accurately it starts in the car park of Space, the legendary club with the even-more-legendary terrace.  We’ve a lunchtime rendezvous with Carlos and Miguel, two native Ibicencos who’ve agreed to show us the lay of the land.  For the thing about the real Ibiza is that it isn’t handed to you on a plate.  You won’t see signposts saying “This way for a Brit-free zone”.

“Ibiza has a bad image, mainly because of the San An tourist raver ghetto,” says Sally Rogers from A Man Called Adam, the British band that have clasped the Ibizan spirit most closely to their bosom.  “The rest of the island is not like that.  If you’re respectful and appreciative, you’ll get to discover that there’s so much more.  You discover the island through the friends you meet.”

So, with our posse firmly in place, we hit the road convoy style, heading north towards Santa Eulalia and San Lorenzo before forking right to San Carlos.  It’s on this road that we reach the Las Dalias hippy market.  Although a bit fluoro-UV-got-any-Chakras-mate, it’s still home to a wide range of authentic Ibicenco produce, psychedelic threads and a cool juice bar.  Funky dreads in tie-dye shirts mingle with German tourists in the maze of stalls.  If you look hard you can find some bargains and load up on incense candles and I-Ching T-shirts.  Well, it is a hippy market after all.

Driving east towards the coast, we reach the Restaurante Pou Des Lleó, which has a reputation for serving the best paella on the island.  A short drive from San Carlos, this secluded eaterie has a fine terrace eating area and a laid-back attitude which calls for a few sly blunts.  “You can have both,” says Miguel.  “It is possible to relax in Ibiza as well as enjoy the clubs.”  You can also rent a double room here for just £20 per night, one that comes with a view of the bluest skies about.  The mind boggles why people still fork out double that for a vomit-encrusted mattress up the West End.

The Pou Des Lleó itself is a tiny cove with a couple of fishing boats, a neat little beach and a smattering of sun-worshippers.  The sort of travel-brochure heaven you always read about but never seem to find, “idyllic” doesn’t do it justice.  And the real bonus is that hardly anyone knows about it.

The same can be said of Playa Augas Blanca (White Water Beach), a little further north up the coast.  It’s a fairly torturous route in the car down a very steep dirt track but it’s worth the effort.  The beachside bar is decked out with palm trees and you half expect a perma-tanned Ricardo Montablan to step out and say “Welcome to Fantasy Island”.  Still, it’s soon approaching 7pm and we’ve got a date with the sunset at Benirras.

It’s on the drive to Benirras that the true beauty of north Ibiza flashes into focus.  The road snakes through acres and acres of lush green forest, hardly the sort of landscape you associate with a sun-cooked Mediterranean rock.  As the sun droops in the sky, we all enter a temporary trance, mesmerised by the foliage and the car stereo pulsing out Marshall Jefferson’s trippy disco classic ‘Mushroom’, the most lysergic house moment since ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’.

Benirras is home to arguably the best sunset on the island, far better than the view from Café Del Mar.  Because you have to make a real effort to get here, only a hundred or so followers of the “real Ibizan” spirit are gathered on the beach.  Chilled out hippies strum on guitars, topless acid heads grin slyly and the rest of us sup our San Miguels as the sun sinks down into a haze of deep red for another of those “Ibiza moments”.  It’s a shame the legendary Benirras drummers aren’t there – they strike up a percussive free-flowing groove around sundown – but we still feel spiritually sated.  And there’s always tommorrow.
Of course there is still much to do today and the night is but young.  The thing about the real Ibiza is that it isn’t just fancy food, secluded beaches and jaw-dropping sunsets.  You may have heard about some of the clubs on the island too.  It’s just about picking the right bars and clubs and the right nights of the week.

We drive back to Ibiza Town for around eleven and after a quick change of clobber it’s back out onto the streets.  Our first stop is Noctambula (Calle Passadis), a cheap, cool bar run by down-to-earth scenesters Max, Gayle and Oscar.  A number of promoters (Trade, Sundissential, Bugged Out) are using it for pre-club parties and the noticeboard which lists work and accommodation is in heavy use.  It’s also the place to find out about the free parties and full moon gatherings that take place throughout the season.  So if you’re into UV, aliens and psychotropic trance and your name is Zachary Moonchild, make a beeline for here.  Also make sure you check the upstairs space with it’s comfy sofas, Technics, lava lamps and igloo alcoves.

Then it’s on to Bar Zuka, situated on an almost exclusively “gay” street just behind the harbour, the ironically-named Calle De La Virgen.  The street might be wall to wall with chaps in, erm, leather chaps but that has the bonus of frightening off the beer boys.  People come to this mixed bar to pick the brains of manager Mark Hattley, who runs it with DJ Nancy Noise.  He knows a thing or two about clubbing – he first came to Ibiza in 1987 on the infamous summer trip with Oakey and co and later worked at Danny Rampling’s legendary acid house hoedown Shoom.  Zuka is cosmopolitan (German, Italian, Swiss), classy and relaxed.  When a couple of coppers stroll in for a cheeky schnapps no one bats an eyelid.  And if you ask Hattley nicely he’ll give you the lowdown on the club scene and may even procure you some free tickets.

We hit El Divino first and it’s a blast.  It’s even bigger than before and the harbourside terrace, with its amazing views of the Old Town, is still a treat.  There’s a real jim-jam of punters, mainly Spanish and other continental Europeans and thankfully hardly any Brits.  We press flesh with Kaled, the quiet and unassuming owner who smiles benignly at the packed dancefloor.  He’s worth millions, apparently, so we feel it only right to blag a few drinks off of him.

On our way to Pacha, we meet three crazy pilled-up Norwegians crawling around on the pier who tell us how they’ve just arrived in town and plan to live commune-style and buy a bar and name it Kalinga.  I’m not sure if they’re being serious or not but if the bar does exist, pop in and say “Hi” to Lula for me, won’t you?

Pacha has every right to claim to be the island’s most beautiful nightclub, the place that leaves even Renaissance’s Geoff Oakes short of superlatives.  Even in a haze of vodka and Red Bull it still takes the breath away.  We blag our way onto the VIP stage where we can perch in special seats and ogle the backsides of the gyrating dancers.  The guy sat in the next chair informs me he’s paid £500 for the privilege.  “Sucker,” I think but seeing as he’s dressed in a five grand suit, he can probably afford it.  And quite what he thinks of the pale-faced rave monkey next to him is beyond me.  But then that’s the beauty of clubs like Pacha and El Divino – oiky types can rub shoulders with the improbably rich and no one seems to care.

Seven in the morning and we stumble out of the club with our tummies rumbling.  There’s only one place for it – Croissant Show in Mercado Viejo, near the entrance to the Old Town.  Owner André Quidu, who has a penchant for Salvidor Dali-esque moustaches, started out flogging pain de chocolates to munted pill-munchers in the clubs at night.  Now he owns several shops all over the island, although this one was his first and remains the best.  By eight the half dozen pavement tables are bustling with a motely crew of bedraggled podium queens, tanned Adonises with hyperactive lower jaws and other interesting characters.  But be sure to also try Can Font just round the corner on Calle de Jose Verdera, a tiny gypsy bakery whose baguettes have to be tasted to be believed.  Suitably stocked up, it’s time to head south for Playa D’En Bossa and the frazzled charms of Space.

YOU’VE HEARD about Space.  The club that opens at 8am on a Sunday (and on Tuesdays too for post-Manumission orgies) and has a block rocking outdoor terrace dancefloor.  The club where everyone throws their hands in the air as the airport-bound planes thunder overhead, ferrying in another load of eager clubbing beavers.  Today’s even more special as it’s the season opening of the club and it’s predictably mobbed.  Sure, some are here for the big indoor dancefloor where Sasha is laying down hard, dark trance but the real stars of Space are the terrace residents.  Daniel Klein and Alfredo drop feelgood house and groovy Latin stompers for a hyper-enthusiastic cross-section of pan-national disco disciples, who go even more ballistic when Gordon the trumpeter blows stacatto riffs scat-style over the top.  It’s as far removed from the cheesy overtures of San An as you can get and sounds bloomin’ fantastic.

By mid-afternoon, we’re looking for the final piece in our own real Ibiza jigsaw.  The nearby Bora Bora beach parties have, in two short years, achieved an almost legendary status.  The trick is to get down there early in the afternoon when resident DJ Gee tickles the sonic tastebuds with five or six hours of deep and groovy house, West Coast trippiness done in a DiY-stylee.  He spins twelve hours a day, seven days a week, not to mention numerous club guest spots, the sort of schedule that would put an NHS junior doctor to shame.

“The more you do the more you want,” he says.  “It’s like a drug.  We want it.  We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.”  Bora Bora is popular with the club workers (flyerers, bar staff, dancers etc), who mount the tables and have it right off as Gee shifts gears around 10pm into Germanic trance and chunky hard house.  When they started the daily parties two years ago, they had a hardcore following of a hundred or so souls.  At the end of last season they were regularly pulling in over a thousand. 

Jonathan Grey, who pursues a more leftfield music policy just down the road at Sa Trincha beach, is similarly enthusiastic.  “You’re out there in the open with nature – that’s the beach attitude,” he says.  “It’s very unique and quite detached from the clubs.  But that’s what makes it so special for the clubbers because most of them don’t have the opportunity to dance on a beach in a beautiful location to really good music.  It’s all about appreciating the location you’re playing in.”

Gee maintains that running a free beach bar is harder than filling a big club.  “There are 40-odd other beach bars around here and if they don’t like what you play they’ll bugger off.  But Bora Bora and Sa Trincha are always rammed.  In a club, even if the music’s shit you’ll stay because you’ve paid your 30 or 40 quid and you want to get your money’s worth.”

By now it’s 1am on a Monday morning and we certainly feel like we’ve gotten our money’s worth.  In the past 48 hours we’ve dined on cuisine fit for a king, chilled on breathtaking beaches, watched jaw-dropping sunsets, danced with impossibly beautiful supermodels, met billionaire businessmen, gurned on podiums to funky trance, danced barefoot in the sand to sexy house, met crazy and colourful people from all over the world and finished with enough stories to fill 50 pages of this magazine. 

A hundred more “real Ibizas” exist out there, each one as vivid and stimulating as this one.  On our travels we heard about the spectacular Atlantis sands and the dramatic cliff backdrops of Moon Beach where full-on trance parties rage all night.  And of course there are the dreamy soundtracks of Bruno Lepetre and José Padilla at classic chillstops like Café Del Mar and Café Mambo.  But for now places like that will have to wait.  After all, there’s always tommorrow.

The Real Ibiza: Vox Pops

Piero Brunetti
DJ and musician

“There is a lot of positive energy on Ibiza and that’s important for making good music.  I first came here in 1993 and I totally fell in love with the island.  I was a new person after that first summer.  It had a huge impact on my music – before I came I was making cheesy pop but as soon as I arrived here I got into house music.  I went to places like the terrace at Space and it was like a revolution in my head.  It’s a very spiritual place and very peaceful if you know where to go.  And of course there’s a lot of sunshine too!”

Poet, writer, philosopher and professional madperson

“I only arrived on the island six days ago.  I have come here to find peace and love and to find myself.  I worked in Germany for 30 years and it was so depressing – the people there are like robots.  They’re like sado-masochists driving to their boring jobs every day of the week.  But if you tell the people that they are slaves THEN THEY GET ANGRY!  THEY DON’T LIKE IT!  WAIT A MINUTE!  WHERE ARE YOU GOING?  COME BACK HERE!…”

Jonathan Grey
Resident DJ at Sa Trincha

“I first came here in the late Eighties – on holiday with my mum!  I’d sneak out to the clubs at night after she went to bed!  I then returned in 1994 with some friends.  We were involved with the free rave scene and travelled here in a big coach with a sound system.  But our money ran out and my friends pissed off and I thought they’d taken all my record and belongings.  I hitch hiked round the island for ten days wondering what on earth I was going to do.  I was delerious, having accidents and getting mugged.  It turned out they’d left my records in the car park of Sa Trincha.  I went along and it transpired that the resident DJ there hadn’t turn up so they asked me to spin.  I haven’t looked back since.”

Resident DJ at Bora Bora

“I DJ here nine hours a day, seven days a week.  It’s so idyllic, the view is unreal.  It’s like a Bacardi advert!  You’ve got the sand, the sea, palm trees, beautiful women and guys.  What on earth would you want to swap it with?  For an office job?  You’d have to be barmy.  We drove here from England with a trailer packed full of records – we had to leave behind the microwave, bed and sofa because there were so many!  There’s no way we’re going to leave this island now.  Ibiza is a Scorpion island.  It’ll sting you if you’re naughty but if you play the game you’ll be all right.”

André Quidu
Owner of Croissant Show pattiserie, Ibiza Town

“I’m originally from Brittany, France, but came here 11 years ago.  I started out selling croissants from a food cart at clubs all over the island.  But people at clubs don’t really like to eat – they prefer to dance and drink!  Nowadays we just serve at Amnesia.  Our shop opens very early in the morning for the farmers and market traders who are setting up their stalls in the square.  And we also get the clubbers coming out of the nightclubs.  They need to eat after moving their bodies all night!  We have a good reputation for our croissants because we use this special butter imported from France.  And we also do pastries, breads and a delicious apple pie.”

Miguel Angel Garcia Cobos
Barman, Ibiza Town

“I was born here and although I’ve travelled to many places around the world, you can’t beat the feeling you get here.  What I love is the mixture of people who come here, from the hippies who brought that laid-back attitude to today’s clubbers.  I learnt how to speak English just by talking to all these different people.  You can do that in Ibiza Town because it’s so cosmopolitan.  Over the past few years the clubbing thing has certainly gotten more commercial and we’ve lost some freedoms.  Not so long ago you could have a spliff right in the town centre and nobody would mind but the police have started to crack down.  But I still feel very very lucky to be living here.”

© Kieran Wyatt

Benirras beach Ibiza