Setting off last summer on one of my favorite journeys in Ibiza, I decided that I would extend the drive and go all the way up through the mountains to Cala San Vincent and visit the Tanit caves. I was in the company of a well traveled author, who had successfully beaten cancer through alternative healing and as always, it was good to meet people with a different outlook on life. One of the main reasons I return to the island each year is to meet different people and Ibiza is like an ancient, rich library of life experiences, stacked upon stack of books. I have met the most interesting people in my life in Ibiza, always opening doors for me to stick my head around the corner and explore. The Carthaginians and Romans regarded Ibiza as a holy place, a gateway to the next life, where the soil was cleansed and free of evil.
I always had the feeling that at one time in the past, the island was a beautiful garden, with water flowing from the mountains cascading over waterfalls and rich in life. Tanit the revered Earth Goddess and a symbol of female power, is an important part of the islands character. One does not have to scratch too deep below the surface to witness her very much alive presence today. It is said her soul and energy resides in the water that flows deep in the rock of the mountains in Ibiza and it was on my trip to her temple this summer, that I saw her beauty with fresh eyes. Locals in Ibiza will tell a traveler that cares to listen, that to really understand the island and her true identity, a visitor should travel the country road from Santa Agnes to San Miguel.
The small, winding roads snakes through pristine countryside, rugged in natural beauty and simplicity. The rich vineyards of the San Mateo area, where the black grapes and lemons lean over the stone walls onto the road. Where the ancient irrigation and farming techniques introduced by The Moors over 1500 year ago remain clearly visible on the landscape. Where old ladies, still dressed in traditional, black frumpy clothing, designed to disguise them from raiding pirates, tend to the olive trees. Where sheep find shelter under the shadow of those trees and eke out an existence on the bare greenery.
I have also heard it said that the lamb in Ibiza is mouthwatering and delicious, due to the sweet wild herbs and plants it eats instead of grass. The wine of San Mateo, if the year is good, is one of the best tasting country wines in Spain – Vino País. The plants and wild flowers flutter in the warming breeze and the smell of the pine woods fills the nose like wild nectar. A soul can feel intoxicated by the overload on the senses when standing alone in this precious place. This is the Ibiza that many who visit fail to experience and in my opinion, it is the most beautiful part of the island and reflects a delicate personality. Its always hard to leave but we were on a quest to visit Tanit.
My friend had not know of Tanit’s temple at Cova es Cuilleram in the northern tip of the island and as she shared her knowledge with me I wanted to show her a special place. We took the winding road from San Miguel and we were soon climbing and twisting along a dangerous path cut into the mountains which protect the bay of San Vincent. A turn to the left brought us along another smaller road that once again twisted and turned into the mountain. It was here where Tanit’s power once resided in a cave that was naturally part of the rock and earth it belonged too. I have visited many times before, but my friend could feel the aura of the place and with fresh eyes was able to determine that once water flowed freely over Tanit’s caves.
We could see where the water had created the caves and where the stalactites hung from the ceiling. We looked up to see where the fresh water could have flowed from and saw a clear path of entry. To one side of the caves there was what resembled a bath or trough, were people would have drank from or taken water as a holy font. When one stood back and looked at Tanits Caves we discovered that in ancient times this place had been a beautiful waterfall that flowed down the valley and out into the sea. As Tanit’s essence is so intrinsically linked to the element of water, then it would be expected that her Temple would be surrounded by it.
It was evident that it was also a place of pilgrimage as to one side of the valley was a stone path that went all the way down the mountain. People may have walked this path on their accent to be close to the source of the waterfall, which must have sounded peaceful and mellifluous. This was once a special place where life was abundant and where the sunset would have warmed the face of the waterfall in the evening as it looked out onto the Mediterranean sea. One could hear the song of the birds and the sound of the crickets as they waited for the night to arrive. Time as it does in Ibiza, was starting to ebb away from us and we did not get to explore the stone path down the mountainside but I made a mental note to myself that next time it would be revisited. Some time in the future, a Geologist may visit Tanit’s caves and tell us something we did not know. I am far from an expert, but I believe there is a story of discovery to be told in the hills of San Vincent. Lets hope some day it will come to light again.