If Formentera Had Been Gilligan’s Island, I’m Pretty Sure They Never Would Have Tried To Leave.
Some things in this world are beyond even my capability to express in words.
I know this.
You know this.
So I’m not going to try.
In the book Hocus Pocus, Kurt Vonnegut writes, “How embarrassing to be human.”
And it is, you know.
But for all of the ugliness — the senselessness, the strife — there is great beauty, too.
And for that I’m exceedingly grateful.
On Friday I was telling you about our rough start on Formentera. Our complete befuddlement about getting lost on an island so small is almost embarrassing to admit. But we made it to our apartment, had a wonderful night’s rest, and spent the next two days cycling and sunning like the pros we… weren’t.
Really, we were 4 pasty tourists of questionable athletic ability, but it’s undeniable that bicycles are probably the best and most cost-effective way to get around much of Formentera. (Okay, I was the only one with questionable athletic ability and red, blotchy skin, but if I say “we,” it makes me feel better. And it’s my blog.) Anyway. Islands are fragile and secluded ecosystems, so it felt good knowing we weren’t contributing to its pollution with unnecessary vehicle exhaust. Not to mention the fact that the exercise didn’t hurt our bikini — or sometimes lack of bikini — bodies.
Did I mention many of the beaches are nude?
Some people — ahem — expressed distaste at my use of the term “bike crotch” on Friday, implying that the very idea resulted in the notion to strike Formentera from their wander lists.
I’m not going to lie. Peddling around paradise can cause a certain amount of sore groinage.
But let me just say — some things in life — and I won’t list them all since I try to keep this PG-13 — are so, so worth it.
And experiencing Formentera is one of them.
On the first day we eased ourselves into it, peddling our way along nice bike lanes on paved roads to nearby beaches, jaws hanging open in stupefied wonder that such beauty even exists in this world. We sunbathed and snorkeled. On Formentera, all you really need is a beach towel, a set of goggles, and the cojones to get into some potentially chilly and crystal clear water.
Oh. And beware the pink German schlong fish. They’re usually about 80-years-old and quite unpleasant to view underwater.
Genius breakfast a la Becca of stovetop frittata concocted of leftover garlic spaghetti.
Across the water is the island of Ibiza.
These colors are real, yo.
Justin and Becca
We weren’t the only cyclists around.
The second day was more of a challenge. We stuffed our backpacks with bottled water, Pringles, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Hardcore biker stuff, people.
This was the day we took the bike route across the longest stretch of Formentera to reach La Mola Lighthouse at Cap de Barbaria on the easternmost tip of the island.
If you’re ever lucky enough to visit Formentera, this is a must. At least, visiting the cliffside lighthouse is a must — I’m not sure about the cycling part.
See, most of the island is a flat, easy ride. Across the long, narrow stretch we took our time, stopping at the numerous breathtaking vistas and scenic beaches to enjoy the view. The lighthouse, however, is situated at the top of a high plateau. And navigating to the top of the plateau requires traversing a steep series of switchbacks, down which a steady stream of motorcycles, cars, and buses — buses — are whizzing past you at stomach-wrenching speeds.
Aside from feeling half of the time like I might die — either from sheer, knife-in-the-thighs, oh-my-god-why-did-you-think-you-were-fit-enough-to-handle-this muscle fatigue or from a tour bus knocking me off the side of a cliff — the absolute coolest thing about traveling to Cap de Barbaria by bike was experiencing the various microclimates on the island. From the black, rocky volcanic beaches and soft white sand at ocean level to the golden wheat fields, arid Spanish deserts and blissfully shady pine groves above, it was like traversing the entire continental United States in a matter of kilometers.
Stopping for a rest and an intake of unbelievable beauty.
Someone should tell that girl to get a tan. And a bra.
Other bloggers post pictures of gradient dressers. I post pictures of gradient seas.
After this, we climbed.
At one point, we were able to “pull over” at a roadside restaurant, ignoring sidelong glances from the pristine, well-groomed, car-riding folk to catch a sweaty glimpse of the island sprawled out in front of us.
Finally — finally — we reached the plateau. There, we found the golden fields and shade, glorious shade.
After taking a moment (or several hundred thousand moments) to reflect on our humanity, we were once again able to enjoy the ride. The flat, taut ribbon of narrow road stretched blissfully towards the horizon and we were able to coast with the wind at our backs, the burning in our thighs beginning to subside.
Streamlined cars, motorcycles, and tour buses continued to whiz past, but their effortless speed seemed laughable, now that they no longer threatened to shove us from the switchbacks. Sure, their passengers would end up with our same view at the end of the road, but they wouldn’t have earned it.
At least that’s what we kept telling ourselves.
We passed a Dutch windmill with no energy to stop, and then we saw it — the light at the end of the road.
While the other tourists gathered to the north side of the cliff-clinging structure, we walked across a field of rock to our own secluded picnic retreat overlooking the vast Mediterranean.
Well. We weren’t completely alone.
But we didn’t mind sharing the space.
Jules Verne described La Mola lighthouse as a magical place.
But really, it’s just desert. And rock. And some graffiti on white stucco walls.
It’s not even that high, when you really think about it.
But ol’ Verne was right.
It’s more than that.
More than the view.
More than the height.
And even more than how small we felt at that moment.
I’m pretty sure, more than any of that, it was the triumph of peddling our pasty white way to the edge of the earth that made us feel on top of the world.