Monday 21 August 2017

'We took Coke, Ecstasy, MDMA, the usual' - the Irish ravers who party for days on end in Ibiza

As she returns to the White Island for her fourth visit, Barbara McCarthy meets the Irish ravers who stay up for days on end, partying, and ingesting everything from ecstasy to ketamine to nitrous oxide. And, as always, she knows that, despite it all, she'll be back again

The famous Foam Party at the Amnesia club
The famous Foam Party at the Amnesia club

Bodies were strewn across the departure gate for the Ibiza-Dublin flight as out-cold ravers recovered from a few days of hard partying on the White Island.

I wasn't in great shape myself. Three nights is enough for an aul' one - plus, much to my chagrin, the Wi-Fi didn't work, and I couldn't transfer money between my accounts, so I had to forego a straightener, water and food. I was dying for a dirty burger, a bottle of cold water and a shot of some kind of strong Canadian whiskey to get the head together.

Unfortunately, I had none of those things. I stared as the two lads across from me opened a can of Coke, which made that all-too-familiar 'zish' sound, and considered 'Mundraub' (translated, mouth robbery) - the German for the act of stealing small amouts of food or drink and being allowed to get away with it.

Like everyone else here, I'd spent to excess in the last few days, so I festered over why the hell my pal and I had got cabs everywhere, got ripped off with €20 Jack and Cokes and €15 Jagermeisters - and also why did I give some dude our bottle of champers to carry, which he duly lost? The mind boggles.

"You need to watch out here; people try to rip you off, especially when you're off the head," 26-year-old HGV driver Phil and his mate Dean, a 28-year-old plasterer of Irish descent, who were en route to Manchester, informed me. "Even when you buy a bag of coke, the dude will give you a sample - but if you don't want to buy it, they'll charge you €5 or €10 for trying it."

The lads said they were 'mad out of it' every night, regardless. "I didn't sleep for four days straight. We took Coke, Ecstasy, MDMA, the usual," Phil added. "We went to all the clubs - Amnesia, Pacha and a few others, and spent around €2,000 in six nights; €800 [of that] on drugs.

"It was great, but at one stage I had a proper fit, like. I think it's because I didn't drink enough water, that's probably what happened," he said.

Needless to say, Phil wouldn't let a near-death experience get in the way of the crack, so he continued on partying until the airport beckoned him. His mate, Dean, was a little quieter because "he done a load of K".

To the untrained, ketamine - also known as regretamine amongs users - is an anaesthetic used mostly on animals. It's popular at the end of a session rather than the beginning, due to the fact that it can send you into a 'K-hole', which renders you unfit for public consumption.

Off your rocker

A K-hole offers an out-of-body experience, disorientation, hallucinations and generally being completely and utterly off your rocker. Some people swear by it. "I wouldn't leave home without K; it's not actually bad for you, just gets you completely fucked," a female island visitor had informed me earlier in my trip.

"You'll know you've had drugs when you've had K, but if you just take a bit at a time, you just keep dancing like a lunatic," two lads at the gate insisted.

Just like most of the people I met in Ibiza, the boys were part of a larger 'army' of young men. "There's 16 of us,"; "18 of us," or "20 of us", I often heard.

Are you here for the birds or the session? I would ask. The answer was generally same: "Probably getting off the tits first, then the birds. There are some seriously hot birds here," they would volunteer.

I, too, made note of all the hot dudes parading down the island's beaches in white D&G-type shorts, promoting some club or other. I quite enjoy such eye candy, but if you get offended easily by what could be deemed objectification of either sex, I suggest Ibiza with all its hedonism and parading of skimpy outerwear is not for you.

Irish people have historically not been committed members of the beautiful community in Ibiza. That particular handsome badge is bestowed upon groomed Italians, Spanish or South Americans who don't drink the head off themselves all night, then sleep all day.

When we left Dublin, the main demographic on board was as anticipated: messer. I'd been informed by a friend who flew to Ibiza a few weeks beforehand that a sniffer dog wandered up and down the queue before everyone boarded. I would assume that he was looking for something in particular, rather than being a fixture on every flight to the party island.

It wouldn't make sense to bring drugs to Ibiza, when you can get them there - like bringing coal to Newcastle or beer to Munich, some might say - but some punters, it appeared, would rather be safe than sorry.

"We brought a few yokes [Ecstasy] with us. We put them in a condom and shoved them up our holes," Alison*, 36, from Dublin, told me on the way home. "It's all well and good saying they have them on the other end, but very often they don't. Our hotel is a bit out of the way, so we won't have access to them straight away, and we'd want to get off the head as soon as we land," she added.

Alison and her mate Caroline*, 37, also from Dublin, said they too had been warned of sniffer dogs, but wouldn't let themselves be scared off. "The dogs aren't going to smell a few pills inside you. Plus even if we were caught with five yokes, I doubt we'd get in too much trouble. We would probably just miss our flight, but it's a risk you have to take," Caroline insisted.

"We were still left wanting for more, though," she added. "We brought 10 yokes and a bag of mdma with us, and then we bought two bags of cocaine here - one in Bar Amsterdam, where we got a bad deal, and one off a Senegalese street vendor. I paid him with my debit card, which is a first. We met him outside a bar on Salinas Beach in the south of the island. When I said I had no cash on me, he said to come with him and that he takes cards.

"So I walked all the way up the beach with him and met another dude, who had a card machine. It was more expensive than normal, €80, but it was convenient, as it was our last night. It wasn't even too bad. There's always a fear of getting scammed here unless you have reliable sources," she added. When she saw her friend wandering into the yonder, Alison was concerned Caroline might "be kidnapped" and taken to the Far East to have her organs harvested or something.

Just like the ladies, I also went to Bar Amsterdam in San Antonio - Ibiza's very own Magaluf. My favourite prisoner, Michaella McCollum, 24, from Dungannon, was allegedly introduced to the drug cartel through a low-level drug dealer there. Soon after, she was famously caught trying to smuggle 11.5kg of cocaine through Lima airport in Peru, with Scots woman Melissa Reid. When I saw her last - in Lima's Virgen de Fatima prison in October 2013 - I said I'd buy her a drink when she came out.

Michaella was spotted in Ibiza recently, so I thought I'd stick my head in the door of Bar Amsterdam to see if perhaps she was there to see out her season in Ibiza, which ended so abruptly the last time.

I didn't find her, and luckily wasn't picked up by any cartels - or anyone, in fact. It was all pretty humdrum dive-bar stuff. There was a bang of robbery off some of the people there, though. I was surprised the next day that everything made it home safely - especially my camera. My entire luggage was robbed in Madrid one year, and another time someone tried to rob my camera with a coat hanger through a car window in Barcelona while I was sleeping. Plus, earlier that evening, a few street vendors from Mali had tried to rob us. It was our fault though, to be fair. We were being total gimps.

Break from parenthood

We'd had one or two at that stage. I guess that's what happens when you have a well-earned, albeit brief, break from single parenthood. So there were mojitos and mimosas for breakfast, followed by rum, Long Island iced teas, beers, wine, countless shots, whiskeys, champers, etc.

The walk along the promenade in San Antonio was a bit of a blur, but I do recall two guys trying to get us to buy some nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. I had fond memories of it from Burning Man in the Nevada desert 10 years previously, and from giving birth - two entirely unrelated milestone events. It's a colourless, odourless gas, which is also used as an anesthetic, and needless to say, it also has euphoric effects when you inhale it.

It's perfectly legal, and you can buy it in cartridges and stick them into cream dispensers - like the ones you get in restaurant kitchens that make whipped cream. Rather than fill the canister with whipped cream, you just inhale the contents of the cartridges via a balloon.

We said no on this occasion, because it was still bright and not a time for being overly euphoric in public, but a bunch of lads from Thurles said the vendors were selling duds, and they didn't get the desired high.

The lads - there were 19 of them - were staying in San Antonio for a week. "We made the mistake of staying up all day yesterday, so we'll take it easy tonight," Conor*, 23, informed me. "We're saving ourselves for the Foam Party for the opening night of Cream in Amnesia, tomorrow." I'm too old for Amnesia, I said. They disagreed, as young men of 20-something often do and thought I "was like, 28 or something".

Amnesia is a 5,000-person-capacity superclub in San Rafael between the two coasts of the 25km-wide island. Famous for its laser shows and retractable roof, Amnesia plays host to numerous nights with half-naked pole dancers, fire dancers, lots of trapeze artists and more. Personally, I'd rather have set fire to myself than have gone, but that's just me.

I'm 42 now, and the first time I was here was in 1998, so the lads were still in nappies. The fact that I'm the oldest swinger in town didn't put me off - it's more the minimal techno and the punters wearing shades indoors while pouting that doesn't float my boat. I'm more of an old-skool kinda chick. I want to see chainsaw movements and fists in the air. I like to think that the late 1980s and early 1990s, when dance Ibiza really got going, would have been more my era.

Now it's just like Groundhog Day. The same DJs - Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Paul Van Dyk, Eric Prydz and Eric Morillo - were plastered on large signs for Amnesia, Pacha and Privilege as much as 10 years ago and even 20 years ago. Space, which used to be open for 22 hours at a time, has since closed. When I last went there, I paid the €45 entrance fee, walked up on to some balcony, looked down, walked across a dance floor and walked out again, handing my free-drinks voucher to some delighted dude at the door.

The same thing happened in DC 10 - the clubbers club, greatest club on the planet, etc etc - at an infamous weekly gig called Circo Loco. My friend was there, having been at Amnesia all night before that, and again I walked in, saw a girl opposite me pull her hot pants to one side and take a piss on to the courtyard ground, and I left again. I've since heard many times I should give it a try, based on how amazing it is, but unfortunately my frontal lobe isn't available for new club experiences.

That said, on the last night, my arm was twisted. A friend's boyfriend was DJing at Pacha, one of the most famous clubs in the world, and I thought, "Sure, it's not like I'd have to queue or pay €50 in". Plus I've been to Pacha a few times and had OK nights there, so I thought, "Why not?".

Yet again, however, it wasn't to be. We had to wait in a queue for ages, which always makes me lose my club mojo, and by the time we got in, he had stopped playing. Then we lost the guy who was meant to bring us upstairs, then I had to hand in my camera, which meant no photos of clubbers, which is what I wanted and then... oh, screw it, let's just leave.

Ah, well. I'll make a mental note for next time - again. I'll go to Ushuaia Beach Club on Bora Bora Beach, which I found very pleasant; and hire a car, and not get plastered on the first night to render myself useless for a few days. And, next time, I won't miss the sunset at Cafe del Mar. The list goes on.

I always say 'next time' when I talk about Ibiza. It has a magnetic force, which draws you back over and over again. They say it's because of the mythical Es Vedra limestone rock, which stands at almost 400 metres high, 2km off the west coast of Ibiza, and is the third most magnetic spot on the planet. Home of sirens and sea nymphs who tried to lure Ulysses from his ship in Homer's Odyssey, parts of it were allegedly used to build the pyramids in Egypt and its said to be the tip of the sunken civilisation of Atlantis. Its energy means that not only do compasses, homing pigeons and navigational instruments go haywire in its vicinity, so do the people it lures back. "I've been here 20 times"; "I've been here 28 times", or even my humble four times, is commonplace.

Each time you come back, you have a different experience. I met a lovely lady in her 70s who lived in Ibiza in the 1970s when it was the countercultural, favoured holiday destination of famous, wealthy hippies who partied like Weimar Berlin without the icy north winds and the cold Soviet facades. It was all beautiful people dancing on the streets - no phones, no selfie sticks, no €15 shots. Just bliss. She said she made the great error of going back in the 1990s after DJ Paul Oakenfold and Ecstasy took hold of the island, and it was hell, she said. Back then, the beautiful people didn't stay up for five days taking yokes.

Just keep going

I met two girls from Kildare, who said the last time they were here they were up for seven days with no sleep. "You don't plan to stay up that long, it just happens. I went to the closing parties and then the after-parties. I ended up at an after-party with the DJs who play here, up in the mountains, in the villas. Then you just keep going," Vickie*, 29, from Maynooth said. "We just took drugs and partied. On the last night, I went to my hotel and didn't make it to the room. I fell asleep on floor in the hallway of the hotel. I'd been up all week at that stage, with no sleep at all."

Mark*, 26, from Swords said he didn't sleep for five nights. "I spent 10 hours in Space, then eight hours in Amnesia, six hours in DC10, then back to Space; you just keep going. At one point we went to the beach in Formentera, the island beside Ibiza, and I slept for a few hours. I kept myself hydrated and ate healthy food and snacks in between, but yeah, no sleep otherwise."

Mark said that one night he got some ketamine from some lads on the beach and a few pills that were so strong, he had never been as high. "The funny thing is, I was there with my mate and we just sitting on a footpath out of our minds, rushing and everything. All those nights I'd been in clubs, and then I finally get a proper whack and I'm at the side of a road. It was great crack, though," he added.

Needless to say, staying up for seven days, five days or even two days is insane, and something only seasoned drug takers would be capable of doing, due to building up a tolerance over many years - even then, it can kill you and it's incredibly, insanely bad for you, so don't do it.

Also, for anyone who hasn't experienced a proper downer, when you wake up after a week-long bender in Ibiza, you will descend into a crazy, downward, fear-addled comedown of epic proportions. You can see it at the airport, where people are tetchy and hyper-sensitive and rude before they fly home. "It's important to recognise the comedown and the 'Suicide Tuesday' which follows and possibly get some cognitive therapy to get over it if it's really bad," Mark assured me.

"Drugs send your heart rate up, while benzos send it down again. It's not good for you, and loads of drug takers don't know that. Definitely keep away from sleeping pills, too. Xanax is less bad for you," he added. Though rather than take advice from Mark, I suggest getting your information from medical professionals.

For for all the concerned mums out there, don't get too freaked - not everyone who comes to Ibiza takes drugs, even among the younger kids. It attracts over two million people per year, many of whom will never see the inside of a club or score a bag of coke. I would happily bring my two-year-old here, simply because it's such a beautiful place with incredible scenery, amazing food and some of the best restaurants in Europe. It's a great spot for families, couples, wealthy playboys, supermodels, grannies and lots more. I previously spent five weeks here, writing business articles and going to bed early, most of the time.

While I was there, Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and a host of Barcelona stars and their families enjoyed a few days jet-skiing and throwing themselves off yachts. Kate Moss is a regular; a few generations of the Jagger family have homes on the island; and a bunch of Irish social media 'stars' regularly share photos of themselves on the party island while detoxing or something.

I've been here in each decade in the past three decades, and it's still one of the best islands in the world. If you find somewhere more open, relaxed, chilled-out and generally filled with happy vibes, lemme know.

Ibiza, I'll see you again soon.

* Name has been changed

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