'Sorry, where!?', I hear many of you say. Although they won't be words you'll hear from Hollywood's premier Husband and Wife...
The Maltese Archipelago is made up of several small Islands but only Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited. In this regard, Malta would often be considered the 'mainland' when compared to its smaller, neighbouring islands. As of this writing I've just completed four days in Gozo so there's plenty to report back and show you so 'sit back and enjoy the ride'...
Aptly, those were the words I told myself prior to boarding yet another boat. Thankfully the sailing was smooth and relatively short (30 minutes) so I needn't have worried and it cost less than 5 euros return! (Although strangely you pay for one direction and that's the reverse direction when you return to the Malta 'mainland').
I had hoped to take photos of the crossing including the smaller island of Comino but I spent the majority of my time politely listening, at length, to the stories of a retired couple from Lancashire. They based themselves in Malta many years ago and have been enjoying the 'good life' of travel ever since 50 years young! Something of interest I did learn was that after 'Bangelina' got hitched in France, they came to Gozo for a working honeymoon. This meant areas of the island were closed off which will have been a great nuisance for visiting tourists and to some local Gozitans. #lovethatword
So has anyone actually seen the movie in question - 'By the Sea'?
Arriving in Gozo, I have based myself in the popular resort of Marsalforn (particularly popular for divers) staying in one of the few hostels on the island. However, as it's November time, I arrived with a 'hope for the best' attitude and that proved to be wise as half of my time here has been spent indoors avoiding the rain. Consequently, many restaurants alter their opening hours which makes sense I guess and I've discovered that the hostel I've been staying at will also close its doors next week right up until March so I've timed coming here well in that regard.
My first afternoon here consisted of walking along Marsalforn bay and I can tell you even after seven months, I still love this aspect of travelling. Sunshine, music, my camera and some beautiful coastal paths reaching the end of land. Hardly a chore...
Does anybody know what these square-shaped rock formations below are?
These are Saltpans and they were part of the island’s first industry as centuries ago salt was used as a bartering currency for goods not available locally. These days salt collected from these Saltpans can be found in most supermarkets on the Maltese Islands.
Later on in the afternoon I took a mere 15 minute bus ride to get from my current location to the island's capital: Victoria. Imagine that for a second - getting to the middle of an island from the outer edges in less than 15 minutes. With the strong British influence here in the past, you won't be surprised to here this was named after Queen Victoria but you might be surprised to hear it was named following her Golden Jubilee back in 1887.
There was a lot of construction going on around the Citadel but once you were able to navigate in and around some wires and machinery, you could reach the higher points which of course would allow a supreme vantage point.
Knowing that today might be my last possible day of sunshine here in Gozo, I'd had breakfast and was out the door before 9am. My first pre-planned stop was to a UNESCO heritage site: Temple of Ggantija. I *think* this is the only one on Gozo itself with the other two back on Malta.
Having made it there OK, I didn't actually get to see it as I failed to previously consider the 10 euro entry fee! Doh. Annoyed for all of two minutes, I hoped back on another bus to visit my second attraction of the day. Now this might not be an ancient man-made wonder like the temples but when any experience puts a great big smile on your face, provides you time to be creative and costs absolutely nothing, well, these are the things I will remember.
Welcome to Ramla bay.
Apart from the surrounding beauty of the bay you've seen above, the very next thing to catch my attention was a fellow wanderer. For the next twenty minutes he would become yet another travel friend and so together we traversed this beautiful shoreline.
I think the fact that I had some cheese with me, (random I know), had something to do with our strong bond and as you can see, definitely a 'he' :-)
When he left me, I joined my fellow douchebags and joined the 'writing in the sand' club. Seriously though, what is it with people writing their names in the sand? Of all the things you can write, the message you could convey, they choose to write their names and we're talking about adults here.
I wasn't going to join that club so instead selected a single word that outside of family, friends and good-health, is as important as any in the entire English dictionary!
I stayed on the beach for just a couple of hours maximum as I was keen to try and achieve one more thing today which was located relatively close to my hostel.
Observe the statue in the distance!
From here it really looks like a scaled down version of Rio's 'Christ the Redeemer'. Differently though, this one doesn't face the bay (like in Brazil) of Marsalforn but instead faces in-land and towards another town.
As you can see above, the terrain was hardly pleasant. As such, I genuinely had no idea if reaching this was even possible but I was sure as hell gonna try. After about ten minutes, I found what looked to be a route of sort in the right direction (and gradient) at least. Within the half hour that followed, I nearly turned back twice as the ground was so soft I felt like I was on quicksand. Also, the closer I got to the statue the higher the rocks were.
However persistence eventually paid off. Well, along with some good fortune and a slight stubbornness to succeed.
Meet my main man, J. Thank you for helping me up here without falling!
Some nice views too!
Oh, and this vantage point would reveal a much easier way back down which was extremely positive. In fact, it took me less than half the time to get back down!
And that's your lot folks. Fulfilled I hope? As you can see and believe, Malta and even its close-by island only continue to impress.
It's time now to return to back to the mainland for my last full week here and I'll be staying in what would normally be the main party city of the entire island. Although it's far from peak season right now, something tells me that if I am at some point to see Malta's 'ugly half' that people have spoken about via the blog comments, it might well be here...