Blue water, yellow rocks, giant churches and a bozo in Gozo

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June 3rd 2017
Published: June 4th 2017
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Anyone who regularly reads Glyn's blogs will know that he likes to accuse me of making him get up stupidly early when on holiday so we don't miss anything. But last night when discussing a time to set an alarm, he was horrified when I suggested 8am. Surely not, how about 7am he insisted? I pointed out that it was long past midnight and perhaps some sleep was needed. So he agreed to the 8am alarm saying he would wake earlier anyway. I woke at 7am and uploaded yesterday's blog photos whilst the lazy sod slept through until 7.50. In hindsight I should have gotten us up at 6am, given how long we waited before we actually got to board the Gozo ferry.

That aside, after going to the Knickerbocker for tea, coffee and wifi, we drove for 25 minutes to Cirkewwa to catch the ferry to Gozo. Talking of wifi, Malta is the hardest country to find free wifi that I have visited in years. Glyn has an app to find it, but generally I've not seen cafés and bars offer it and our hotel charges €€€ for a connection. Luckily my network is 3 and so I don't get charged extra for roaming abroad, so I am still able to upload my blogs daily albeit a bit slowly.

Waiting to get off the ferry was interesting. The general rule was turning engines on too early in the tightly packed stifling deck whilst beeping angrily as drivers wanted to leave before the ramps were lowered or so it seemed.

Gozo is a tiny island, only 25.8sq miles and so it didn't take long to get to Ggantija. We decided to trust in maps and signs (of which there were few) because we were sick of google maps sending us the wrong way up one way streets. Eventually we got there, the oldest manmade structure still standing IN THE WORLD! It was ok. Yes, it is amazing to think it was built around 3600 BC but it was just a pile of large rocks with some alcoves and areas that might once have been something.

The entrance fee also included Ta' Kola Windmill where a young woman with thick black panda eyes was grateful for some visitors to give her something to do other than scroll through facebook. I presumed that a windmill would be a bit cramped to live in but it was rather spacious until you got right to the top where the sails were attached to the tower and there it was very cramped.

It was getting to the hottest part of the day so for once I decided not to climb any hills or look at old stuff in the full sun. Time for the sea I said! And so we drove to Dwerja on the West Coast, which until May 8th earlier this year was home of the Azure Window, a natural rock bridge over the crystal clear blue waters that had been there for a few hundred years but coudn't be arsed to stay up this one last month due to a bit of weather. When we got there we were hoping for some lunch but apart from a few ice cream vans, there only appeared to be one restaurant that served large meals but nothing light. Glyn had to manage on a family bag of crisps and myself on a raspberry magnum.

We walked down to the Dwerja Inland Sea where low and behold we found a café. Typical! There wasn't much else around here: a few concrete huts, vendors selling tat and not one cat. Local fishermen earn extra cash taking tourists on their boats through the tunnel from the Inland sea out to the actual sea, so we paid our €4 each and got on a boat. It was a fairly short trip but we saw lots of caves and crystal clear blue water- they like saying that a lot here. We didn't get to stand up much to Glyn's disappointment.

Where the Azure Window once stood, the remains can still be seen just under the water (because it is so crystal clear) and people were swimming out to it, thus I decided this was a good thing to do after the boat trip as it was so hot. The walk down over the hot jagged rocks was fairly treacherous in places and I was grateful not to be in full diving gear carrying heavy air tanks as some folk were - they were going to the blue hole - a geological freak of nature which is a vertical rock chimney connecting with the sea 25 metres underwater. The entire area had sharp and irregular egg box style rocks for people to scramble precariously over, then paddle through seawater pools to find a spot to leave their belongings, sliding over the seaweed into the cool sea. It wasn't very elegant getting in, but once we did and became accustomed to the water, it was lovely.

A group of people were congregating on the Azure Window stump; had we not known it was there it would have appeared very strange that they were standing waist deep out in the sea. We swam up to it and wished we had a snorkel as nearby dunderheads were exclaiming that it was as good as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It was pretty good but shut up dunderheads! We swam on as Glyn was getting annoyed with their bants and ended up in a sea cave where Glyn briefly disappeared and I had visions of calling the coastguard.

After drying off, returning to take photos and then buying a snorkel for next time, we headed inland to Ta' Pinu Basillica because I'd seen it on Instragram and it looked impressive. A British couple were getting married there but looked so tiny and irrelevant against the giant building. This is where I finally saw a Gozo cat, but it totally blew me out.

Rabat (or Victoria as the Brits renamed it as we often tend to do) is the capitol of Gozo and our next destination. I drove through it once, couldn't find anywhere to park, got a bit lost and drove around it further more. It's not like it's big, I just kept going in circles, getting caught up in bottlenecks over cobbles and old buildings, eventually I decided we would park on the outskirts and walk in.

Despite being the centre of a capital town on a Saturday, bars and restaurants were closing, but we found a really cool patisserie / baker down a cobbled pedestrianised side-street with a very friendly guy who talked us into having ricotta pie, ricotta pistazzi and a chicken pie for Glyn. We sat outside on high stools with a tiny table marvelling at how cheap it was but then thinking it wasn't all that tasty either. So we bought cakes too and felt better for that.

Having not walked uphill much today, we felt drawn up to the Citadel where the visitors centre was now shut but we could still wander around it. Being a very Catholic place, there were lots of ringing bells and once at the top, we saw many huge churches the size of cathedrals towering over the small houses throughout the landscape.

After a really dodgy hill start in the Peugeot 107 with it's awful clutch and the stink of rubber was most palpable, I drove us to somewhere near Qbajjar on the north coast looking for salt pans. Sea water runs into shallow pans carved out of the limestone rock on the coast, then the sun and wind does the rest to produce salt. This has been going on since Roman times and still is produced from May to September but only for local use. The drive down was precarious down a steep and rough road because after getting lost and running out of time before the light was gone, we had turned to google maps again - more fool us. Then Glyn didn't like the first set of pans I had found, these ones being too modern and regular in shape. So I drove further down the road and thankfully found irregular shaped old fashioned pans. Thank god.

Glyn and I spent some time at the salt pans as it was the golden hour: the rocks were bright yellow, the sun reflecting in the water pools, the sky was pink and orange. After the sun sank, it was the blue hour where everything became shades of pastel blue - Glyn wasn't much for that but I like it. Obviously once the sun heads off, it is time for a dark drive through narrow lanes getting a bit lost trying to avoid people randomly wandering in the street. I don't why but in Gozo, instead of waiting for the cars to pass before crossing, people wait for a vehicle to appear before stepping out in the road. They actually look at you, then carry on walking across the road.

Fortunately the ferries run 24 hours per day (although not so regular at night) so we were not too concerned about time. Upon arriving at the terminal at Mgarr we had to pay as you don't buy a ticket on the way out. Glyn suggested that we never leave so that we wouldn't have to pay for our ferry ride getting here - nice try Bozo, but what happens when the car hire runs out - it's €40 per day which is hardly a saving when it was only just over €20 for a car and two people, return.

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