Trip 27 -- Malta and Gozo Walks
Gozo day 4/Malta day 5: Nadur to Mġarr, Ċirkewwa to St. Julian's
Sunday, August 15, 2021
Today on Gozo: 10221 steps/7.85 km/4.88 mi/1h 29m
Gozo grand total: 66891 steps/48.53 km/30.16 mi/10h 10m
Today on Malta: 27207 steps/19.80 km/12.30 mi/4h 8m
Malta total: 136011 steps/102.44 km/63.65 mi/20h 7m
Today's total: 37428 steps/27.65 km/17.18 mi/5h 37m
I could have gone straight from the Narcisa Farmhouse to the ferry terminal in half an hour, but I'd have cut off a big chunk of Gozo's eastern peninsula -- more than my conscience would allow for what's supposed to be a perimeter walk.
Instead, I added an hour and headed through lovely countryside, past riding stables and along a narrow road that suddenly opened up onto a broad Mediterranean view. This is why I'm doing this, I remembered.
I caught the noon ferry of the Gozo Channel Line, the main shuttle that takes cars and is consequently a much smoother ride than the little speedboat that had brought me to Gozo. In 20 minutes I was back at Ċirkewwa.
Back up over the hill I went to the crowded beach at Mellieħa, where I'd had the slush served in the strange hourglass vessel, and that was the end of my backtracking. For a difficult half-hour I followed the highway toward Valletta, an incline with hairpin turns. The accommodation for walkers oscillated between comfortable and nonexistent: One moment I was on a flowery footpath parallel to the road, thinking, well done, Malta, and the next it ended abruptly and I had to scramble back across the plants and walk in the traffic lane.
I was all too happy when Google Maps had me make an almost-hairpin turn of my own, onto a dirt track. I pondered the impossibility of making this kind of trip 20, or even 10, years ago. During my first big solo trip, to India in 1996, getting online at all meant paying someone a few rupees to use his bedroom dial-up connection. I never would have imagined that 25 years later I'd have a device that could guide me along a remote trail as one segment of the most direct route between two cities.
What's more, this rocky trail, hard on the feet, happened to be part of the Xemxija Hill Heritage walk, which meant that not only did it get me where I was going; it also passed by a 2500-year-old Punic tomb, the remains of a farmer's hut, and cave dwellings inhabited from Punic times or thereabouts "at least until the 1930s" -- "up to a few years ago," the caption said in the same paragraph. "Certain individuals, who lived in these caves, say that they were cool in the summer and warm in the winter." Everything is relative, but this sweating walker did not find them particularly cool, at least as far as the climate was concerned.
Every town in Malta seems to be either a U-shaped waterfront with restaurants or a steeply accessed highland village with a main square presided over by a giant Baroque church. The trail dumped me at one of the former, the pretty seaside community of St. Paul's Bay. I traced the road along the water and headed into the town proper, where I thought about getting lunch.
Pickings were slim at three on a Sunday, but I found myself in front of an eatery of some sort: People inside were chatting over drinks and watching a documentary about snakes. I entered and they all gazed at me as if I had just emerged from a cave dwelling, which was technically accurate.
It turned out to be the Soċjeta' Mużikali San Pawl, or the St. Paul's Band Club -- a place to play the lottery, watch television, socialize, and eat and drink; whether it had anything to do with music was not for me to determine. Fish and chips hit the spot, and the customers, having watched enough of snakes, had the barman turn on the Newcastle-versus-West Ham soccer game.
Once more I left the highway and twisted my way along back roads; once more there was a surprise uphill climb that seemed at odds with my approach to the sea, but it wasn't too severe. Finally I reached St. Julian's, a few peninsulas northwest of Valletta. I showered, enjoyed the sunset from my hotel's rooftop pool, showered again, and took the video-supervised do-it-yourself Covid-19 test that will enable me to come home on Wednesday. For the convenience of not having to find a place to administer it here, it was worth carrying around for a week.
Go on to Malta day 6