A week in Malta - Day #2
We woke up to a beautiful sunrise the next day. So transformed was the landscape that it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to assume that we had been transported to another place while we were asleep.
Malta is comprised of three major islands. The largest one, Malta, the smaller Gozo to its north-west and the tiny Comino in between. Given the day’s mostly sunny forecast, we figured that it’d be a good day to be on the ferry to Gozo.
We walked past St. Paul’s harbour after breakfast in search of the bus stop from where we could take a bus to the ferry terminal. The harbour too had been completely transformed by the change in weather. It looked nothing like the grey, dour place it had seemed just yesterday.
Mansi was keeping an eye on the timetable of the infrequent ferries to Gozo and wasn’t sure if the bus was going to get us to the terminal in time for the next one. So she called a cab instead. Our driver was a young man in his twenties with a penchant for flashy clothes, loud hip-hop with trashy lyrics and aggressive driving. By the time Lil Pump’s Mosh Pit came on the car stereo, I was ready to throw up1. Fortunately, the ferry terminal’s timely arrival gave me a reprieve.
It wasn’t peak tourist season in Malta yet but at least one enterprising soul caught us at the ferry terminal entrance, handed us a brochure and tried to sell us a package tour in Gozo. We politely declined and began to look for a place to buy the tickets for the ferry. Turns out the ticketing system here was somewhat unique. We didn’t need to buy a ticket for the ride from Malta to Gozo but would need to procure one for the return journey.
Our ferry was a cavernous ship that sailed under a Greek flag.
The pedestrians boarded first followed by several cars. A narrow metal staircase led us to the upper deck that was missing many chairs. We sat in the first complete ‘row’ with a decent view but as soon as the ship started moving, we found ourselves welled in by people wanting to take pictures and make videos.
Mansi got up to join them and I turned my camera to the sooty exhaust pipes of the ship and watched them bob up and down meditatively against the backdrop of the blue sky and a large cumulonimbus cloud. My mind wandered back to the last time I was on a ferry in the Mediterranean. Travelling after those two years of pandemic imposed moratorium still feels very special.
As we approached Gozo, I couldn’t resist standing by the railings and taking pictures.
There was a harbour at the other side of the ferry terminal where many smaller boats were docked. Several private boat tours leave from here. The harbour’s water looked like an impressionist painting of the sky above. We could see the church of the Madonna of Lourdes on a hill nearby. And that’s where we decided head first.
The view from the top was stunning.
The staff at our hotel in Malta had told us that the water at the hotel was not potable. We were trying to make the bottled water provided at the hotel last and hadn’t filled up our travel bottles. Before embarking on a longer hike, we decided to get some drinking water from a store nearby. From there, we called another cab to Ramla bay.
It was a perfect day to be there. Hardly anyone was around. The pebble and sand beach was immaculate. The sky was blue but dotted with fast moving clouds that seemed within our arms’ reach.
Waves were gently crashing on the shore. We sat at a bench on the beach and soaked it all in.
A few minutes later we decided to hike a little in the hills nearby. The hiking track looked a little soggy from the rain yesterday. We plodded on nonetheless.
The soil here was very clayey and started sticking to our shoes. We must’ve walked barely a hundred metres when our shoes started to feel really heavy with the thick layers of soil they had accumulated. Despite the stunning views, we weren’t enjoying our little hike any more. The paw prints we had encountered at the start of the trail should’ve been our warning.
It was also past our lunch time and we were both regretting not having bought some snacks when we had stopped to get water earlier. A couple of shacks at the beach that might’ve supplied us with sustenance were closed - one small downside of visiting places in the off season.
We turned back, got hold of a couple of twigs, sat at a picnic bench under a tree and used them to work the stubborn soil out from the soles of our shoes. All under the watchful gaze of a feral cat.
We then called a cab to take us to the centre of Gozo’s main town - Victoria. Our shoes were clean by now but not quite pristine and we were feeling a little guilty about getting inside a cab with them on. Our driver however had come prepared2. The beach is a big tourist attraction in Gozo. He told us that he picks people from the beach regularly and was ready for the eventuality of sandy/muddy shoes.
After lunch at a small roadside café in Victoria we visited the small fortified town of Cittadella.
A small shop there sold miniature replicas of Malta’s colourful, boxy balconies.
We walked leisurely among the mediaeval ruins soaking in the views.
Since Cittadella is situated atop a promontory, there were several high points that offered sweeping views of the town below and the distant sea.
The wind was whipping the clouds into frightful shapes.
An incipient rainbow was attempting to grow whole amidst them.
It was almost three in the afternoon and the cathedral at the citadel’s entrance was counterpointed by shadow and light.
We stopped for a short coffee break in Victoria and then walked to a bus terminal to take a bus to Gozo’s ferry terminal. At the harbour outside the terminal, someone was hawking seats in their boat to Malta with a detour past Comino and the Blue Lagoon. I don’t recall what the ticket price was but it had felt reasonable and we both hopped onto a small but speedy boat. It was a very enjoyable ride with the evening sun shining on our faces and the boat tearing through the water.
We wanted to take a bus to Popeye Village3 to catch the sunset but the buses in Malta hadn’t proven to be the most punctual means of transport so far. When ours didn’t show up well past its due time, we decided to spend the last few minutes of the evening walking around the terminal’s waterfront. We were drawn to what looked like an ancient lighthouse4. We went to take a closer look, hoping to climb the stairs in front. Sadly, we were met with a locked gate and abandoned the project.
Minutes later, as if in compensation for this minor disappointment, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
Figuratively at the music I had been served and literally from the pacing of this drive.↩︎
I don’t quite recall the exact mechanics of his readiness - it was most likely towels on the cab’s floor to catch the dirt.↩︎
A movie set village that got turned into a tourist attraction.↩︎
You can even see it in the satellite photos of this region but strangely, it seems to have no name on Google maps.↩︎