Malta travel diary/travelogue

Day 7 - Gozo: Dwerja Point & Victoria

Monday 19th May 2009

With the holiday almost at an end, we had to squeeze in a visit to Malta’s neighboring island of Gozo. We knew it would take a while to get there – the hour-long bus journey up to Comino a few days previously already told us that – but it wasn’t bad going to be on the island by 11am after the bus and ferry journeys. In just the same way that most journeys around Malta involve getting to Valetta first and taking a bus from there, the same is true of Gozo where everything (bus-wise) radiates from the main town of Victoria. The buses are much more infrequent here, though, suggesting that Gozo is much sleepier than Malta. Simply based on what bus could take us somewhere – anywhere! – next, we made our way to a place called Dwerja Point where we would find a giant archway called The Azure Window. We made sure to check when the next bus would come by to take us back to Victoria and it was a good couple of hours away. At the time, it felt that this would be too long a wait, after all how long does it take to look at an arch along a bit of coastline, take a few photos and be on your way?

As it turned out, Dwerja Point offered plenty of scope for clambering around in rock pools and near the Azure Window. For my money, the highlight was not actually what was sticking out over the water (the archway) but rather what was underneath the water. Near to the archway was a geological feature known as The Blue Hole, a wall of rock that creates an underwater ‘chimney’ with an opening further down. The end result is an amazing looking pool that offers great snorkeling and diving opportunities (an opportunity that I was, unfortunately, not able to take this time around – I could only look on in envy as a number of divers passed back and forth, either about to go diving, or coming back from a dive with grins plastered across their faces).

Ian by the Azure Window, Gozo

I did have a good old clamber across the rocks, as is my way, and those two hours went much faster than I thought they would. The bus picked us up almost on time, and we made our way back to Victoria.

The Azure Window, Gozo

Almost as soon as we got off the bus we discovered that there was another bus about to depart for Ggantje, another ancient site of Neolithic ruins. We hopped straight on it and were on site just 30 minutes after leaving Dwerja – not bad going, getting from the coast, back to the centre and back out again to another site so soon. The down side? While we got to Ggantje early, it would be another two hours until we’d be able to get a bus back out. Could we fill two hours here as we had Dwerja? Sadly not ...

Ggantje is as impressive as many of the sites that we’d seen, but unless you have a degree in archeology or similar, there is only so much that you can make of a complex like this. It must have been an impressive site in its time, but after one circuit on this windswept hill, we’d seen enough. But there was the small problem of the bus. It was just over an hour until the next one was due; at least we wouldn’t be the only ones – there were a few people who arrived with us on the incoming bus who were settling down for longish wait but slowly and surely they all gave up and opted for a taxi. We had asked one of the waiting taxi drivers how much for a ride back to Victoria, to which the guy said, after a pause during which I could hear the cogs turning as he sussed me out, that it would be 10 Euros. Not a lot of money at all, but a whole lot more than the bus – he knew he had a captive audience, and the rate for the short distance had definitely been inflated. So we continued waiting. And we waited some more ... and the doubts began to set in about whether the bus would turn up or if it would be late. As if sensing our doubts, the taxi driver reappeared and asked if we wanted to go to Victoria, and the price now was 5 Euros. Suddenly the price had dropped! Given that we had waited this long for a bus journey that would cost us little more than 50 cents, we decided to continue waiting; to give up now would mean that we’d waited all that time for nothing. Principles and all that. Then the price dropped again – to 4 Euros – and still we wouldn’t budge. The driver must have thought we were fools, but moments later the bus turned up and we both breathed a sigh of relief that our little gamble had paid off.

Once back in Victoria, I had a quick cake break (read: stuffed my face with a big pink coconut flaked bun type thing with cream) and then we sought out the Citadel – the ancient city and defences that sit above the whole of Victoria. If we thought it was windy at Ggantje, this was something else – I was attempting to take photos with the long lens on but was foiled as the wind made every shot a wobbly one! After traipsing around for a while and holding on to our hats, we made our way back down the steep hills into the newer part of the town where we stopped for dinner. We ate at a place called Jubilee Café which offered free WiFi access, something that seemed to be a complete luxury in this sleepy island. For the first time in the holiday we caught up with what had been going on, which predictably involved checking things like Facebook; sadly, this also revealed that a couple we know with 2 kids had gone their separate ways. We’d seen the tell-tale signs in the build-up – also courtesy of Facebook status updates! – but the biggest irony was that we found this out in Gozo, a place that they had recommended to us and a place that they had fond memories of.

Emails checked and Facebook statuses updated, we made our way back by another succession of journeys (bus, boat and bus again) once more to the hotel, this time to pack for our final day in Malta.