18.03.2016 - 20.03.2016
Nadur is another, slightly larger town to the east of our home base of Xaghra. According to Gramma's Fitbit, it is an approximately 10,000 step hike across the picturesque valley overlooking Ramla Bay. Due to the geography and the climate, these valleys are the principal location for agriculture for the island. It makes sense since this is where the limited fertile soil exists and it is the best place to capture and utilize the meagre rainfall. This year in particular has been quite dry - Malta has received less than 20% of its average winter/spring rainfall. Every drop counts and the farms are set up to maximize effectiveness. Notwithstanding the drought, there are still lots of orange and lemon groves, wheat, strawberries and other vegetables. The olive trees have not started to produce yet.
Once we climbed back up out of the valley, we continued south through Nadur and came across an unexpected and thoroughly breathtaking panoramic view of Comino and the island of Malta further to the south. This is also the port where we will catch the ferry to return to Malta from Gozo later this week:
If you find yourself in Nadur, you must stop for pizza at Mekren Bakery adjacent to the bus stop. 5 Euros gets you a sizeable pie that fed the 6 of us. We had the aptly named "bacon feast". It was delicious and easy to understand how the bus driver later got quite frustrated given the congestion caused at this spot on a Friday night.
The Azure Window
A short bus ride west of Rabat takes you to Dwerja (Dway-rah), the home of the Azure Window and the Inland Sea (more like a pond, really, but more on that later). This is also the home of Fungus Rock and a 17th century tower built to protect the mushrooms that grew there. The Knights were convinced that the mushrooms had "medicinal" value (as an aphrodisiac) and felt it necessary to keep the locals away from this precious resource. Fungus Rock was accessed from a removable rope bridge. The fungus in question is referred to as the Maltese mushroom: Maltese Mushrooms
The Azure Window itself, is quite spectacular, and one of the more popular tourist spots on the island. This was the first time we encountered "crowds" and peddlers - ok, just a couple - a young boy selling post cards and an older guy selling photo ops with the owl on his shoulder. The best views of the arch are from up close - we actually didn't quite get close enough (D'oh) so our pictures all have a little rock in them. This is also one of the top diving spots in the Mediterranean. People come from all over to dive the seabed here. There is also a neat little interpretive centre on the way down to the "inland sea", which is worth a visit.
If you come here, the 4 Euro boat ride from the inland sea, through a narrow cave out into the bay is very worthwhile. The ride takes about 20 minutes, but affords the opportunity to see the coastline up close, get a slightly different view of the Azure Window and explore a handful of caves carved by millennia of wave action. The water is a stunning colour of blue that leaves a lasting impression.
Back in Xaghra is Xerri's Grotto. This is a diminutive cavern in the limestone some 10 m or so below a residence just north west of the main square. You wouldn't know it was there, save for the signs. The story goes that Xerri found this while digging a well looking for water about a hundred years ago. The family still owns the site and the tour is given by his grand daughter. A very elaborate spiral limestone staircase descends down into the grotto where cool stalactities and stalagmites await. A neat little spot and unexpected treasure.
Up next, another visit to the salt pans, but from a different direction and a trip to the cliffs near Xlendi. Stay tuned.