21.03.2016 - 22.03.2016 15 °C
The last few days on Gozo have been a little on the windy side. On the upside, the wind has been from the south, so it was a little warmer, however; the Saharan source of the wind meant a noticeable amount of grit in the air. Kinda neat, actually, making it feel more like an Indiana Jones movie set. A fine red dust accumulates on everything, and the nuns at the local church were hard at work keeping it at bay in preparation for the upcoming Easter celebrations.
Our first windy trek was from the Shrine at Ta Pinu northward towards Wied Il-Ghasri and along the north coast back to the salt pans near Marsalforn. Ta Pinu is an important shrine for Catholics here on Gozo and around the world. Pilgrams come here from all over to ask for miracles ranging from help with birth defects to a little divine intervention on nursing exams. There are walls covered with pictures, postcards and discarded assisted mobility devices and braces - hey, whatever works, says Joe the Heathen. They are currently raising funds to finish a hotel for pilgrims:
The walk down to the coast and Wied Il-Ghasri was through typical Gozitan countryside. Lots of wheat fields "blowin' in the wind". This light house is on a plateau that also served as a WWII observation post for the RAF:
Otherwise known as the Ghasri Valley, Wied Il-Ghasri was carved by a river (currently dry, thanks to the Maltese state of drought) which terminates in an idyllic fjord-like bay on the north coast of Gozo. Travelers come here to dip (sometimes skinny, but thankfully not on the day of our visit), or just hang out. We chose to keep our clothes on this time - a bit chilly, thanks to the wind, to go swimming in the good ol' Mediterranean:
After spending some time exploring, skipping stones into the Mediterranean, and finding what Jamie referred to as "the perfect rock" (do we have another geologist in the making?!?!?) we continued along the cliff-line to the east back towards the salt pans and the previously visited tourist town of Marsalforn. I have to say that the salt pans are ingenious - we couldn't get enough of them (as evidenced by the repeat visit - something that rarely happens for us) and they are very photogenic.
Xlendi and the Ta Cenc Cliffs
Xlendi Bay (pronounced "ssssshlendy" - like you would say it after about 5 scotches) is a pretty little spot located on the SW corner of Gozo. It has been an important port since Roman times and has a really nifty tower (referred to as Tower B) that was built in the mid 17th century. Its now a happenin' tourist spot with tons of restaurants and hotels. It was the starting point for our windy hike along the coast to the ultimate goal - the Ta Cenc (pronounced "chench" - although that's open to debate by Erin....) Cliffs. There's a neat little stairway carved out of the north side of the bay (accessible through the restaurant in the bay) that was originally put there by a rich "spinster" to afford the nuns of the area private access to caves and a secluded bathing area.
The tower, at the southern side of the entrance to the bay, had a geocache that Erin and the kids were able to find. Geocaching on this trip has led us to some pretty amazing, out of the way, places that we might not have found otherwise. Highly recommended. The Xlendi tower is currently closed, but the area around it made the perfect spot for a picnic. And guess what? Moar salt pans (not to mention some pretty cool geology)!
From here, we headed south along the coast toward the Ta Cenc Cliffs and headlong into the southern wind bringing warm sandy air from the Sahara. Its a good thing the wind was blowing us back away from the cliffs and not towards them. It's a 120 m drop to the ocean below and Erin, who has a healthy respect (others might say crippling fear) of heights, spent most of the hike clinging to what little vegetation was available along the paths for added security.
We were not successful at locating ancient cart tracks gouged into the limestone on top of the plateau overlooking the cliffs at Ta Cenc. Unfortunately, there is now a 5 star hotel in the way, and they weren't willing to let us walk through to access the site. Let's hope this isn't a sign of the times for Gozo.
We also needed to get back to Xaghra, as Sara had arranged a playdate with her new friend Hannah from Scouts later that afternoon. It was so lovely to watch the girls walking hand in hand through the Gozitan countryside and goofing around like the best of friends. Thanks to Hannah and the rest of the Vella family for showing us around, for cramming 8 of us into the C-Max for the exciting ride back up to Xaghra, and for the truly amazing homemade cookies (we need that recipe!). If you or the Saliba family are ever in Ottawa, please get in touch so that we can reciprocate your kindness.
We absolutely loved our stay here in Gozo and would highly recommend this pleasant little island to anyone looking for adventure, history and breath-taking landscapes. The people are very friendly and the pace of life here is slow and steady. Let's see how it compares to our time in Valletta - up next!