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Sunday, 2 June 2013

The Maltese Talkin' - Chapter 7 - Gozo & The Supernatural Magic Of Dwejra

Chapter  7.   [ with photos ]

Waiting for the ferry to Gozo at Cirkewwa


The day was one of those rare days void of a season. The sun was getting bored, the clouds were wandering aimlessly. I was stood on the front deck of a ferryboat, cooled by what felt like the wind’s last heavy breaths. Just me and some freight trucks going over the fidgeting sea to the rural island.

The two other passengers

On arrival I walked past some fishermen re-painting their boats. The trucks from the ferry all past me up the first hill, honking their horns as they went. I spoke to a spectral man in his shaded doorway, explaining I that I was here for today and the night.

“Be careful,” he said, in what little English he had - I was not sure whether to take it in good will or as a threat. 

Mgarr harbour


I turned right at the top of the hill and walked through a village. On the outskirts I found an abandoned Mini painted pink with ‘GOZO GIRLS ON CALL HOB69696969’ scrawled in blood red on the side. A black air freshener hung in the front with a skull wearing an Elvis wig and the words ‘Die Young, Stay Beautiful’ written in a skeletal font. 

Couldn't resist a ride

I found a bay and went down for a swim. As I was about to climb in an old woman appeared heralded by her barking dog. She warned me that the sea was too rough.

“If you go in today, you might not come back out.” were her words of advice.

         I walked back the way I came, going past the village on the hill onwards towards Victoria, the capital of Gozo. The small city was as dull as its grey buses so after eating a slice of pizza I decided to continue walking. I was overtaken this time by a man riding a two wheeled ‘Gig’ – a cart pulled by a cantering horse. Practicing for the Trot Races - a national sporting event. I continued on and on with very little to look at except vast fields and ‘Stick No Bills’ signs attached to stone shacks until the sea once again became visible. 

No posters here

The long curvy road passed historic remnants of The Roman Civilisation, noted only by a tiny wooden sign: just another group of visitors barely remembered. The evening had started and was moving in fast when I reached the bottom of the hill. There I saw the small and surreal inland sea of Dwejra Bay.

         Dwejra is unique in many ways and plaques cropped up here and there to give detailed scientific information about the area and its rare breeds of plants and wildlife.  

Plaque 1.
Dwejra is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of communities of plants and animals, including micro-evolutionary processes and the development of an endemic rupestral community including the presence of rare and endangered species.

         I sat by a hidden freshwater pool and wondered why this little ecological community was such a haven for loners, one-offs and mysteries - an outpost of the rare. Maybe it was here because any functional society needs little deposits for its anomalies. Or maybe the anomalies themselves choose these places that support their special requirements, these places on the border of the invisible that permit a strange existence.  

Dwejra's Azure Window and Inland Sea

Plaque 2.
Up to this day the Cart-Ruts have remained an unsolved puzzle to all authors and scholars who have tried to describe their function and behaviour. Attempts at giving a solution to these enigmatic features have been a continuous endeavour and various hypotheses have been suggested from irrigation systems to ancient mechanisms for the constructing of Megalithic Temples. But all theories are based on assumptions and limited evidence. The pair of ancient Cart-Ruts in the Dwejra area climb all the way up from behind the chapel dedicated to Saint Anne to the towering cliffs north of the Inland Sea. These Cart-Ruts are one of the most enigmatic archaeological features due to an unexplainable two metre drop and to the fact that they start and terminate in a mysterious way. 
         Brooding in the twilight hour, I felt I had a connection to Dwejra; a place accessible to the mainland ecosystem, similar in most respects, but also unapologetically different. Here without reason, sat purposely lost before the cold sunset. 

         Shrill back-wood sounds grew louder and all the horror films I'd ever seen converged in my mind along with the fear they had created. Here I was alone at a bizarre cove, night falling, wind whipping up; the moon wearing a costume of dread. I had time to dwell on those movies, the horrific monsters and murderers. The light vanished, I had no place to turn for comfort and as time crept ever onwards… nothing happened. There was nobody else around unless they were inside the little locked up beach houses. Hours pass slowly on the edge of nowhere, fright sharpens the senses. The all encompassing chirping noise that Crickets make became clearer and clearer but no longer induced apprehension, instead it bestowed familiarity and comfort - unlike the stone I was sitting on. 

         I stand up feeling in tune, feeling a power bestowed by nature. I want to face down a wild beast. None even came near me. So I shouted at the top of my lungs “BRING OUT THE BOAR!” it echoed once or twice then disappeared into the valley's vague history. 

         I lie down on the ground in a walled garden of a beach lock-up that I presume empty, resting completely calm. I listen to the wind get continually stronger. Grains of sand blow into my eyes and I realise pain is a problem to deal with not to be afraid of. I wash my eyes with the flat salt water of the sheltered Inland Sea. With my eyes clear of sand I can now see the grains of stars, under which I gradually drift away like Juan Preciado. I sleep like the stones. Cold and hard.

Plaque 3. 
The scientific importance given to Dwejra Bay is mainly due to a 65 metres high megalithic islet named Hagret il-General or Fungus Rock it is the only locality of the sub-species of wall lizard known as Podarcis Filfolensis Generalensis. Fungus Rock takes its name from the parasitic flowering plant Cynomorium Coccineum, a Fungus which only grows on this islet. During the reign of the Knights Hospitaller the Fungus was protected by the Knights of St John who believed it to have medicinal powers. 
         The brief sleep of pure necessity ends.  I rub my eyes as I watch a fishing ship out in the unruly sea bobbing up and down and occasionally completely disappearing under a wave, only to return seconds later unperturbed.  

Disappearing ship near Hagret il-General

         Once I'd walked back to Victoria, in a cafĂ© that had just opened I sip a coffee so strong the shock of the taste alone wakes me up completely. When the waitress serves the meal I feel the wholehearted, deep appreciation for a plate of food that only comes from being genuinely hungry. I eat the breakfast of Galletti and traditional Ftira bread filled with bacon and a sliced boiled egg, which has a green yolk! I'd never eaten an egg with a green yolk before; things were squiffy on Gozo, but rustic and unspoiled. The green egg tasted real good anyway. I felt brave and ready to leave! 

         When I walked down the hill to the awaiting ferry I nodded to the doubtful local spectre in his darkened doorway who nodded back trusting but unconvinced, retreating back into his home, leaving the door wide open.

By the evening I was back working at the bar at the bowling alley trying in vain to explain how I spent my days off.

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