Discovering Malta, with no smartphone or guidebook

 

We stumble down the sulphur-yellow filth observe, no signal of Claire’s secret seashore. Previously quarter-hour we now have been honoured with simply the odd lonesome goat for firm and the swallows, dancing above our heads. I take a slurp of my water. It’s previous noon however already the April solar feels sturdy on our pores and skin. We attain a useless finish. Power of nature implores me to have a look at my telephone for solutions. In keeping with Google Maps, the observe or seashore doesn’t exist. We’re in no-mans lands. I search for once more, into the space, my eyes swimming in essentially the most good shade of deep blue Mediterranean Sea. Sabrina jogs my memory that Claire, our new Gozitan acquaintance had talked about a flip off to the correct. We retrace our steps up the dusty yellow observe.

 

Foraging for wild fennel in Gozo

 

I discover the clumps of untamed feral fennel casually rising amidst the poppy flowers. We discover our flip off, an overgrown path lined with a thicket of wildflowers of all the colors of the rainbow. I pause to take photographs of them so that somebody can determine them to me later. Moreover the blissful dance of swallows there’s additionally the candy meditative hum of bees, frolicking within the meadow of wildflowers. I shut my eyes. Typically, journey presents you with these moments of just about close to perfection.I quickly hear a wild yelp of happiness from Sabrina. I open my eyes and see she has ventured forth, by way of a craggy slope via the impenetrable haze of wildflowers.

 

Path to the key seashore

 

She has discovered the trail to the legendary secret seashore. It has the proper view of the dreamy turquoise blue waters of Comino within the distance. We will need to have sat there in good silence for nearly half an hour earlier than a pair got here. There was a glance of shock after which an enormous smile. 

‘So about this seashore too.’

We nodded our heads reassuringly and raised our arms, half apologetically to reassure them…the key stays with us. We retrace our steps up the observe. The goat had disappeared. After we attain the highest of the observe and look down once more, there was no seen landmark within the horizon of our secret seashore, simply the swallows dancing within the sky.

 

Locals sharing their tips for Malta in our scrapbook

Locals sharing their ideas for Malta in our scrapbook

 

Possibly there are not any secrets and techniques in journey anymore.

It was higher earlier than. We had to make use of our creativeness and never depend on Instagram to visualise a spot. Possibly its an outdated age factor, however there’s this horrible tendency of individuals in my age group to romanticise the previous. Travelling was extra enjoyable, genuine. There have been much less crowds in the most well-liked journey hotspots. You didn’t must rise up at 5 am to see the Trevi fountain. You can fly Ryanair round Europe for as little as €2 return. Plus, there was no trouble with carrying liquids or restrictions of carry-on baggage. Hostels have been tremendous low-cost. I bear in mind travelling with my trusted Lonely Planet guidebook and the three hostels listed appeared to have room for everybody.

Then got here the age of the web. Social media. Immediately, there was an enormous quantity of data on the ideas of our arms. We have been in principle, higher outfitted to journey extra and higher. The opening hours of eating places might be discovered with out the necessity of a telephone name. We may discover the record of the ten finest issues to do in Berlin in a flash due to the growth in blogs. There was no must pop into the vacationer data workplace or converse to journey advisors anymore. No want for human interplay. Every thing you wanted to learn about a metropolis or place was one Google search away. Now we now have AI instruments to assist plan our journey itineraries. Nothing is left to probability. Now we have our bottomless bucket record of locations to see earlier than we die. Instagram over nourishes our want and dream to journey. With so many locations to see and so little time, journey turns into one other job, one other record of issues to complete. We arrive residence, depressing and unfulfilled. 

 

Assembly the pleasant locals of Mgarr

‘If I used to be to inform a vacationer what to do in Gozo, I’d inform them to go swimming on one in all our wonderful seashores the place locals spend lot of time in spring and summer time. I’d inform them to do a cooking class. Immerse your self within the on a regular basis lifetime of the island. Go to any cafe or bar.’

Claire, Mojo.

 

I’m again in Malta after virtually 8 years. I bear in mind wanting on the outdated photographs and really feel prefer it was a unique period and a unique me. One of many highlights of my journey was visiting the small, conventional fishing village of Marsaxlokk within the south jap nook of Malta. I bear in mind on a sleepy late September afternoon having the entire waterfront to myself, a bottle of the native Cisk lager in hand. I additionally bear in mind wandering the slim streets of the Mdina, the silent metropolis, timeless and this sense of just about strolling again in time. 10 years later and I’m excited to be again in Malta however just a little nervous. It’s like whenever you reconnect with outdated mates and surprise, will it’s as good as earlier than?

The recognition of the island within the years previous has soared due to the recognition of reveals like Sport of Thrones. We revisit Mdina and it appears loads much less silent. The crowds have multiplied. Fortunately, I had been warned by some locals to keep away from Mdina and go to the neighbouring village of Rabat. Rabat feels as timeless and enchanting as Mdina however once we visited, there was hardly any crowds to be seen, simply the odd native. We have been grateful to Mark from the Kings Crown pub for the tip.

Confession time. It was not fully by probability we met Mark. Philip instructed us about Stephen. Stephen spoke of Mark. We met Philip due to a card sport we invented. Let me clarify.

 

For this journey to Malta we had determined to do one thing totally different. As an alternative of planning the journey to demise by way of researching infinite weblog posts, Pinterest boards and Instagram galleries, chewing via a guidebook, we determined to have a unique type of journey. The entire journey can be a sport of probability, constructed with the assistance of chatting with random locals. No guidebook might be used. No smartphone too, until we have been fully misplaced. Approaching locals randomly to ask for journey ideas could be awkward typically so I needed to give you a tool, so I assumed why not create a deck of playing cards with inquiries to the most typical stuff you would need to know on vacation. The playing cards would assist scale back the awkwardness of breaking the ice. The concept can be that locals would draw a card after which give us a tip primarily based on the query on the cardboard. We might then observe on that tip and in addition ask the native to suggest one other native we must always meet and assist us on our quest. 

 

Sundown on the saltpans in Xwejni

The journey

So how did it go? Our experiment began in Gozo once we met the fantastic pleasant Philip Spiteri from the favored Ta Philip restaurant. He just about launched us to the entire island. After drawing the cardboard asking him to call his favorite lunch spot, he really helpful we meet the stunning Claire who runs Mojo restaurant in Victoria, Gozo. Claire, was liable for introducing us to the key seashore I discussed earlier. When he drew the cardboard requested to call his favorite pub, he really helpful we go to the Gleneagles pub in Mgarr Harbour, run by the affable Tony who turned out to be a goldmine for ideas and in addition a person with many tales to inform of the island. Whereas there’s sadly no such factor as a time machine, with some folks you meet in your travels, you could have a reference to the previous, with all of the magic and unhappiness that has handed earlier than, that sense of just about being there once they describe all of the feelings, the tales of the folks they met of their bar for the final 40 years. Tony was that type of particular person. A connection to Gozo’s previous.

Our fantastic driver and information, Alex

 

We ended three memorable days with a bag full of recent reminiscences and mates. We ended up in a variety of new locations and a really totally different perspective of Malta. I would want a whole day simply to let you know about all of the magic however let me end with the top of our journey. Image essentially the most unimaginable sundown. We have been at Dingli cliffs. We had acquired the tip from numerous locals. It looks like everybody had received the identical tip too. The automobile park was jammed and the viewing level was already a tussle between guests, scrambling to get that good image of the sundown that might immortalise the second in historical past. Led by our driver, Alex we walked additional away from the crowds, alongside the cliffs till we have been strangled by the empty silence of the large extensive open sea. A retired police officer who hunted down native smugglers, Alex knew each road, each mud observe just like the again of his hand. He wasn’t a person of many phrases however there have been instances when exhibiting us the island, I’d see a flicker of emotion in his eye. I noticed his eyes widen once we reached the spot. We have been one million miles from all the pieces and simply the open extensive sea, bathed on this golden gentle as that fiery crimson ball of fireplace slowly melted into the horizon. Someplace within the distance was Africa. It was then I fished out my pack of Twistees.

It was a tip from native chef Stephen La Rosa. 

‘Don’t depart the island with out consuming this!’

We sadly had no Cisk however these twistees tasted rattling good. We ate it to our hearts content material in good silence, until the darkness swallowed the solar and our shadows. I then gave Alex the most important hug and I feel we each had a tear in our eyes.

 

Hanging out with the fantastic Tony, proprietor of Gleneagles Bar

 

What makes moments like this and journey so good?

Regardless of how a lot we good expertise and AI, some issues in life can’t be manufactured. In the long run, it comes all the way down to timing. Plus, additionally being in the correct place. Serendipity. On this sense, Malta was good. 

The great thing about our journey was that it was nothing to do with luck however all about being courageous and taking an opportunity. So, my message is straightforward. In the event you do go to Malta, depart the guidebook and telephone behind within the room. Go to a bar. Order the native drink. Have a random dialog with an area. Give them the permission to share their residence with you. You don’t want the cardboard sport. I promise you, you can be stunned at what you would possibly uncover. 

In the long run, it’s actually easy. Journey is all concerning the folks. It turns into a lot extra significant and thrilling once we join with locals, discover out their story and perhaps be taught one thing new that modifications your perspective.

Seems, there are nonetheless secrets and techniques in journey. You simply must ask the correct folks.

 

Disclaimer: The journey to Malta was attainable due to the type assist of Go to Malta UK and companions. Nonetheless, all of the opinions expressed right here, good and dangerous are fully my very own. Plus, an enormous thanks to all of the locals we met in Malta and Gozo who made our journey unforgettable. Extra Malta and Gozo tales and ideas developing quickly on the weblog. Within the meantime, please go to the Visit Malta website for extra concepts to plan your journey.