6 August 2020

Hiking Gozo's Coastal Path

See the full photo-story at exposure.co

Gozo is the second-largest island in the Maltese archipelago, affectionately described as '20 years behind Malta' with its sleepier pace, village traditions in tact, and visible signs of rural life. In spring, Ed and I found ourselves living here unexpectedly after Covid-19 sidetracked our former plans. Despite many summer holidays as a child, teenage carnival escapades, and the occasional visit as adults, the real Gozo was a bit of a mystery to both of us.

We decided to plan a coastal walk covering the island's perimeter in 3 days, 2 nights. We packed everything we needed in a backpack each, including a lightweight tent and a carefully thought-out selection of food - enough to sustain us, but not too much to weigh us down. We turned our phones off, agreeing they should only be used in an emergency. We wanted to shut out the chatter for a few days and immerse ourselves in Gozo, which was gloriously quiet thanks to lockdown.

We started from Marsalforn, our home base and historically Gozo’s main port which, for hundreds of years, was the Romans' gateway from here to the rest of the world. Messy and overdeveloped but still possessing a quirky charm, Marsalforn feels lively and oddly cosmopolitan, with a vibrant mix of nationalities and misfits from all walks of life milling about. Walking up and down the main drag, a bustling, restaurant-clad promenade, you'd never know that behind the last block of flats in the north-westerly direction, a small path winds up the hill onto a startlingly wild hillside.

Up on the hill, we were taken aback by dramatic views and pleasantly rugged terrain, enjoying the narrow path that meandered through it. We kept stopping to admire the Mediterranean spring scenery, where the approaching summer was beginning to brown the grasses, but many of the bushes and shrubs were still green and flourishing. The caper bushes, wild fennel, thyme, and artichoke-like thistles were in flower everywhere, casting their bright blue, purple and yellow hues.

When you walk, your relationship with place changes. Where usually you might rock up at the nearest point accessible by a car or a bus, overriding the in-betweens, walking takes you through the nooks and crannies. The epitome of 'journey over destination', you move slowly, taking in what's around you, flooding your senses with information. Whichever route you're walking, you become familiar with its curves and crevices; you notice details; you gain a new sense of distance and time. In its simplicity and gentle rhythm, walking is the ultimate balm for a tired, overstimulated mind.


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