Tuesday, May 23rd
Tim and I caught an evening flight from London Stanstead to a Mediterranean island called Malta. It is between Sicily and Lybia and is roughly 300 square miles. The landscape reminded us of the American Southwest with lots of desert plants and prickly pear cacti, lizards, and thankfully we didn’t encounter any snakes. It was a beautiful contrast between the land and the clear deep blue water of the Mediterranean Sea.
Now that you have a little background on Malta, I’ll go into our adventures. Thankfully our Airbnb host picked us up from the airport and drove us to her home. Antoinette was very pleasant and very helpful with our luggage as well as navigating the busses. Her home was beautiful and it was nice to have a room to ourselves. Tim and I went out for a little stroll down by the bay after getting settled in our room. It was getting late so not many places were open, but we walked by a carnival that still had some rides going and just took in the scenery. There was also interestingly a duck farm, which was essentially just a bunch of small little houses for ducks and bunnies to stay in. Didn’t smell the best, but it was kind of neat. After going a little bit further we turned back to the Airbnb to head to sleep.
The following morning we were greeted with a small breakfast then packed up our things for the day. For how we mapped out our time and with the activities we were doing, we were in a different place each night, meaning we had to lug our stuff everywhere with us. Thankfully for the first day, Antoinette let us keep our bags with her while we did our first activity, which was flyboarding in a nearby bay.
Tim and I caught a bus to Spinola Bay, which is a small addition to the larger St. Julian’s Bay, and it was beautiful. Lots of little boats, and people swimming and sun bathing. Simon and his partner (never caught her name) showed up right on time and were very friendly towards us. Simon went over the basics of what to expect and some tips for doing different maneuvers while Tim and I got into our wet suits. We walked over to the pier while they put the modified jet ski in the water.
For those curious, the jet ski acts as a pump for water to go up a tube connecting to the flyboard. The flyboard can pivot between the feet, and the connection to the hose allows it to spin and tilt with ease. For us, the instructor in the jet ski controls the power for the thrust. While in the water, the flyboard pulls the jet ski around.
Simon gave us a brief demonstration of how everything worked while being strapped in and controlling the thrust with a handheld throttle control. Tim and I looked on in awe as he gracefully and effortlessly maneuvered around demonstrating turns, spins and even a backflip. We later learned that he is one of the top ranked flyboarders in Europe, so he was showing off a bit.
After he came back down, I jumped in the water and slid my feet into the flyboard. He gave us some more instructions in the water about foot placement and maneuvering in the water, then he jumped on the jet ski and we were off. We had to move away from a couple other boats and the shore, so I put my body in a torpedo position when Simon started the water pressure and pushed myself and pulled the jet ski to a more centrally located area in the bay.
Once we got there, I moved my feet under me and Simon throttled up the pressure. I think I went up, cleared the water then fell over. This happened 2 or 3 more times before I was a bit more stable. I was able to slowly learn how to turn and control my forward movement. You needed to kind of do a circle and tow the jet ski behind you so that you relatively stayed in the same spot. It was actually fairly intuitive to get going and control. You just had to move your feet and knees to control the board while keeping your hips and torso upright.
After doing a few circles, Simon called on the radio and said to try some spins. I was a bit nervous, but I figured hey, this is what I signed up for. So I put one foot down and the other up and did a spin. When it was Tim’s turn, he was able to do lots in a row. The most I ever did was 3 in a row. Once I was able to have more control and do spins, Simon called and said to do a dolphin dive. Basically you get low to the water and dive in, then arch your back and come out of the water. I belly flopped (ouch) on my first attempt, but I got better the more I did. I eventually was able to do one after the other, which was pretty neat. After doing a bit of everything I did, I manoeuvred over to where Tim was watching and Simon increased the pressure so I got up pretty high, probably at least 30 feet in the air. I posed for some pictures and did a spin before coming down and doing some more moves. We had done a half hour slot each, and mine went by really quick.
Me attempting my first dolphin dive. It hurt, but it’s really funny to watch.
Me trying out some new moves
After switching out, Tim got to have a try. I stayed on the shore and took some pictures and videos of Tim doing it. He picked it up quick and it was neat to see the tricks from the shore. After he go the hang of it he really like doing spins. He told me that after doing a couple of dolphin dives that he didn’t really like doing them that much so he mainly stuck to doing spins.
Tim doing some sweet spins then promptly eating it
Tim having some fun
After his turn finished, we made our way around St. Julian’s Bay to see some of the shops and coastline, then caught a bus back to Antoinette’s to grab our bags. From there we made our way to the bus stop to go to a ferry, but not before picking some things up at a gift shop.
The bus ride out to the ferry was about an hour, and from what I saw in between nodding off, it was really pretty. We arrived and waited half hour or so to catch the ferry over to Gozo. Gozo is a much smaller island compared to Malta, and it was only a 40 minute trip to reach the port. Tim and I made our way off of the ferry and headed to our Airbnb for the night. It was a steep, long and hot 2.5 mile trek. Every step was a bit uphill, and lugging our packs made it that much more difficult.
We eventually made it to our Airbnb and thankfully a fellow resident let us into the house as the owner was nowhere to be seen. We never did end up meeting him, although it was a pretty nice place. My only complaint was hat the toilet didn’t work. Oh well. We had a beautiful view of the sunset, and the place was pretty clean overall.
Tim and I put in a load of laundry into the wash and headed out for something to eat. We were trying to find a place with the Europa League Final between Manchester United vs Ajax on the TV. We walked to a little square with a church in the middle as there were a few places with food around there. As we were walking up one street we could hear the game on so we stepped inside. On our left was a huge projection of the game, with tables in no particular formation strewn about. A buffet was at the far end of the room with adults watching the game and children playing with toys on the floor. I then realised this was probably a family gathering or something, so Tim and I promptly ducked out. We ended up eating at a small restaurant that did not have the game on, but that was okay. We made our way back to the Airbnb house and hung up our laundry to dry, then went to bed.
I got up early, about 5:50 to be exact to see the town in the morning and to check on the laundry. The town was great, but the laundry was definitely still wet. I grabbed all of our socks and headed out To find a spot to dry them in the sun. I came upon a little shack high enough to be graced my the morning light. The view was fantastic, and it was a bit comical to look the other way and see some wet socks on a shack. I was there for about an hour before the little road that was nearby started getting busy, so I gathered up my still damp socks and walked back to the house. I packed up all of my things, then Tim and I locked up and got picked up for our kayaking adventure.
Our instructor Ben met us just a road over, so we climbed in his beat up, manual land rover. We stopped by the head person’s house to drop off our bags then we were off to the marina. There were a total of four other kayakers with Tim and I, along with 3 instructors. We received a brief safety overview and got some tips on the kayaking stroke, then hit the water. Neither Tim nor I have ever been kayaking before, so it was a bit of a learning curve at first.
Not quite as luxurious of a land rover as you’re used to seeing.
We started our paddle going into the current, into the wind and up and down through some bigger waves than I felt comfortable with at first. We took this route so that if anyone had too much trouble, the path back to the dock would be easier. It was a rough combination of elements to learn in, but I made it 20 minutes later to or first little respite. We stopped in a small cove that was shielded from the waves, current and wind to take a breather and take in the view. After a 5-10 minute break, our lead instructor, Chris said we would venture across the straight to a small island called Camino.
Camino is a small island considered a national park by the Maltese government with just 3 permanent inhabitants despite being a very popular tourist destination. Camino is roughly 6.5 miles in circumference and .75 miles away from where we were in Gozo.
Our path from Gozo to Camino was pretty much perpendicular to the wind and waves, so getting over was difficult. I asked Chris to give me some critiques along the way, and his suggestions helped my form and efficiency in my paddling stroke. We made the journey over and gathered up in front of a little slit in the cliffs that we eventually paddled through to a location called the Blue Lagoon. This is perhaps the most popular tourist destination, and on the small beach we were on there were only 5-6 people.
We stopped there and got out of the kayaks to stretch and have some watermelon. Tim and a guy from Germany went for a swim in the Lagoon while I got the GoPro ready to go for the next part of the journey. Chris rounded us all up after 15 minutes or so and casually mentioned that we would go all the way around the island today. I was surprised and a bit unsure if I would be able to do that at this point. I kept my mouth shut trough and climbed back in the kayak and weaved back through the slit in the rock to the cove on the other side. We took a left turn and made our way along the southern coast of Camino. We battled winds and waves until we made our way to the east side.
On the east side we had the current and wind at our backs, so we flew down that coast. By this time I was starting to get a better paddling stroke and more control over the kayak. We made our way to the northern edge of the island where we were kind of shielded from the elements. The view was stunning. To our left we had daunting cliffs, massive boulders in our kayaking path and the blue Mediterranean Sea to our right. It was really fun on this leg of the trip. The water was calm, lots of little turns and great views. There also was a cave that we got to go into.
We got into groups of two, turned around and reversed into the cave. We went backwards so we could get out quickly if we needed to. Tim and I were the last ones to go in, so it was really crowded and pitch black. I turned my head around to see where I was going but it was useless. I could not see a thing. I tried to paddle backwards but I soon started smacking the wall and another kayak, so I just pushed off the rocks with my hands. I slid past two kayacks and got to the back. From here I could vaguely see the outline of who was in front of me. We made our way out and then navigated to the west side of the island and to a small beach.
We got out of the kayaks about 1.5 hours after our last stop, which was very much needed. Our lunch was a burrito with a whole bunch of stuff in it; I just ate it and didn’t think about what was in it. After finishing that and a homemade granola bar, Chris broke out the snorkelling masks and Tim and I hit the water to see what was below. The water around the islands contains high amounts of sulphur, so not much wildlife is around there, but we were able to see a couple of small fish. After 20 minutes of doing that, we came back on shore and dried off before gearing up to get back in the kayaks.
Our paddle back to Gozo
We got back in the water and went a bit farther up the coast before gathering together for some instructions about crossing back to Gozo. By now it was about 2 in the afternoon and there were plenty of boats and jet skis out. We were told to stay close together and keep your head on a swivel. We took a group picture then set off for one last trip across the straight. The waves and wind had calmed down from the morning, and it was a fun little paddle back. I was able to go at a fast speed and navigate some dicey waves. We made it back to the marina, got sorted out and hopped back in the land rover. On the way to the ferry, we stopped and got our bags then caught the next ferry. On the way back we passed Camino and I felt a big sense of accomplishment that I had kayaked all the way around that place. Tim and I got off the ferry and caught a bus into town. After a 2.5 mile walk with our packs we made it back to our Airbnb for the night.
We got checked in then went out for some food around Valletta. After that Tim suggested we go check out what bus would get us to the airport, and this turned out to be a great suggestion. In hindsight we really should have just searched for the routes while at dinner with wifi, but instead we walked to the stop I thought the airport bus ran by. It was a solid 1.5 mile walk, and turns out, the bus didn’t stop there. We then ventured a bit farther away through what wasn’t the best part of town to two more bus stops with no luck. By now it was getting late and we decided to go back home and google it. As it would be, the next stop we would have checked has a bus that runs by it, so we at least knew where to go for the morning.
The next day we got caught the bus and boarded our flight to the ancient city of Athens.