Navigating The Med On A Shoestring And A Smile: Part Two (The Subtle Charm Of Malta’s Seductive Smaller Sister)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

During this past summer Contributing Editor Hannah Bowman found herself on an island in the Mediterranean Sea. She liked it there, but didn’t want to stay forever. So, with a tent on her back, one month to play with and a handsome Flem by the name of P.J. in tow, she headed north. “Navigating the Med on a Smile and a Shoestring” is a travel series documenting their journey of camping, ferry boating and hitchhiking from Gozo to Ghent.

To sum up: Never. Ever. Go to Gozo.

It rains all the time, the natives eat children and you can’t buy a beer for love nor money.

[Pause]

Yes, that might have been a small lie. In fact, Gozo is a gem.

So, why oh why would I have imparted such a ghastly untruth, you may cry? Because, unlike the mainland of Malta — which has been ravaged by tourism and illegal building and is one of the most populated places on the planet — Gozo has retained a large part of its former tranquility and authenticity.

“Higgeldy piggledy” would be a fitting term to describe the sort of delightful disorder and randomness that makes the second largest of the three Maltese Islands unique, preserved in a fragile time bubble of culture and history. For now, at least.

And that includes little donkeys pulling carts around and suchlike.

Gozo itself is only roughly the size of Manhattan, i.e., tiny. Nevertheless, from jumping off rocks and scuba diving,  to fishing and barbecuing, there are  more than enough sun and sea related shenanigans to keep the average expeditioner entertained.

This haven of relaxation and snorkeling deliciousness was the perfect starting point for our trip (read: getting a base tan down).

Transport On and Between the Maltese Islands

Ferry

One of its saving graces is that there are no direct flights to or from Gozo. For this reason, the only way of accessing the island is by boat or helicopter. (If you are genuinely considering the helicopter option, then drop me an e-mail. If you’ve got that much spare dollar knocking around, I could do with a couple of extra quid.) The ferry between the mainland and Gozo takes less than 25 minutes and runs regularly, with up to three leaving per hour during the summer months. You pay on the return trip only and it will cost you around five euros.

Car Rental

Two words: Victoria Garage. Proprietors Joe and Michael Sultana are the kind of people who, were it possible, I would shrink down and carry around in a jar in order they could be produced at times of low mood.

Your vehicle might not have any doors, but you won’t care.

Buses

Buses are a  pain in the bum yet a viable option. Be prepared for cancellations and diversions, however, most of Gozo is catered for. Air conditioning certainly does not come as standard.

Setting Off From Malta by sea 

Unless you own a yacht,  the only way of leaving the Maltese islands is from Malta; Valletta is the main commercial harbor. It was from here we expected a fairly competitive rate for the boat to Sicily.

Oh what poor misguided fools we were. Thanks to Virtu Ferries, who now have a monopoly on the route, single fares during July and August hit a whopping 100 euros for a two-hour journey — our single biggest expense for the entire trip.

As the sun set across the sea, we arrived in the southern Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, and it was here the adventure really began.

And as for Gozo? You can only go there if you promise to not tell anyone.

By Hannah Bowman

Read the Entire “Navigating The Med On A Smile And A Shoestring” Series Here

TheExpeditioner

About the Author

HannahBowmanBioPicA restless Brit with big dreams and limited cash flow, Hannah is a freelance journalist and student. She is currently being sponsored by the European Union to take a Masters in Journalism and International Politics at the University of Amsterdam/University of Santiago, Chile, and the Danish School of Journalism. You can keep track of her wanderings with TheTangerineRidiculousness.com or follow her on Twitter: @Hannah__Bowman.

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