We had been in Malta a month and were yet to explore the northern island of Gozo. Although technically we had visited as we checked in here but in reality that was a 15 minute visit and a 25 meter walk from the boat to the customs office and no further.
To give you an idea of the geographical layout, Gozo’s size is 14km long by 4.5 kilometres wide and has a population of 33,000.
Finally the wind conditions allowed us a good sailing passage and safe anchoring on the north eastern side of Gozo at Ramla Bay. We were really impressed with this beach and anchorage. For starters it had rich red sand, and real sand (many of the beaches we had seen were more rock than sand). Furthermore it was nestled into a crevasse in the hillside which had quite a bit of green shrubbery (again a rare find on Malta), and of course to really make us happy we were thrilled that anchorage was large with fantastic deep sand (great holding) for keeping Red Roo and us safe.
The clear water made for excellent swimming, which we did a lot of as the temperate has been rising and holding high. We had already had three weeks of temperates between 30 – 40 degrees and whilst it is easy for us at anchor to jump in a cool off, it makes our inland adventures hot and sweaty.
We left the dinghy on the beach and set off on a 10km return walk from Ramla Beach around to the next bay to the village of Marsalforn, this involved a couple of really steep hills which we slowly huffed and puffed our way up (and drank a lot of water and sweated just as much out).
The walk however was a delight and the village very quaint. The highlight for Phil being that we ate Cornish Ice Cream here (all the way from the UK). We liked this little village so much we ended up going back here in Red Roo a week or so later for a night with the boat. On the return walk back to Ramla and the boat we took a different route back to the beach, through the scrub which we may not have appreciated fully at the time, as the day after we left a fire went through and burnt it all out. We had a boat tell us how the bay was covered in thick black smoke and they couldn’t see their boat from the beach and the ash and black soot was all through their boat. Glad we left when we did.
We stayed four nights at Ramla and experienced our first strange weather event. The first evening we were enjoying drinks in cockpit of Red Roo with Caffe Latte and all of a sudden a strong swirly wind came through the anchorage turning all the boats around doing circles. It was a strong wind and chopped up the water to white horses but only lasted about 10 minutes. The next two nights in a row when all was calm and quiet and we were tucked up resting in bed a sudden strong wind gust would come down off the hills and turn the boat 180 degrees on the anchor. This would happen 4 or 5 times each event only lasting 6 minutes or so. Both Red Roo and Caffe Latte were safe and anchored well and rode out the gusts but a few other boats dragged each night.
A few days later we returned to Gozo, this time by bus, ferry and bus (as due to winds the boat was anchored safely on the North East of Malta) to explore the islands city of Victoria and visit the Gozo Citadel. The Citadel dates from the 15th century although fortifications have been evident on this hilltop from the bronze age. It was at one time a Roman town and after some terrible raids on Gozo by the Turkish it became customary for all the islands families to stay within the walls overnight, a practice that lasted into the 17th century.
After waiting another week, which felt like a month the weather finally allowed us to take Red Roo to the West of Gozo something we had really been looking forward to. Geology and the sea have conspired to produce some of Gozo’s most spectacular scenery at Dwejra on the west coast. Two vast underground caverns in the limestone have collapsed to create two circular depressions now call Fungus Rock (Dwerja Bay) and the Inland Sea. We anchored Red Roo at Fungus Rock and took the dinghy through the cave to the inland sea. The cave is around 10 meters wide and 100 meters long (with water 25 meters deep) allowing access to the small inland sea, which has been a fisherman’s haven for centuries.
The anchorage at Fungus Rock is protected well on three sides and the western side hosts the large rock also providing protection (however the west wind and swell comes in). The rock gets it name due the rare plant that grew at the summit, it was brown and club shaped and native to North Africa with Fungus Rock being the only place in Europe this plant was found. The plant was believed to have powerful pharmaceutical qualities to stem bleeding & prevent infection when used to dress wounds. Furthermore it was also said to cure dysentery and ulcers. It was highly treasured by the arabs and in 1637 the Knights build a fortress and watch towner to guard the precious resource, a rope was also strung between the mainland and the rock which was a one man cable car used to harvest the plant.
It was a real treat to enjoy this anchorage for two nights, it was deep and clear and a walk around the cliffs provided the opportunity to take many photo’s.
Overall we found the water so much clearer around Gozo, and enjoyed the anchorages there a lot more than the two southern islands, they were less crowded, more beautiful with vegetation and rocks and life on Gozo overall a little less hectic.
We also enjoyed exploring some of the salt works on Gozo near Marsalforn, we had seen these down south near Marsaxlokk also. Many of the rock formations on the edge of the sea created natural rock pools for the salt to collect, which were then “enhanced” by man to create a formal rock salt business. The formations are beautifully carved into the rock and the salt, well that tastes salty!
In our last week on Malta we said farewell to our dear old dinghy. Our Caribe had been with us since the start of our adventures back in 2015, and we estimate it was already 10 years old (at least) at that time. She has adventured with us through 17 countries over the last 6 years, taking us to some fantastic hard to reach spots – she was tough and able. Unfortunately in the last couple of months she had not been holding air and was requiring constant pumping up (sometimes after only 30 mins), we had tried to patch her but she was coming apart at the seams and beginning to show signs of the inflatable tubing coming away from the hard fibreglass hull. It was beyond time to deal with it. We took a few days to visit all of the retailers in Malta that sold dinghy’s and despite knowing exactly what we wanted there were none in stock at any shops. However we have been very lucky in the fact that Andy and Karina on Tartuga whom we met in Tunisia and were also in Malta just very recently updated their dinghy and was trying to get rid of their old one, bonus! This interim measure means we have their old one to tie us over until we can buy the new one we want. Thanks Tatuga and farewell old friend to our dinghy.
We have now visited the majority of all the anchorages in Malta – many of them more than once and also sailed a full lap of each of the three islands that make up Malta. It really is time to move on BUT before we did, Maree was able to secure a COVID 19 Vaccine on Gozo so we waited another week for the appointment and then two weeks until the certification came through and now after 2 months we are all set to leave and continue our Mediterranean adventure in another country.