Xlendi, a cliff-enclosed bay on the western coat of Gozo, proved to be another of the island’s unique spots of natural beauty. Its small patch of sand cannot qualify it as a beach, but there was so much more to see here — mysterious caves to explore, craggy hills to climb and a wide landscape of intriguing land forms and sparkling turquoise water. There were gift shops along the coast selling traditional handmade lace and knitted sweaters (this traditionally made product made me wonder — why would anyone want to buy a jumper in this scorching heat?) We walked out of the bay and towards the sea, where we discovered further intriguing land forms.
Friendly little Italian
There were many restaurants along the sea front, with an emphasis on seafood, but we didn’t feel like eating a big meal so instead plumped for a small Italian cafe near the car park and bus stop. We sat ourselves at a small table outside and an Italian woman immediately came out to ask what we’d like. It was the first time I’ve ever chosen a restaurant meal by picking a packet of pasta off a shop shelf and handing it to the chef. I was hoping for baked macaroni — a traditional dish called Timpani — but instead received freshly boiled macaroni with some tomato sauce on top. It was nice enough, and perhaps I should’ve expected such from an Italian, rather than Maltese, cafe in which I couldn’t communicate very easily with the chef. However, Steve had a simple, large pizza that was gorgeous — fresh tomato sauce, gooey torn mozzarella and herbs, all on a rustic, just-baked crust. You could tell she’d been cooking these pizzas all her life! Shortly after we’d finished, paid and walked away, we heard shouting. Looking back, we saw the restaurant owner frantically waving at us to tell me I’d left my sunglasses — testament to the predominantly lovely people of Malta!
Over and under
Ice cream cones from the nearby cafe (also facing the car park) in hand, we set off towards the cliffs and dusty, scraggy hills along the bay. We managed to clamber a long way up the rocks with little effort and could’ve got further if we hadn’t been a little worried about getting back down again. Climbing this hill gave us a breathtaking birds-eye-view of the entire settlement and beyond, which just got better as we got higher. Having found our way back down again, there was an equal delight waiting for us underneath the hill — shadowed sea caves, glossy with wet and particoloured with algae. These were easily accessed via some worn steps cut into the cliffs and natural stepping stones that led into the cave recesses. The waves gently, shimmeringly lapped in and sunlit windows in the rock provided excellent viewpoints for gazing out to sea.
Avoiding taxi trickery
When it was time to catch the bus back home (there was only one each hour), we had to proceed with caution. We could see a taxi driver bothering a group of girls at the bus stop and even heard him telling them the bus was cancelled and not coming, in efforts to get them to take his taxi instead. This is a nasty trick we saw taxi drivers pulling several times, particularly at the Malta-Gozo ferry port. I would warn all unwary tourists of this trap if I could. Stalking around bus stops, they’ll tell people waiting there that the bus service has been cancelled; that they just missed the bus; or that it will be ages until the next one, so long that they better take a taxi. If you’re thinking of going to Gozo, be wary of anyone stalking around bus stops and saying these kinds of things! We managed to use public transport the entire time, getting everywhere we needed without using a taxi once. On this occasion, we kept our distance then ran over to the bus stop when we saw the bus coming over the hill!
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2011. All rights reserved.