29 March – 3 April 2017
The ferry arrived late morning in Valletta. The staff wouldn’t let us down on the car deck to load the bikes, so we left at 12 long after everybody else. It was warm but overcast when we rode through Valletta’s busy streets. Our first host Anthony lives in Gozo, a smaller island north of the main island, so we biked the main road along the stunning northern coast up to the ferry – now in lovely weather. EU has sponsored much infrastructure since Malta joined in 2004, so it was very pleasant biking. Even a wide bike path separated from the road - a good thing since the locals drove crazy fast (in the short time we biked, we saw two cars close to crashing in solo accidents).
Anthony lives in Victoria in the center of Gozo. A great place to stroll around and get lost in the endless cosy alleyways – and even better when Anthony one morning walked around with us knowing everything and everybody. Amongst other we saw St. George’s Basilica, St. Francis Church and of course the Citadel – an impressive medieval fortress. Gozo is famous for its cliffs, so on the second day we biked south to Ta Cenc and walked 10k along the amazing coastline – at the edge of the cliffs with their huge vertical drops straight into the ocean. The third day we biked north to the narrow cliff bound inlet of Wied Il-Ghasri from where we walked the 10k trail along the coast to Dwejra in the west. Lots of pristine nature and gorgeous limestone formations – and a perfect time to visit in spring with colourful flowers blooming everywhere as well as pleasant temperatures (although it was hot, the wind helped cool us down). Another good thing about visiting in spring was off season – during the walks we met very few people except around the two northern inlets. We had many interesting conversations with Anthony over breakfasts and dinners and one evening he took us to cosy Xlendi Bay for a drink. We also went to have dinner with another couchsurfer Mario – we had initially asked him to host us, but he already hosted other people and set us up with Anthony though he wasn’t hosting at the time. Very friendly and accommodating people and great representatives of the laid back atmosphere of Gozo.
Late morning 1 April, we said goodbye to Anthony and headed out. Our next hosts Nika and Lloyd lives in Marsascala about 10k south of Valletta, so after the ferry ride, we took a more southern route over central regions of the island. It was as hilly as the northern coastal road, but the roads were much busier and the views less amazing. We arrived late afternoon and quickly settled in. Nika and Lloyd are also long-distance bikers, so we had endless stories to share. The next day we took a relatively short afternoon bike trip from Marsascala to birgu, which was surprisingly beautiful with its big marina and countless old buildings. There are a lot of things to see and do in Malta, but we wanted something special for this place, so on our last day we biked to see the megalithic temple complexes of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra from around 3,600-3,200BC. It was a lot of stone structures (like Stonehenge), but because there was little knowledge of why it was built and what took place here, it wasn’t as interesting as we had hoped for. Afterwards, we biked up to Mdina in the central part of the island - a fortified city, which served as the island's capital from antiquity to the medieval period. It was quite touristic but still so big that it was possible to get away from the crowds.
All-in-all Malta was a great experience – the timing in spring, the amazing nature and beautiful old buildings, the interesting history and the wonderful people not least our hosts.