The night of Day 2
Falling asleep on a slim ledge in a port with lights igniting the night’s sky and the occasional security vessel blasting search lights straight into our faces was certainly a unique experience.
The forecast suggested that at 2am we would be in for a storm and so before we went to sleep we had a very funny chat about whether we should try to move up the ledge a bit to get away from the water’s edge should it come up and swamp us out. Sensible heads told us that might be a good idea, but, up the ledge meant for potentially an even more uncomfortable night snoozing on and in spikey looking plants and rocks, which no doubt would be home to things like scorpions.
The Maltese Scorpion
We faffed around for a wee while deciding what to do, and in the end, laziness, tiredness, and also not wishing to be eaten by bitey bugs made us suddenly adapt quite literally a “let’s live on the edge” attitude and see what happens.
Just before we hit the hay, a port security boat opposite us slowed down and shone its light directly at us. It felt like one of those comedy film moments where I thought “hmmm if we sit, really REALLY still, maybe, just maybe, they won’t see us – we will be invisible” whilst sat there in my bright blue down jacket against the beige clay ledge.
It was really clear we weren’t supposed to be there, but we had nowhere else to go, so to bed down and get on with it was the only option.
The good news is…no storm arrived at 2am and we did not get hit by waves and rain in our sleep (sorry, not sleep, more like zombie-like staring at the sky due to the light and sounds all around).
The plan was to rise and spring into action at 5am to avoid getting into trouble and to make the most of the day in order to make progress.
The next stage had the potential to make or break the aim of full circumnavigation as there would be little to no places to stop due to a section called Dingli Cliffs.
If something went wrong or the sh1t hit the fan with the conditions, we, along with our iSUPs and cargo could quite genuinely be battered straight into the cliffs and turned into mincemeat.
At 5am, we looked at the sky to see forks of lightening in front of us. We looked across at the sea where we could see increasing chop in the distance. We looked at the clouds and it was clear that at some point very soon they were going to burst with heavy rain. We looked at each other and knew, that right now, we needed to pack up our kit immediately to avoid it getting soaked and wrap ourselves up in water-proofs or a bivvy bag. There was no shelter.
My gut was telling me that today was not a day to even be considering that section and hoped more than anything everyone else felt the same.
We got ourselves sorted and looked at the forecast using the likes of Windyty and Wind Finder and other helpful bits of technology. Although we could see the weather was due to calm down on that side of the island, there was no doubt in our minds that the sea state would remain hairy. As a group, we made the decision that we needed to sit the weather out, and at the earliest opportunity, paddle further into the port as the map was suggesting there should be a town where we could flop after the excitement, get a coffee, and decide upon a plan.
I can’t remember what the time was, perhaps approaching 8am, but when the weather began to settle and the rain ceased, we became aware that we were being watched. Two tall dark figures were stood on hill to the left of us looking remarkably like the police.
We decided the best thing to do would be to approach the officers and explain that where we slept was the best we could do given the conditions, in the hope that they would understand and not give us a scary fine or worse, shove us in a cell! The officers were surprisingly very helpful (and one in particular was very handsome…I don’t think I’ve ever seen eyes quite like it!) where they explained that they were concerned for our safety, because you see, the thing is, unbeknown to us, we were sleeping right next to a very new gas power station. We decided to not tell the police that the night before we lit our PETROL STOVE for a hot beverage within its vicinity.
After some useful advice and perhaps some confusion on their part regarding how fast one can paddle a fully loaded SUP, they suggested we make our way into Marsaxlokk along the side of an ENORMOUS container ship / tanker whilst trying to avoid the paths of the queueing vessels.
I think we were all very nervous about doing this, where had even attempted to radio the coast guard / harbour master in order to advise them of our presence to avoid us being run over– no one answered our calls.
The good news is, on our way into the bay, we managed to actually SUP (yes, standing up!) the whole way and as there was a little breeze behind us, it was extra pleasurable…amidst the nerves from our surroundings.
It looks rather calm there doesn’t it! Thanks Renato Brincat for this wonderful photo.
After landing, drinking coffee, and consuming slices of pizza and a burger-pie (yes, you read that right, Chris has a BURGER-PIE…now if any Wigan folk are reading this, have you tired that?!), we formulated a plan. We needed to get up to Golden Bay on the NW corner of the island, which had considerably better wind speed and direction, so that we could perhaps consider a 2/3 circumnavigation. Dicing with Dingli cliffs was not an option. This did affect our mental state as our objective was now different – this did take some adjusting to, but as a group, we remained strong and united in our decision.
In order to get up there, we of course needed a lift. We walked the streets keeping an eye for a possibility and then we remembered something. On arrival there were some sea kayakers in the bay, and so we decided it would be a good idea to see if they could help, because the odds are they would have a van.
George and Matt went to find them and came back with the BEST news and something incredibly coincidental.
As soon as the kayakers were told who were and what we were doing they immediately said yes of course they will help us as they had read all about our mission – isn’t the power of social media amazing. It doesn’t stop there. Not only did they already know of us, as soon as we heard that two coaches were from the UK and we heard their names, we nearly fell off our chairs, because as a group, we all had some awareness of them (Richard Witheridge and Phil Hadley).
We paddled our boards down to meet them, where a group of very friendly people were stood smiling at us, and immediately a surfer dude looking chap, known as Chris Vermaak (owner of Kayak Gozo) came down to help us with our kit.
After getting over the coincidence and being incredibly grateful for their help, we loaded up Chris’ marvellous Land Rover and then relaxed with the boys having a beer before taking the journey up to Golden Sands.
One thing which never ceased to amaze me on this adventure, was the overwhelming kindness of the people we met along the way – it has absolutely restored my faith in humanity. I will be eternally thankful for the people that crossed our paths on this trip into the unknown.
On finally getting to Golden Sands, the sea was beautifully flat, and so we treated ourselves to a sunset STAND UP paddle, and then a night relaxing at a beach bar over a beer and a burger. That’s right folks, this was a day of hard core adventure.
Beautiful shot taken by Georgina
That being said, it was all not luxury, as that night, as it was a very touristy beach, we had to wait in the shadows for people to leave the beach and pack up the restaurant before finding somewhere to camp down…only to discover we were in the company of MONSTER bugs. They were so big and hard that when they fell to the ground you could hear a CRACK.
Mouse droppings were also abundant, as were ants. Such joy. At 1am I needed to go find somewhere to go for a wee, this was rather tricky; it became immediately apparent that above me were young lovers in their cars “looking out to sea”. Imagine what they would have thought if the light of the “moon” suddenly became very bright.
Anyway, for now, I will leave you to digest my latest novel.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment.
Have a very Happy Christmas.