The next morning we woke up to the soothing soughs of the waves breaking on the shore, and set off on foot to explore Mistra Rocks at the eastern
flank of the bay. Bernard called this spot the 'Rock Garden', and I could see what he meant: in the heaps of boulders ranged up the slope, some as
large as churches, hardy and herbaceous plants and trees (Mediterranean heath, carobs, olives, palms, thyme, honeysuckles, vines, capers, St John's
wort, tree spurges, bay laurels, etc) had taken root in pockets of soil gathered in cracks. The tangled mass of the boulders suggested that they
were tossed here by some sort of geological upheaval and I suddenly realised that I had been here once before when I was a child. I had come with
my dad to pick capers and I had almost fallen down a deep crack. For years afterward, that fall had been recreated in disturbing dreams, and now,
discovering the location of my nightmares answered a long-standing puzzle. Now I knew that the place indeed existed, and it was as I had experienced
it in my dreams: a forbidden place, the boulders jagged and sharp, and the absence of sound eerie.
That walk proved to be the highlight of the day. When we paddled out of the bay into open water, the breeze was imperceptible. Mistra Rocks looked
more monumental and enigmatic from the water, as though the adobe of the gods, but beyond this stretch, the land morphed into a monotonous scrubby
slope. The boredom of the landscape, the strong sun, the predictable and easy paddling, and the accumulation of four days of paddling - all these
things left me feeling numbed and tired. During a long lunch-break I fell asleep.
an island inhabited by four aging farmers and a hotel open in summers' only, was a lonesome job..."
We reached Santa Marija Bay in Comino in mid-afternoon, and as we pulled our kayak onto the sandy beach, we were greeted by a police officer.
After a moment of apprehension, it became clear that the police officer was interested in us because he craved human contact. Policing Comino,
an island inhabited by four aging farmers and a hotel open in summers' only, was a lonesome job. He worked two forty-eight-hour shifts a week,
spending much of his time walking, fishing, cooking, and watching TV. Only summers, when Comino was invaded by day-trippers, called for some
mundane policing such as breaking up scuffles and booking seacraft that anchored too close to shore in beaches. We pitched the tent in the bay
and took up his invitation to cook at the police station. He had lived in New York for twelve years before he returned to Gozo.
He said, "As
you can see, Comino is quite different from New York. Both teach you different things about life, but I prefer Comino because there is no people.
The fewer people there are, the less trouble there is. There is another thing: it is so natural to daydream here that you don't feel you're wasting
He spoke at length about the tiny island. "People have the wrong idea about this place. They think this rock is barren, but if you look up you
will notice bees flying overhead - they cross over from Gozo to graze the plants of the garigue. Try this: stand on a spot and see how many
different plants you could count in a quick gaze round. You will spot at least fifteen. If you come in June, the whole place reeks with wild
thyme and their flowers turn the island purple."
"For an hour we battled these waves, which drenched us, and then, just as suddenly, we rounded the next corner to find ourselves in a calm sea
at Taht Il-Mazz..."
The next morning we found the police officer fishing in his dinghy at the mouth of the bay. After a brief chat, we pressed on, and round
the bend along the cliff of the northern shore we found the deep cave at the waterline the police officer had spoken about, once a hideout
for pirates waiting to ambush boats crossing to mainland Malta. We ventured into the cave, where the reflection of light on the water's
surface threw a web of light dancing on the ceiling and where the rise and ebb of water tossed us playfully. Then we continued along the
cliff with its veins of brown soil, passing dark, submerged boulders at the cliff's base. The wind, which had changed to a south-easterly
direction, was picking up, and clouds were ganging overhead, and rounding the east coast, we were suddenly yanked by three feet surface waves.
For an hour we battled these waves, which drenched us, and then, just as suddenly, we rounded the next corner to find ourselves in a calm sea
at Taht Il-Mazz, a gulf enclosed by a 100-meter-high cliff where the slight surface ripple was just perceptible, like the scales of a creature
quivering in the wind. We paddled slowly around the several half-submerged rocky isles that stood still in the water like sentries, their
surfaces deeply braided by erosion, and beyond these rocks we came to a small beach. We had circumnavigated the island's 9km circumference
in three hours, and it wasn't lunchtime yet, so we landed and reclined lazily on the sand until, fearing that the strengthening wind would
whip up into an imminent windstorm, we decided to make the 2km crossing to Mgarr Harbor, completing the loop.
Mgarr Harbor was bustling with people and for a moment I wondered what the occasion was. Then I remembered it was Sunday afternoon, and that
many Gozitans take their Sunday outing at the harbor. They go for a stroll on the pier, eat pastizzi (pea-stuffed puff pastry pockets) and
ice-creams, read the Sunday newspaper, listen to the radio, chat with friends about common preoccupations, but mostly they watch the mainland
ferries coming and going. The harbor is Gozo's only link to the outside world, and since the world has always come to Gozo, the natives come here
faithfully and expectantly, waiting to see who might turn up. On that Sunday it was two men in a strange seacraft that attracted a curious gathering
Information on kayaking around Gozo
Anyone interested in kayaking around or in Gozo can contact Bernard Bonnici on phone +356 21 633191 or (cellphone) +356 99425439;
email email@example.com. The website is www.maltaoutdoors. Bernard can advise on logistics, and arrange for rentals of equipment -
anything from a kayak to tent and sleeping bags and accessories. He can also be engaged as a guide, in which case he would organise the whole
trip and supply all the equipment.