I visit Gozo maybe four or five times a year and one of my favourite places is Dwejra but I invariably refuse to simply just go there and back. I much prefer the slow cooking way to getting there. Here’s the recipe.
I start walking from Victoria’s bus terminus and make my way through the medina-like narrow streets of the town’s old quarter. I almost squeeze my way through some of the narrower alleyways – and I wouldn’t say I’m actually overweight. Then I head out to the tiny village of Kercem – just a ten minute walk from Victoria. Not that much to see up to this point but there are some ancient stone balconies here and there - plus a considerable amount of just quaint. Out of the village I follow the signs to Ghadira ta San Rafflu and start on the road to get there. It’s mostly a quiet stretch with the occasional rude interruption from some multi-wheeled behemoth toing or froing from nearby quarries. The road has some good views over the cliffs to Xlendi.
Soon the Ghadira (literally a lake) is reached. Rather a grand name for what is little more than a natural pond populated by a few noisy ducks. There is even more noise if you happen to come here during the resident frogs’ mating season – in fact it can be a downright obscene ruckus which shatters the location’s silence. The frogs here are not indigenous – they are Bedriaga frogs thoughtlessly introduced some years back, probably by some well-intentioned idiot. Sadly they seem to have elbowed out the pond’s original, and better-mannered, indigenous painted frogs.
The road divides into two at the pond – and I take the narrow trek on the left. This trek, initially smoothly surfaced, soon becomes a dust road and eventually just a narrow cycle path skirting the cliffs. But this is the start of the magic way to Dwejra and from here I enjoy every moment and just savour the views and the silence.
The path eventually leads to Wardija Point and it is here that I reconnect with one of Gozo’s most atmospheric sites. It’s a simple open space with a small rock-hewn chamber and a couple of wells dug in front of it. Nothing to write home about perhaps except that this is in fact the weather-beaten remnant of an ancient Punic sanctuary about which very little is known. I day dream a bit about Punic ships sailing by below and long ago – with sailors perhaps looking up to glimpse and take courage from a lone flickering light in the sanctuary guiding them to a safe journey on some dark starless night.
Out of my reverie I go down a small slope next to the chamber and take a five minute break – just gawping at the marvels of Dwejra some 500 metres away. Fungus Rock and the Azure Window are both visible from here, as well as the long stretch of cliffs between me and my final destination. I make my way back to the sanctuary and continue along the cliff edge. It’s an incredibly beautiful if barren area coloured here and there with various garigue bushes – not least the blue-grey hues of Helichrysum melitense – a plant endemic to Gozo and found growing in the wild in just this remote corner of Gozo. Occasionally a lizard I’ve unintentionally disturbed crosses my path in hurried panic and less commonly a wild rabbit does very much the same thing but apart from that there is very little else happening.
Soon I come upon the circular, cliff-ringed Dwejra Bay guarded by Fungus Rock. A strange purplish phallus-like plant still grows on this rock and the silly old Knights believed it had powerful curative powers. A hapless guard was once stationed here round the clock to ensure that no one would access the rock and acquire this dubious elixir of life.
Past Dwejra Bay, I am now practically at journey’s end and I take my time to have a look at Dwejra’s several natural wonders: the Inland Sea, the Azure Window, the stretches of fossil-filled rocks and the lovely view back towards the cliffs from where I’ve just trailed. But I won’t bore you with details of these as you will no doubt have read about them elsewhere. Me, I prefer the magic of just getting there via the slow route.