In an island so crowded and noisy this is a rare and precious luxury. You just make your way up, down and around boulders and rocky outcrops, clay slopes and stony paths. There is a varied and colourful vegetation even at this time of year when the first rains have only just started to colour summer’s uncompromising dry earth. The views are of the mighty cliffs above on one side and the open sea on the other. There is no building in sight except for some ancient remains of walls and what appear to be a few long abandoned animal pens scattered here and there.
This is probably the largest area of (almost) pure, unadulterated wilderness in Malta. It is certainly a magical place if you’re a nature lover or the type who simply loves the sound of silence. An elementary skill to clamber over rocks helps of course, and an ability to remain calm if you happen to lose your way is also necessary. I have now trailed this area often enough not to worry about the second requirement. As for the first – I never venture down there if I feel the slightest bit unfit, queasy or in any way unsteady on my feet.
It is almost incredible to think that just a few years back official plans had envisaged a vast golf course on Xaghra l-Hamra which is the garigue plateau overlooking this amazing site. God only knows what sort of rubble and soil debris would have been happily chucked over the cliff top, ruining once and for all this majestic natural site. Thankfully what we euphemistically term as the “competent authorities” backtracked from their madcap ways some time later and the whole area is now optimistically called the Majjistral (that’s the Northwest wind) Nature and History Park and given the highest (paper) protection possible.
I like this loose arrangement. This area (including the beautiful Xaghra l-Hamra garigue) was almost completely off limits up to a few years ago, and being chased off this vast, publicly owned piece of natural real estate was the order of the day. Various No Entry signs adorned the whole place – notably in the hunting and trapping seasons. Enough said.
I usually do this trek on my own starting either at the Rdum id-Delli end and trudging southwards towards Ras il-Wahx – or the other way round. Once or twice a year I go down there in a small group of four to six people but it is difficult to do the complete trek with this number – someone always tires out and starts moaning to cut the trek short and find a way up.
This time I was just with my friend and co-worker Gilbert who probably needed this nature pilgrimage as much as I did. Talking of recharging batteries, Gilbert incidentally writes a wonderful motivational blog called Soul Hiker. The link is here http://soulhiker.com/
The official site of the Majjistral Nature and History Park is here http://www.majjistral.org/