The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Off the beaten trail: Gnejna Bay to Lippija Tower

Gnejna Bay is one of our favourite places to go for a swim in summer and to hike during the cooler months. Up on the ridge overlooking this sandy bay is Ta' Lippija Tower. Ta' Lippija Tower is the first of several towers built by  Grand Master Lascaris in the 17th century to serve as watch-towers in the less-protected areas of the island. On a sunny but breezy day in February we decided to take the short hike from the bay to the tower.  It's an uphill climb but it's worth the extra effort and what's even better is that we were by ourselves, except for a very few like-minded individuals. So it was a peaceful walk and the only sound that broke the silence was bird-song - not a bad accompaniment at all.

Ta Lippija (17)

It's during walks like these that we get to make small discoveries: like tiny wild-flowers and lichen-covered rocks. Such little things, so easy to miss - fleeting beauty, here today and gone tomorrow. There's no other way to make them last except by pointing a camera lens at them and capturing  their images forever.

Ta Lippija (1)

Ta Lippija (23)

It takes about an hour to walk from street-level up to the tower at a leisurely pace. It took us a bit longer since we were so preoccupied with taking photos. The path slopes gently, except for the last few metres which are a bit more taxing - but nothing that an able-bodied person cannot master. In this area of Malta the geological layer known as blue clay is quite predominant. Blue clay erodes easily when wet and this accounts for the almost extra-terrestrial landscape of some parts of Gnejna Bay. In reality, it's nothing overly spectacular, but it does create some striking photo opportunities. The contrast of blue clay deposits against the golden limestone is especially prominent when viewed from above; and once you crest the ridge and stand beneath the tower, you are rewarded with a view that is quite unique, especially since the blue clay deposits on the island are quite rare.

Ta Lippija (63)

Ta Lippija (65)

By it's very nature blue clay is not very fertile and in most cases it is totally devoid of any vegetation but in other areas, hardy grasses such as Esparto grass, and flowering species such as Asphodel and Seaside Squill do manage to thrive. It has become something of a hobby of mine to photograph wild flowering plants and then try to find out a little bit about them. All this has made me realise, that in spite of its small size, Malta is home to an amazing array of wild-flowers that are stunningly beautiful.


Like all the coastal towers, Ta' Lippija tower commands a view that stretches for miles, which, of course, is the reason why it was built. This tower, which is about 11 metres high, has a square plan and two floors topped by a flat roof. Each floor has a single room and the upper floor was accessed by a wooden, or rope, ladder. Originally the tower was known as Torre del Migiarro. I've made the trek up to the tower another time, back in 1995, when my friends and I decided it would be the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. At that time we found the tower in an advanced state of disrepair: part of the roof had caved in and the whole edifice showed signs of structural damage. In 2003, Ta' Lippija Tower was repaired and restored and now looks much the same as it did when it was constructed in 1637.

Ta Lippija (38)

Ta Lippija (41)

Ta Lippija (62)

This walk combined three of my favourite things: nature, the sea and a little bit of history. It is the first installment in the "Off the Beaten Trail" series that I hope you will enjoy. As promised earlier this year, I would like to share more of this little island with you without throwing out too many facts and making it sound like some sort of lesson. I hope that, in some small measure, I have succeeded.

Ta Lippija (36)Ta Lippija (47)Ta Lippija (56)Ta Lippija (59)

Location: Gnejna  Bay and Lippija Tower, February 2016

A small note on the pronunciation of Maltese words (which can be a bit tricky). Gnejna sounds like Jineynah and Lippija like Lippiyah).

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Thursday, 9 March 2017


She is as wild as the wind and as  free as the eagles that soar high over mountain-tops. Her love is as deep and unfathomable as the boundless ocean. She walks with her feet planted firmly on earth and her head in the clouds. She breathes stardust and her smile is as radiant as the light of the sun. Her hands have nurtured the young, tended the sick and buried the dead. She has cried rivers of tears and her sorrow has pierced the hardest of hearts. She has faith and strength to move mountains and is fearfully and wonderfully made. Her laughter brings happiness to those she loves. She is maiden, mother and crone. Her wisdom transcends generations. She was, is and will be - till the end of time. She carries the pain of a thousand Eves and the joy of a thousand more. She is imperfectly perfect, indestructible as a diamond yet as delicate as a blossom.
She is Woman.


On a different note …

Gone But Not Forgotten

My plan was to publish the above short post in honour of Woman's Day. But Malta suffered a mini-catastrophe yesterday when a storm destroyed one of its most iconic natural creations - the Azure Window.

The Azure Window

This arch rose from the depths of the sea to a height of  almost 100 feet. Nobody knew for sure when the arch was formed. Some geologists are estimating that it was around 500 years old. But yesterday morning, after hundreds of years of standing tall and proud and battling countless storms, it succumbed to the elements and collapsed into the sea after a massive gale hit the island. For  the past few years everyone had been expecting the top part of the arch to cave in and fall into the sea, leaving the stack (pillar) behind - as commonly happens with these types of arches. But in the case of the Azure Window, it was the pillar that had eroded to the point that it could no longer support the massive weight resting on it. And the rest, as they say, is now history. I think that the whole nation was a bit saddened by its loss, mainly because nearly everyone has a photo with the Azure Window as a backdrop or a memory of some sort associated with it; and like all familiar things, their loss, though inevitable, is sometimes harder to accept.

The loss of the Azure Window made it to the international media with reports about its collapse in The Telegraph, The Mirror, BBC News, The Washington Post, The New York  Times and many, many others. I did my own little tribute here.

Many feel as if nature has dealt us a collective blow. But I think it was more of a case that what nature had given it has now taken away. The Azure Window has vanished from sight and what remains of it lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea, from where it once rose. Perhaps the sea has only claimed back something that was birthed from its watery womb and, maybe for this particular window, it was time to return - this time to its watery grave. So farewell legend, I was lucky to have known you.

Dwejra, Gozo

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