End of my stay on Gozo. I'm spending the day in the capital, Victoria. My first stop is the tourist info to ask if they know somewhere I can leave my bag for the day. They don't, so they offer to take it in themselves. Travel Top Tip there.

That means I've got the two hours until they close at 12:30 to see Victoria. It's a good job the only thing to see here is the citadel, an interesting diversion with a couple of museums within its walls.

I return to my bag in time and saunter to the adjacent bus terminus in time for the bus down to Mġarr and the ferry and bus journey back to Valletta.

Posted Sun Sep 12 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Gozo

Obviously, this is the luxury end of the holiday, so I'm going to save a few quid by booking a bike for the day to explore the island.

Just down the road from the hotel is Dwejra Bay, a spectacular limestone bay on the north west of Gozo. The work of the sea has created tunnels, arches and pillars of rock including an inland sea connected to the Med by a narrow tunnel through the limestone. It's a remarkable feature, which apparently offers great snorkelling and diving. Although not today, with the nor'westerly pounding waves into the cliffs.

It's a tough sweaty climb back up the zigzag road to the village. I head next to Xagħra, about four miles away and home of Gozo's largest neolithic template complex. It's a mostly down-hill journey to the island's capital and on until I start the slow climb to the Xagħra plateau.

The Ġgantija temples are a big temple-shaped pile of rocks. They've been left largely unmolested, with a bit of scaffolding holding the rock walls in place. There's a small amount of interpretation, but it's otherwise fairly lowkey.

The entry fee includes the other attraction in town, the windmill. Let's just say I don't expect many people come for the windmill and then discover the temples.

It's all downhill to the coastal town of Marselforn and I still don't fully appreciate what I've storing up for myself. The up starts after Marselforn, and both the wind and the hot sun are now against me. It's a long slog up to Victoria and a further long slog up from Victoria to the hotel, pausing briefly to invest in some cold liquid refreshment. I'm actually quite pleased to discover I've still got some fitness. I continue in my efforts to keep the cost of my stay on Gozo down by only having a 45 minute massage to sooth my aching muscles.

In the evening, I get teh hungarr and devour a Goat Burger of Doom. And it doesn't go straight through. Yay digestion.

Posted Sat Sep 11 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Gozo

I check out of the San Pawl Hotel (yay) and lug my belongings over to the dive centre. It turns out that we're diving the Umm El Faroud at the south side of the island. That's a Libyan oil tanker which exploded under Mysterious Circumstances while under repair in Valletta's Grand Harbour. The ship was duct taped back together and scuttled for diving in 35 metres of water. This is my Multilevel Speciality Dive so, as a student, I'm not allowed below 30m.

Unfortunately our group of five arrive behind the herd, meaning we're constrained to a parking place at the top of the steep slope down to the water.

I'm actually a little concerned about this dive. I've done wreck diving, night diving and cave diving so far, all of which have their hazards, but I've been trained to recognise them. The hazard (or at least the one that's concerning me) on a deep dive is Nitrogen Narcosis, and I've no idea how it might affect me - I get silly enough at six metres. And if it does affect me, I'm not sure what I can do about it. Although you can assume from the fact that I'm not blogging by Ouija board that I didn't offer my regulator to a passing octopus.

Entry is by trek down the hill in full gear, stride into the water and surface swim across the harbour mouth avoiding the fishing boats ferrying tourists around the pretty rocks. Once clear of the harbour, we descend to about ten metres for the five minute swim out to the wreck. When we reach it, our leader takes us down to the 25m deck and below.

The ship is spectacular. Even this far down, the light is clear and good enough to perform a gradually ascending route through the ship's passageways until we're forced up to the funnel by the diminishing NDL. On the way back, we return across the harbour mouth at about 8m with the boats buzzing disconcertingly overhead.

I definitely didn't feel as sharp at depth and there was one discombobulating moment swimming along the covered deckway when the 10 degree lean of the ship got me very confused, and forced me to reason about the direction of up from the pockets of exhaust air trapped in the roof. But apart from that, it was a really interesting and relaxed dive.

The surface interval of one and a half hours is enough for the sun to completely dry my wetsuit. And that's another thing - wetsuits are really annoying. My logbook calls water below 21 degrees "moderate". I call it cold when it needs a wetsuit, and that's about 27. The only other place I've needed a wetsuit was New Zealand and that was 15 degrees (which my log book still doesn't consider cold).

You should also be aware, gentle reader, that I still have the shits, I've been mitigating the effects largely by not eating very much, but it's worth noting that pressure has a dramatic pain-killing effect on my bowels. I recommend it to anyone whose bowels have turned to water. That probably means the pressure is forcing my fart gases to dissolve, only to come out of solution somewhere they don't belong. Thankfully, the second dive comes along before I explode like a booby-trapped pasty.

It's the same drill to reach the wreck, and we soon descend to the requisite 30m to perform a series of intricate navigations through the corridors of the ship, eventually popping out of a hatch on the deck. Again, the diminishing NDL time pushes us up until there's nothing but the funnel left to play with, then it's time to go home.

And with dive number seven, that's it for this holiday. Now back to the dive centre to leech their wireless to find the next place to stay. The end of the course means the end of my sentence in the excrable San Pawl Hotel, but it also leaves me finding somewhere new to stay, and the last time I looked I couldn't find anywhere I could afford on Gozo. It's still true, so I book somewhere I can't afford and cross the road for the bus up to the ferry terminal at the northwestern tip of Malta.

It's a simple enough trip; bus to Cirkewwa, walk onto the ferry across to Mġarr on Gozo, bus to the capital, Victoria, and then the discovery that buses to the village where I'm staying in stopped five minutes ago. There's no mileage to be found in the closed tourist information, so I shout for a 10 Euro taxi fare.

The Kempinski Hotel and Spa is a self-contained upmarket hideaway which is unprepared for the arrival of a backpacker in swim shorts. They're perfectly willing to take my money however and the horror of the San Pawl is a distant memory as I settle in to my palatial room.

Posted Fri Sep 10 00:00:00 2010 Tags: Gozo