Malta Diary Squeezing into confined spaces – kayaking becoming increasingly popular
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Caves and caverns are plentiful around the Maltese Islands, many of them giving rise to myths and mysteries, long lost legends in the passage of time. It is popularly believed that St Paul lived in a cave for three months after being shipwrecked in Malta in AD60.
The cave in Birzebbuga known as Ghar Hassan (Hassan’s Cave, the word ‘Ghar’ coming from the Arabic for cave or cavern) is famed for the legend of the Muslim pirate who was said to have lived there with his female Christian partner before they were either murdered or committed joint suicide.
The incidences and localities are endless because the Maltese Islands are literally studded with scores of caves and caverns, many in inland areas but many more around the coasts and therefore not visible from land and may only be accessed by swimmers, divers or a marine craft.
All this presents a boon to divers with a number of diving schools having been established over the years ranging from giving instructions to beginners to deeper adventures for the experienced because besides caves Malta is endowed with a plethora of wrecks around its coasts, some stretching back to Phoenician and Roman times and many others resulting from the Second World War.
The Blue Grotto in Zurrieq is famed for several daily boat trips where patrons are taken into a cave surrounded by crystal clear blue water and a bed of rainbow-coloured sands. Sadly, one other famed locality, Gozo’s Azure Window, collapsed earlier this year after a terrific storm and left a horrible void much missed by divers and marine enthusiasts, yet also an area that has sadly claimed many diving fatalities.
One relatively new sport that has taken root is recent years and is steadily growing is that of kayaking being practiced by a number of enthusiasts enabling the curious to penetrate lower-ceilinged and smaller caves at sea level into which only a kayak can squeeze but also as a form of natural physical exercise.
Groups of enthusiasts regularly band together and go adventure kayaking to places like Ghar Lapsi which is riddled with caves and caverns. It has become so popular that now a Kayak Federation has been formed and the hire of kayaks has become popular among tourists.
Above all, it is a relatively inexpensive sport and one that affords enormous visual embellishment and the excitement of squeezing into a space where perhaps nobody has ever squeezed into before, or for that matter seen before.
In Gozo the ‘Wied il-Mielah’ (i.e. Salty Valley) window has not actually replaced the Azure Window in popularity but is being accepted as a highly suitable replacement and adds to Gozo’s dimension of the famous Calypso’s Cave where legend has it that the Greek goddess Calypso imprisoned the hero Ulysses and kept him prisoner for a number of years because she was in love with him before finally releasing him to return to his native Greece.
Truth or Myth? The beauty is … never actually knowing!
On a weekly basis I am inserting a Maltese saying, expression or proverb and where possible English equivalents that will help give insight into the Maltese psyche.
“The braying of a donkey never reaches the portals of heaven”
Idiotic laments always go unheeded. Nobody pays attention to futile comments.