Sunday, November 9, 2014

Running in Malta: North West Malta and the Victoria Lines

No, I didn't go back to Malta this weekend! This is just an old draft I have meant to come back to for a while but had other things to discuss about on my blog.

As I mentioned in my other post about the other island of the Maltese archipelago, Gozo, Malta's main island is much more crowded than it's little sister. Yet, I was surprised by how much country side you can find once you leave the capital, Valetta, the tourist areas such as St Paul's Bay, or the busy bus routes and car traffic on the main roads.

There is actually one very particular place where you won't see any vehicle, that is on the trail along the impressive Victoria Lines, a China wall-type of project aiming at protecting Valetta from invaders, but a huge civil engineering endeavor which proved useless at the end of the nineteen century and was abandoned a few years only after being completed. I don't know if that's one of the human artifacts that you can see from space but, several miles long, that may be. As long as astronauts know where to look at to find Malta in the Mediterranean Sea...! ;-)
Now, it has been so forgotten or abandoned that some sections of the wall have fallen since and the trail is barely practicable in places. Here is a great website with great detailed instructions and pictures which will help you find your way would you be visiting Malta and up for such a hike. I couldn't print them out before my run but I had read them enough to get the principle which is to follow the natural fault line the wall was built along. Sounds like pretty simple instructions, but Mother Nature has put some obstacles in the way to make the run, or hike, more interesting.

Before reaching the west end of the Victoria Lines, my loop started in Bugibha. I first ran through Burmarrad and stopped first in Mosta to have a quick look at the very impressive Domo.
I could feel I wasn't welcome to get inside in shorts, so I just had a peek from the entrance of the church:
Then a few more miles up to the spectacular Medna, an ancient fortified city which is worth a day to visit and appreciate. Here are a few pictures but see more in my Picasa album:





Agn├Ęs had found a flier describing a hike from Medna to the cliffs of Dingli. This is part of a program promoting "Malta going rural" so I was hoping for some trails. It was all asphalt instead but on a much quieter road at least.




The cliffs weren't as impressive as the ones I saw on the North and West sides of Gozo but still worth it if you can only visit the main island.

I wanted to continue along the coast but a local dissuaded me, claiming that I will have to go across private fields, something I didn't find appropriate from what I read on a few websites and guides. Needless to say, I didn't see any other runner on my long runs, so there is still much to do for Malta to promote "going rural" to tourists...

From Dingli I ran on the road to Rabbat then West again toward Bahrija. It took me a few failed attempts, field crossings and bush wacking to find the Victoria Lines and I was relieved when I spotted the first major landmark, Fort Bingemma (which is actually inhabited, albeit without the canons nowadays!). A superb 360-degree view position above the whole island, the English had found the perfect spot to defend the island!


Going though rocky or overgrown sections, I slowly made my way back toward Mosta.


On the other hand, I was very impressed by the great conditions of the Dwejra Lines, a double wall blocking a narrow valley which invaders would have had to go through.




With the high temperature and slow progression due to the terrain and photo opportunity stops, I did sweat a lot and didn't follow the Lines beyond Mosta as they continue all the way down to the Sea on the East Coast of the island.

Instead, I came back to my starting point in Bugibha for a 27.8-mile loop (Garmin Connect activity):

Long enough run 5 days before my 100th ultra race which I completed on the following Saturday, the PCTR Summer Solstice in San Francisco. It was my first 24-hour format ultra and, back in June, I was quite excited to figure out how far/long I'll be able to go in a day (I ran 10 100-milers, finishing 7 of them, but never ran for more than 21 hours).

Anyway, based on this week spent on Gozo and Malta, I strongly recommend a visit to these amazing islands, if not for the limited trail running opportunities, at least for its unique and amazingly rich history heritage!

1 comment:

Trude Bacher-Olsen said...

These are some beuatiful routes. I need to start panning my trip. Thank you!

Do you plan to do any running around Scandinavia?