I had arrived in Gozo the day before and was excited to have a week dedicated to relaxing and writing. The little island is a third of the size of small Malta and with it’s scenic ocean views, tiny villages and laid back attitude I was content to have a quiet days with some peace at the beach. I decided to spend the morning exploring Ggantija Temples, a UNESCO site and then rewarding my educational efforts with some beach time later in the day not realizing I would be needing my bathing suit while being soaked by rain water NOT by the refreshing waves of the Mediterranean.
As usual, I was too busy looking out the bus window to notice my stop and I missed it by about a mile. I jumped off the next chance I had and decided to wander through some of the quiet residential streets, peering over fences looking into small side gardens, full of autumnal goodies and fresh flowers.
Aside from some cats, which seem to be always poking around street corners on the island, it was noiseless and deserted, as if people had actually bothered to watched the weather channel and knew what was about to come.
Ggantija is one of the world’s oldest man made structures making it one of Malta’s most important archeological sites. Ggantija translates to giant, getting it’s name from the structure thought to be from giants as some of the megaliths are over fifty tons! It’s amazing to learn how the temples were built before the Pyramids and Stonehenge by rolling slabs over large stone spheres to aid in construction since it was before the inception of the wheel.
The temples were built dedicated to Mother Earth and would have most likely been an ancient pilgrimage site. They had found some artifacts and statues but excavation first started back in the late eighteenth century after visitors could roam freely around the temples taking things as souvenirs from their visit and things fell into decay.
Even hundreds of years ago people were tagging structures with a prehistoric “I was here” and leaving their mark. Several of the megaliths have names, dates and symbols where tourists had come to see the old giant structure leaving their initials behind, damaging the original stone but creating a unique piece of anthropological history. These areas are sectioned off for us to see but not add to the “art”.
It is amazing to see a structure that has survived so long and is still standing however there are newer efforts to keep the area preserved. There is scaffolding that surrounds some of the ruins to help with conservation efforts including a walkway that guides you through the temples so not to disturb the ancient monument.
I noticed the darkening of the sky in the distance beyond the farm land and was mesmerized by the quick movement of the clouds, a dark menacing fluff gliding across the sky moving closer and closer. You could see the rain beating down just within eyesight and as the overcast tumbled towards me the rain chased after it.
The darkness before us almost pushed the light above us creating a bizarre glow for a brief moment in the space around the temples which quickly vanished as the winds picked up and moved wildly through the palm trees. The gusts were startling as my back was initially away from the approaching storm, blustering and howling, making itself known.
Spellbound by way this natural event was playing out in front of me I froze for a moment, then snapped a few photos hoping to capture the movement rushing towards me. As I pulled my face from the viewfinder I looked around and realized the few people visiting the site had begun to race towards the walkway and back up to the visitors center.
As I started to realize this would be a good time to follow the crowd and head for cover, large drops of rain started to pound down, fiercely beating into the soil, creating small round clouds of dust lifting off the ground. The droplets were heavy and cold and I raced full speed along the metal walkway toward the safety of the visitors center as the thunder and lightening shouted above me. Because being on a metal boardwalk in the middle of a field in the epicenter of a crazy intense lightening storm is the most logical place to be. I envisioned sharing a little story at the bar back in town and it going something like this:
I made it back to shelter just before the hail started to spill down and decided to dry off and come up with a plan on what to do next. I had no idea when the bus was coming next and wasn’t about to wait by the side of the road.
I peered out of the doorway trying to calculate what my next move would be feeling like I’d be stuck inside the little UNESCO visitors office for the rest of the day. I had a glimmer of hope because of the size of the island, most of the locals have a saying that goes,
“if you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.”
I decided to go with the “wait it out” method and a little over ninety minutes later I decided to go with the “wait it out in the rain while waiting for the bus” method. Without an umbrella I wrapped myself up in my beach sarong relinquishing all hope to work on my tan in the afternoon. I patiently waited for the bus in the storm as the occasional car drove by shaking their heads at the lunatic in the pouring rain on the side of the road.
The beach would be there tomorrow but for today, nature put on quite a show.