This was a Harrison Lewis group walk which was led by Dianne and myself. We had agonised somewhat over the route, which was quite challenging We almost called it off the day before because rain was forecast and we were worried about the steep slopes becoming slippery and dangerous in the wet. In the event the weather was mainly sunny and everyone got round safely. Apologies that some of the photos below are from my previous walks in this area. I was too busy concentrating on the route and the other walkers to do much photography today.
We met at the car park near the Neolithic temple at Ħaġar Qim. I arrived early and met a Maltese couple who were returning from a successful foray on the cliff top with two bags of edible snails!
We by-passed the entrance to the temple and walked down the slope towards the Mnajdra temple complex, departing the path at about the mid point and walking up to the Neoilithic water cisterns of il-Misqa (“water trough”), where we paused to take in the antiquity of the construction well over 5000 years old. Flora, the only dog on the walk today, had a surprise when she flopped into one of the cisterns, imagining it to be a puddle! They are very deep.
From il-Misqa, we took an interesting and unusual route past the quarries to the Għar Lapsi road. Not many know of its existence and Dianne and I only discovered it through some careful scouting of the route. Without it, a circular walk via Għar Lapsi would not have been viable.
There followed quite a long stretch, about an hour’s walking, on the road. But this was no hardship as it is a quiet road with spectacular sea views out to the island of Filfla. At the junction with the road from Siġġiewi we encountered a herd of goats, with some sheep, being moved to pasture. Goats, which used to be so common on the the island, are a rare sight nowadays. We had picked up a stray dog on the way but he was finally turned back by the aged pack which guards the entrance to Għar Lapsi.
We looked at the remains of the massive rock fall which occurred at Għar Lapsi towards the end of 2011. It was a good point at which to engage in a safety talk about the rough terrain ahead. It was especially important to avoid the tempting path which skirts the edge of the cliff on the approach to Ras il-Hanżir (“Pig’s Head”).
We made out way Southwards along the undercliff, enjoying wonderful views along the rugged coastline towards the Ħamrija tower. Some of us had to divest layers as the sun came out to warm the day up. We enjoyed a lunch stop on the slopes overlooking the Magħlaq Fault – which runs along the South coast of Malta from Bengħisa to the North West. The displacement is quite dramatic – 210 metres – at this point.
After lunch we came to the cliff ascent just before the Ħamrija tower. This was quite safe in the dry conditions but still a strenuous climb. Most felt it best to abandon walking sticks and use both hands for the scramble. We all had a sense of achievement when we arrived at the top to be greeted by the Congreve Memorial.
His Excellency Sir Walter Congreve VC KCB MVO, is one of my hobby-horses and I couldn’t resist saying a few words (well maybe more than a few) about him to the assembled company. He was a true hero in the grand tradition, as were his two sons who were both killed in action. He and his eldest son, William, are one of only two father-son pairs to win the Victoria Cross.
We walked on past the Ħamrija tower up to the point where progress is terminated by Wied Ħoxt (“Rough Valley”). We turned left up the edge of the wied and shortly arrived back at the Ħaġar Qim car park. It had been a strenuous morning and I hope everyone has forgiven me for the steep cliff ascent! Certainly, apart from one longstanding member of the Harrison Lewis group, this walk was a first for everyone. I’m not sure if we will repeat it next year though….