You call that a hippo, this is a hippo!

Trip Start Oct 18, 2007
Trip End Nov 20, 2007

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 8 (Valletta - Malta) October 25

Just found out that the California fires are threatening the home of Michael and James our friends just east of LA - we had no idea the fires were anywhere near there.  The coverage is very focused on San Diego, but they do seem to be all over California and the number of people evacuated seems quite unbelievable.  There must be many people on the ship who are from California or who have family / friends there - not a nice way to spend their holiday worrying about home.
We woke early to watch the entry into the harbour before daylight.   Al was quite taken aback because he didn't expect it to be so beautiful (maybe when the sun comes up it will be ugly? - I doubt it.).  Arctic C (James Packer's converted tug boat) is in harbour.  Maybe we'll see them around. The stone is a beautiful golden colour.  Battlements everywhere.  Breakfast in room again to enjoy the scenery as we dock.  

We meet our little group (8 in total) and our private guide and driver on the dock.  Flora the guide and Michael the driver. 

We head off around the main island; Pete thinks it looks like he would expect Lebanon or Israel to look like - lots of rock walls and very dry.  We are very lucky that all of us are quite active - Hank and Suzanne are celebrating their 50 somethingth wedding anniversary, but must have married when they were 5 or 6. 

First stop Mdina, an ancient walled town not too far our of Valetta. We wander round here dodging the big HAL tour groups who have arrived at the same time.  It is a beautiful town, full of golden coloured buildings.   They have a bit of a door knocker obsession here, see the following pics to see what we mean. We wander right through the town and exit through where a train line once came in to the town.  Back on the bus and head for the Blue Grotto where we will get in little rowing boats and go in to the grotto.

We get to the Blue Grotto (cave in incredible blue water), but the sea is too rough to enter.   Hagar Qim (temple structure dating about 3500BC) is also closed for restoration , but there seems to be some tourists there when we drive by??  Go to the Ghingli Cliffs, beautiful but the whole island is shrouded in a weird haze and can't see much.  Buy some home made wine for EUR5, and a couple of prickly pear fruit to eat.  Interesting.
Instead of Hagar Qim we go to a cave called/at Gar Dhalam where they have found fossilised remains of animals that just don't fit with Malta - hippos, elephants, deer, foxes, wolves - that all either suffered with/had evolved into dwarfism or gigantism (can't remember what the correct terms are but they're good words!). 
We then head to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk for lunch - Ron's seafood restaurant (of course Al has the rabbit - what else would you eat in a fishing village). We're running a bit late and need to be at Hypogeum at 2pm or we miss out.  Michael drives like a crazy loon and we make it just in time.  The rest of the group are taken to the Tarxien Temples while we're at Hypogeum.
Hypogeum is...odd...but fantastic. Get given an audioguide each and are told there are pauses where you need to remain at the 'listening point' but the pauses are lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng and people start to move before they should.  There are some very mobility limited people in our small group of ten and I am very glad we aren't in a bigger group.  It would take forever.  It is very interesting.  The underground temple and burial chambers date back possibly 5000 years.  They were carved using only flint, obsidian and deer antlers.  Amazing.
The tour is pretty much over but we're a bit early so instead of just dropping us in the town they drive us around and give us a guided tour. Show us lots of Knight Templar related stuff.  Valetta is a very beautiful place. Water all around.  Lots of narrow streets and great buildings but there is an odd sense of decay? Wander down to the ship
and take some picks.  Can't work out how to get on board then Al realises he's lost his ship card. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
So.....  we trace our steps back along the dock and there it is, on the ground, right at the end.
Get back to the cabin and there is a shorex brochure for Lisbon-Rio that we don't initially take any notice of. 
Then I have a bot more of a read and notice there is a Marrakech shorex as we are in dock for 13 hours instead of 12.  The Marrakech trip is 12 hours so they weren't possible with our original port time.  We quickly discuss and even though it's $230 each we know this is something we really want to do so I go down to the shorex office and they are taking a list, suppose it's a wait list but there is nothing to wait for, it's all new - we're both 100% sure we want to go if we can, hope they can get enough people.  There'll definitely be room for Richard and Linda now with Tangier Tour but we don't want to say anything until the HAL shorex is confirmed.   
Another fun dinner swapping port stories.  All go to the show together.  Very funny guy called David Copperfield.  No, not that one.  This guy's English and extremely talented.  Singer, comedian, musician.  Bit worried he might get Al up on stage as he's right at the end but he picks some guys a couple of rows in front of us.  Then he spies Mary and Karen across the other side of the lounge and Mary is his target for the rest of the night.  He was fantastic.  Big thumbs up from everyone we've spoken to.  Late night but HAL shorex tomorrow so no effort required. 
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margotcu on

Thank you.
Thanks Pete and Al,

I've been dying for the next instalment and you didn't disappoint me. Glad you're having a wonderful time.

Keep up the great work,

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