When it comes to travel, I’m not much of a planner. Instead, I like to go to a place, get a feel for it, talk to the locals, and see where I end up. My favourite travel experiences have been through very random circumstances, generated by locals or just following my nose rather than following guidebooks. I may skim some travel blogs to look at pictures but that’s about it. My travel style has evolved somewhat over the years — eg., I used to be a museum hound but in recent years I’ve all but stopped visiting museums. Now that I’m not travelling solo most of the time anymore, my ability to randomize the days is limited to what Paulo will tolerate. And I’m glad that between two of us there is one person who loves trip planning, because if we were more like each other we’d be either floundering on the road or heading for divorce from the planning conflicts.
So how did we end up at this little cave in Gozo? I — wait for it — randomly met a Finnish guy and his Gozitan taxi driver and struck up a deal for five hours of being chauffeured around Gozo the next day. It was the Gozitan taxi driver who pointed us to the cave, located around the corner from an ornate church. With two sites to visit, he dropped us off and let us explore both while he took a break.
Our little group of four (a Finn, Brazilian, Canadian, and Portuguese) followed the arrows marked “Ninu’s Cave” to this door at No. 15 January Street. I think we were all surprised that the cave was located below an ordinary residential neighbourhood. The caves I’ve been to around the USA and New Zealand were all a bit remote, probably discovered long before any neighbourhoods had sprung up.
From Visit Gozo:
To the rear of an ordinary house at No 15 January Street, ix-Xagħra is this natural cave discovered in 1888 by local resident Joseph Rapa. The cave, now well illuminated by electric lights, is remarkable for its plethora of natural stalactites and stalagmites.
The cave is entered via a 4m descent down a flight of steps, which ends in a large chamber approximately 20 m by 8m. The calcification of water dripping from the cave ceiling has formed a forest of magnificent columns. There are even a few helictites (curved stalectites). Most of the formations are now dry and the same colour as the surrounding rock but some remain semitransparent and it is possible to see the rings formed as they grew.
The entrance fee to the cave is one euro, collected by the lady in the photo above, who is the wife of the grandson of Joseph Rapa, the founder of the cave. When she waved us through the first door it felt very much like we were being ushered into her home. She walked slowly with a cane, taking us down a corridor to the back of the house. There she pointed to an exterior door to the cave, instructing us to go down the stairs while she went to flip on the lights.
It’s a good thing there were only four of us — and none of us tall — because there isn’t much room down there. But the lack of space lends to the otherworldly atmosphere found in caves, where time seems to stand still. With only echoes and the occasional drip, being underground and surrounded by formations made it easy to imagine Joseph Rapa digging for a well in 1888 and discovering this instead. It was around the time incandescent lightbulbs were invented, which meant he’d very likely explored this cave with other light sources like candles, amplifying the thrill of the discovery. (It would be downright spooky for some.)
Ninu’s Cave is a cheap and pleasant little diversion from the scorch of Malta’s summer sun, unless you have claustrophobic tendencies or are exceptionally tall. In that case, here are some pictures to spare you…
June 17, 2015
Album: Malta 2015