Having left Marija, we descended towards San Niklaw bay and proceeded towards Tal-Hmara, literally ‘Of the Donkey’. It is reached by walking past the hotel tennis courts, hugged on the sides by planted tamarisks. In front of us we were regaled with a stretch of rugged coastline.
Being void of significant indention, there is no shelter from the elements, thus, discouraging the growth of vegetation. Erosion has taken its toll on the shoreline. On a closer look one identifies the coastal yellow flowers, growing in clusters of earth clumped in hidden corners of the littoral.
This is the golden samphire, Inula crithmoides, known locally as il-hasur or ix-xorbett. This plant thrives close to the strandline. We are at the closest point to Gozo. A trodden pathway through the rocks and boulders, as if God-sent, suggests the best way to reach a higher natural stone platform. The surrounding rock is jagged, as if suggesting that nothing sweet in life is attained without pain.
Compose yourself on your arrival, regain your normal heartbeat, close your eyes and attempt to transpose yourself, just as I have, to the 1920s, when the Cominan community gathered here to participate in a mass celebrated on the opposing island. Conscious that Tal-Hmara was linked with reverence makes you view the location through different light. Should your heart be pure enough you shall feel the radiant aura pouring in. The sense of feeling free, with the clear sea beneath you produces a sublime harmony. You begin to feel more at peace with yourself, only if you let go. If perchance it is breezy you shall notice the salt, brought in by Mediterranean spray, on your taste buds.
The view has barely changed. On the right, across the channel to Gozo, one sees the remains of 1732 Saint Anthony Battery, known as Il-Fortin, protruding on the Qala promontory. Entangled in some legal issue regarding its ownership has led it to dilapidate. Closer are the steppe and clay slopes, whereas straight ahead lies Hondoq ir-Rummien, Pomegranate Gorge, and its chapel dedicated to Santa Marija Tal-Blat. The chapel can be seen at the side of a winding road that snakes past it.
To its side is a disused quarry, which in 1937 provided the stone to erect the Great War Memorial in Floriana.
Behind the rock you are standing on is a small crevice, perhaps 80 feet in length, that provides a tempting snorkeling place, home to the damsel and cardinal fish.
Aristophanes did say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ For those who are sunk in materialism Tal-Hmara is nothing but an austere soulless mass of rocks; for those fortunate enough to be initiated in evolutionary humanism, it is the world as God made it. Now hush, I can feel the breeze.
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