What to Take, How Long Will it Take? What Fitness Levels do you Need?
In preparation for our group treks from one side of Malta to the other, along The Victoria Lines (a military defense wall built between 1888 - 1899), Anne and myself mapped out the walk to take first hand notes of any possible risk scenarios and to gauge fitness and times levels etc.
11:30am: It was already 26 degrees. At the start, close to the cliff edge at Fomm ir-Rih, with a rather strong breeze, we did wonder if a jacket or top would be handy to have, but after just 20 minutes we realized that the lighter you travel, the better this will be. And, by the time the mid-day sun was above us, and a few hours of trekking was under way, it felt sweltering out there and we were begging for more of that breeze!
Personally, I know these areas and terrain quite well, and I’ve walked or run part of the Victoria Lines sections before, but given that the wall is basically ‘a ruin’, and dilapidated to nonexistent in some parts, there are times when first-timers could get seriously lost by doubling back and getting back on the main roads. There are also some concerning ‘Private’ or ‘Keep Out’ signs dotted along the route which could actually end your trek if you were unaware of which ones to adhere to or to pass without trespassing. Luckily, many of these are relating to adjacent properties or are in fact put up illegally. We spoke to a few of the landowners along the route who were very relaxed about the whole issue and pointed us in the right direction.
What did surprise us a little is the length of the trek, and the fitness levels required. Admittedly, we did fast-pace it, but still, trekking at a pace with no more than a few 2 minute breaks, it’s still a 7-8 hour slog which will definitely drain you by the time we conclude.
A lot of this has to do with the ups and downs of the terrain, a few walls to climb and the loose dust and rocks underfoot, which requires that additional mental focus. Not to put you off by describing an all-out military assault course, but our thoughts whilst doing the trek were along the lines of ‘we have to let people know about these things’, because once you get started, you’re out in the wilderness with no obvious points to step out and get a bus back.
Let’s quickly get back to that wall climbing. There’s a few boulders to scale, a few valley ‘stop walls’ that we walk on top of (less than half a meter wide with a 5 – 10 meter drop either and a few gusts of wind to rack your nerves). Some people wouldn’t be fazed by this, but it was enough for Anne to crawl across on all fours (muttering a few obscenities to herself)!
Parts of the walk required a steep climb down into the valley, a few ledges, but nothing too scary.
Parts of the wall are also rather overgrown with shrubs; dry, tough prickly brambles to be more precise, which can scratch up the shins rather well, but nothing that long socks or trekking leggings won’t prevent.
Before leaving, I plastered on factor 20 sunscreen, but still my neck and exposed parts were resembling crispy bacon by the time we finished. Sunblock and hat is a must!
We drank around a litre during the first section and very thirsty by the time we reached the half way point, our fruit truck. Fruits and more water were very much needed. I’d suggest carrying 4 small water bottles which will soon become light in your back-back as you’ll consume them, and you can buy the same again from the truck half way through.
We did encounter a few moments of curious dogs. They 'seemed' to be safe in the grounds of the farms, or on the roofs of the buildings, but 1 or 2 also seemed to be freely moving towards us. This is not an issue for most, but it certailny gets my guard up, so if you're petrified of barking dogs, be warned, it's part of the scenery, but certainly not a put-off.
To summarize, this trek is a very pleasant day out. The views are great, and although the walk can be done at a slow pace, there are a few tricky parts. As the fitness level surprised us, we have built in a half way point, which is a break at a fruit truck, and to purchase some extra water. This is at Mosta, where there are buses back to Sliema for those who think 4-5 hours of trekking is enough, and do not fancy to take on the bit of extra climbing which is more frequent and challenging on the second part of the trek.
No Alcohol the night before
Good healthy breakfast before you leave
Put on sunblock before you leave
Bring at least 4 small bottles of water in your back pack
A banana/fruit or healthy snacks (eat as you go)
Sunblock & hat
Sturdy trekking shoes, preferably with ankle support
Spare t-shirt/vest (sweat and dust are not a great combo)
Long socks or leggings (brambles)
Phone & money (emergency)