Beauty, Unappreciated

As soon as the Azure Window collapsed into the sea the search was on for new natural beauty spots to fill the void.  A similar arch in Wied il-Mielah was immediately targeted both by those eager to lock down their source of income but although it is undeniably impressive this arch is not as majestic or photogenic as the one that stood in Dwejra.

And so people kept on looking for an alternative.  None have been found – how could they? – yet other sites that were previously considered to be too much trouble to get to are now increasing in popularity.  

The cave known as Tal-Mixta is one of those.  It has made an appearance in billboards promoting a trip to Gozo and although its location has not been widely publicised people are talking about it, not least on social media where one good photo can reach thousands.

Getting to it requires a bit of an effort, further proof that as yet it has not graduated into a full blown tourist attraction.  There are no signs that show the way (although it is clearly marked on walking routes laid down by the Nadur local council) and there is an element of exploration involved in getting to it.  Even when you do get to the place you need to walk on the plateau until you are just in front of it to really see it.

When you do you see an entrance in the form of a narrow staircase hewn in rock that hides away what you’re walking into such that it spontaneously raises the levels of anticipation as soon as you start going down.   And then you see it; a breath taking view of Ramla Bay.  

That first impact truly is stunning, a riot of vibrant colours framed by the natural features of the cave mouth.

It is easy to see why people would love this spot.  It is beautiful, true, but it also offers a fantastic backdrop for photos.  That, at least, is the plan because reality is slightly different.  For all the difficulty in getting there, people are finding out about this cave meaning that what in their minds is an opportunity for a romantic photo – this cave seems to be particularly popular with young couples – becomes anything but.  

Because the second thing that you notice after walking down the cave’s entrance is the number of people there, walking around in awkward and self-conscious silence hoping that everyone else would leave so that they can take their own photo.  Which will probably make it onto social media and drive more even people to tal-Mixta making it even harder for those who come afterwards.

It is a sad reflection of what we have become that the desire to mark your presence with an image is more powerful than the natural reaction to absorb the beauty laid out in front of you.  On a typical visit you will see more people struggling with the lighting settings on their mobile phones – the harshness of the light outside the cave means that many will leave disappointed, with only their silhouette showing – than ones simply observing what they can see.

For there is plenty to see and think about.  The beauty of the bay, obviously, but also the ignorance of man in the form of rubbish dotting the countryside just outside the cave.

There is also the cave itself.  Whilst most of it is natural beauty there are visible structures that in the past were probably used as mangers and animal pens.  The name of the cave – Mixta – is a derivative of Mxett which means wintering so this is a place where animals could be sheltered in the harshest days of winter.

Dig deeper, however, and this cave will release more secrets.  A few paces away from the cave mouth is a hole that has quite clearly been carved out by man rather than the elements.  This was used to house a cannon, used in the time of the Knights of Malta to scare away any vessel thinking of anchoring in the bay and wreaking havoc in the valley below.

Time has killed off the need for both those uses but granted a new role for this vantage point.  Whether it comes to be appreciated for it remains to be seen.

Breath taking view.  And a rusting, dumped fridge


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