Undoubtedly, Gozo’s coast is a feast for adventure enthusiasts. Cycling, abseiling, kayaking and trekking are all part of the game. We met up with Jesmond Scerri, a scout, an educator, a family man, and a seasoned adventurer who has trekked around the coastal perimeter of Gozo in one go several times.
Words by VISITGOZO / MINISTRY FOR GOZO | Extract taken from May's 2023 Il-Bizzilla Magazine | Read more here
As a scout, Jesmond’s love for the outdoors and hiking is a basic inclination. He is inspired by the outdoors because it gives him freedom. He also enjoys being close to nature. In his words, in this day and age, being close to nature and having the possibility to admire it is a luxury. When travelling abroad, he often seeks longer holidays involving outdoor trekking in line with his lifestyle.
Jesmond explains that he had hiked around the different coastal zones of Gozo several times, even with the scouts, but he had never ventured a trail around the whole coast in one take. Inspired by a friend and ex-scout, who had tackled it before him, he decided to give it a go.
He describes the first time he trekked solo the whole route as an endurance challenge, in a little over ten hours of continuous, non-stop walking. However, these ten hours can expand depending on the physical ability and knowledge of the routes. Knowing the trails, finding the right time and season and being well-trained are essential for tackling this kind of challenge.
Jesmond believes that March, April, and May are the best months for tackling such an adventure, insisting that winter brings in the danger of slippery terrain and several factors that must be accounted for. For example, stormy weather and rough seas will make walking beside the shoreline unmanageable. This will inevitably lead to inland detours, thus increasing the length of the journey too. On the other, summer is too hot for such an excursion.
When it comes to the nitty gritty details of his adventure, Jesmond explains that he started his hike armed only with food, water and a first-aid box at around 5.30 from the salt-pan area in Xwejni. Planning had to be done in terms of time too. Knowing sunrise and sunset is essential as one cannot tackle specific dangerous terrain at dusk or when night-time is approaching. Similarly, Jesmond highlights the importance of planning the route. Being a local, Jesmond did not need maps, as he knows the island of Gozo pretty well. However, he advises that whoever intends to attempt this hike carefully studies the route, thus avoiding stumbling on a path that leads nowhere.
Jesmond’s coastal trekking took a clockwise route from Xwejni onto Marsalforn, Ramla, and so on, eventually returning to his starting point. Seeing that he tackled the first lap of his course in the semi-dark of dawn, he wanted to ensure the complete visibility of daytime when facing complex and dangerous sections of the path. He mentions that the most challenging parts of the coast are the areas between San Blas and Daħlet Qorrot, as the rough terrain is riddled with huge boulders. Similarly, he explains that climbing up the Xlendi cliff zone that leads to Kerċem is strenuous. By the time the stretch of trail is reached, tiredness would have kicked in, and the uphill walk involves constantly arching your neck upwards. He remarks that there were two points in Sannat where the coastal path was blocked; thus, he had to reroute inwards to continue his trail. Trekking the shoreline can be demanding as Gozo’s topography involves uphill climbs, rocky descents, and cliff edge stretches on precarious country paths. When it comes to the route itself, Jesmond explains that although there is a path, this can be narrow and easy to miss when it’s hidden by vegetation overgrowth.
When asked what the most beautiful thing about this challenge was, he cheerfully explained that it was a great satisfaction to conquer the route at fifty without much training. Moreover, for him, it is always inspiring to be close to nature as it is the best way to spend the day away from daily worries.
Subsequently, Jesmond tackled the trekking trail around Gozo again, at one time even in the company of his wife, and they split the route over two days, opting to do it more at leisure and camping outside at night time.
Finally, when asked for suggestions for those interested in tackling such a challenge, Jesmond, true to his scout spirit, is quick to answer:
1. Make detailed plans about the route and time. This is not a route to tackle lightly; planning is critical to ensure safety and success.
2. Try parts of the route in sections, and do not attempt it all in one go the first time around. In this way, you’ll know what to expect.
3. Ensure you have adequate physical training beforehand to avoid strain.
4. Equip yourself with professional trekking shoes with good grip. A pair of running shoes will not do. Think about water supply, food, a small first-aid kit, and possibly walking sticks. A GPS tracking device is also suggested for safety purposes.
5. Take suitable precautions and ensure you’re safe at all times. Consult with experts and professionals if this activity is out of your depth.
6. Doing the route with someone else is the best option. Apart from having good company, it is safer.
He smiles as he utters his last suggestion, ‘Have fun while you’re doing it!’, quickly adding that trekking in Gozo is still exciting even if you opt for a minor and less challenging route.
We would like to thank Mr Jesmond Scerri for sharing his adventures.
VisitGozo also advises that all adventures need the respective safety measures. Engaging in such activities with an experienced and professional guide is advisable.