Easter beckons and that means this years abroad trip. Niko is taking us to Malta and Gozo, somewhere the club last visited in 2012 (read about it here) and the Sarrozas are running amok again
Video by Arji Sarroza
It could easily be said that whilst some of us have spent the last week tidily putting away clothes and dive gear, the rest of us mere mortals have unwisely decided to leave such small things as packing to the early hours of the morning. One certain member of the trip most definitely spent a solid five hours wailing like a baby whilst attempting to shove a set of club regs and BC into a 50x30cm duffel. Meanwhile there were others who decided to embrace the entirety of their wardrobe instead.
Once we arrive at the airport, much faff is had during check in. Those of us who don’t take eons to drop off their luggage spend a good few minutes being repeatedly offered a banana by Niko. Then there’s the awkwardness of going through airport security with regs and dive computers, especially when Simon’s phone starts to ring and Will discovers that he has air rifle pellets in his pockets.
Then comes food where we fill out the dreaded PADI paperwork and Niko decides to demonstrate just how an EpiPen works using Chris’s leg.
Following landing in Gozo we board the minibus that takes us from the airport and onto the ferry, at which point Maddy decides that this is a perfectly good time to start on the gin.
Upon arrival at the villas we run around like 5 year olds (a pool! There’s a pool!) and then attempt a movie, but the three Sarrozas’s and Jennings’s cuddly snuggling is making everyone uncomfortable so it’s off to bed.
First dives of the week! The nominated drivers are Steve, Niko, Rob, and Chris, who immediately give a nod to Malta as one of the few countries in Europe who drive on the correct side of the road. Our first dive site is Mgarr Ix-Xini, the road down to which is not so much a road as a near vertical drop.
The dive is a shore entry into the bay, where we follow the wall to explore the two underwater caves located alongside it. There is an awkward bobbing at the surface for some individuals, as Claire for one has a dry suit with clown shoes.
The second dive is more memorable for some, as five minutes into the dive Archi notices the hundreds of jellyfish that have suddenly descended upon us. Those who have waded in sans hood then spend a few minutes cowering on the sea bed with their hands over their head.
Next comes the trip to Lidl where all of us spy the pastry aisle and immediately snatch up a jam doughnut (or two) which is then inhaled in one.
At the dive centre we discover that we aren’t quite the well oiled machine as Niko almost forgets his BC and Steve his suit.
Then after some more faff we arrive at the second location where we dive a section of Ix-Xatt L’ahmar, or “Red Bay”.
This site was made a quick favourite by its conveniently made rock formations, which we all choose to bask on after the first dive. Both Maddy and Mark strip off to their bare essentials, the end result being sun burn and blisters for the first and a hot stone massage for the second. Claire forgets that she has a stylish rash vest on and so gets a perfect circular burn on her back, whilst Steve with his red rash vest, dark sunglasses and bandana comes off as an 80’s themed pirate. Chris who also dons a bandana looks slightly less suave.
Today we dive a different part of Ix-Xatt L’ahmar which involves some mild underwater spelunking. Archi gets booked for a thermo-clime waz and the three Sarrozas all get booked for Jenga diving. Will also gets booked for underwater romping.
Then back off to Lidl to gather meatstuffs and ice-cream for the BBQ. En route Claire gets far too obsessed with the game “Would you rather”, which continues into dinner where Rob and Chris have a lengthy debate over “No arms or no penis?” and Will and Claire debate “No food or no sex?”. Chris gets booked for serving pork tartare and everyone stops to marvel at Mark’s dinner, which is comprised of a ginormous sausage which frankly resembles the biggest poo in the world. Then we drop jaws at Simon’s two bagels which break the parentally enforced rule of “Never eat anything bigger than your head”. Claire then gets booked for playing “dead finger” and “the elbow test” as she is over the age of 10.
After dinner we all drink to the classic game of “Never Have I ever” where all our eyes are opened to Niko’s and Maddy’s past shenanigans. Even Yukari and Steve get a good nod or two.
Xwejni Bay gets immediate approval for having ice-cream close by, though the intimidating depth of 2m in the bay makes it feel like we’re diving in Ariel’s back garden. It does prove useful however for Mark, Niko, Rob, and Chris who use the shallow waters to practice diving with side-mounts. Suffice to say watching them log roll in the water did give onlookers a few giggles, as did the shirt of one of the men who worked at the dive centre, which read: “I don’t need sex, the government fucks me everyday”.
After the day’s dive we are treated to a lecture by serious bad ass Tom Steiner on Technical Diving, something that does not fail to make everyone feel extremely intimidated. After five minutes we realise we know absolutely nothing about the mechanics of diving, and stick to nodding our heads knowingly instead.
Another night on the town! Rob and Rosie ditch us for a romantic meal and sexy times, so it’s everyone else – minus the Sarrozas, who are determined to finish off all the red meat in the villas – to a seaside restaurant. Pimblett, Maddy, Mark, Chris, Steve, and Niko then stay out late and return uproariously jolly.
The Blue Hole gets written off after we arrive at the site and the waves are like something out of The Perfect Storm. And whilst some of us get technical and debate the pros and cons, the majority of us take one look at the water, shake our heads, and say “fuck this shit” before stomping off to the van.
Instead we head off to Ix-Xlendi, where the combination of an extremely steep hill and a shitty old truck means a certain Bulgarian man is stuck at the bottom ranting and raving. Meanwhile the rest of us skip down the gazillion steps to check out the entry point – which due to construction is a very dodgy set of rocks.
These dives involve swimming across the bay and down through a tunnel that drops to 10m. It is on these dives that Will takes Anna’s 60 minute virginity whilst she takes his 70. Niko cracks his fins mid dive and promptly blames Yukari. He then steals Mark’s fins off of his feet on the way back. For his second dive Niko proceeds to use Archi’s fins and upon returning them thanks him by telling him that “they are shit”.
Night dive bitches! We make a quick stop at the villas where Anna learns that SOMEONE has eaten the last bit of her chocolate. Then off we drive to get pizza which we wait an insanely long time for. A good time later we arrive at Mgarr Ix-Xini (the first dive site) where the owner of the nearby restaurant storms out and threatens to call the police because of Niko’s blasé parking. Following this comes the briefing on the do’s and don’ts for the dive. To quote Niko: “Do not dive for longer than forty minutes. If you do, and I call the coastguard, and you turn out to be all right, when you get out, you will not be all right.” Everyone abides by this very terrifying statement with the exception of Anna, Will, and the Sarroza brothers, who sheepishly emerge from the water at 42 and 43 minutes and get very rightly told off by Rosie.
Ed: Will was out on time, and Niko was only slightly displeased.
Last day of diving! We go back to Ix-Xatt L’ahmar where we dive a wreck that drops down to 35m at the bow and 42m at the stern. Despite the 35m limit this does not stop Maddy from getting narked. Then we have fun times with Yukari’s cylinder when it goes walkabout off the edge of the cliff to the soundtrack of a nearby donkey. Steve then becomes the new bad ass of the week as he nimbly clambers down to stabilize it.
Following the first dive we move over to a different section of the site which makes for a perfect group photo afterwards. Niko, Rob, and Chris make their debut as UoNSSAC’s Top Gear members, whilst Claire, Yukari, the Sarrozas, Mark, and Will revert back to childhood and run around giving each other piggy backs.
We then spruce up for dinner where we award Niko with boys swimming trunks which he eagerly places on his head and poses with.
Cut to drunkenly meandering back through the streets of Gozo to the villas where we have a mini post-lash. Anna and Will belt their hearts out to Frozen’s “Let It Go”, whilst Mark, Claire, and Yukari are exposed to “This is what crazy sounds like” for the first time. Will and a certain Sarroza then get the last booking of the week for tombstoning off the balcony and into the pool.
*Sob*. It’s time to pack away our clothes and dive gear, though one villa takes much longer than the other. Claire and Will have fun attempting to clean out a half cooked three day old chicken from the oven, whilst Chris does not grace us with his presence until the cleaning ladies are standing outside looking slightly pissed off.
After Anna and Yukari dispense the last of their peach vodka into a couple of Sprite bottles we head off to Ir-Ramla il-Hamra for ice cream and some strangely orange sand. Inescapably, Niko’s very, very low hung speedos make an appearance and we are all forced to avert our eyes as he strides a la Southern Comfort man into the 17 degree water.
Then it’s back to the mini bus – which bears an uncanny resemblance to The Magic School Bus – where Sunday’s traffic leads to a few porkies being told by the driver to get us on the ferry. We, the very very close friends of the minister, then proceed cheekily on board, where we park ourselves at the exit point. This becomes unfortunate when the driver is a no-show and we are all left standing around awkwardly whilst the bus blocks every single vehicle onboard. Luckily the driver eventually shows (to the yells of the ferrymen, who are starting to look a bit scary) and we rev up and out of there to the airport post-haste.
Overall, a fantastic trip. Many thanks to those who organised and who put their blood, sweat, and literal tears into getting through the week with as much grace as possible. A big thanks as well to those at Gozo Technical Diving: Tom, Audrey, and Bill, who with good humour and an easy going attitude made that week so much easier.
Till next time!
Written by Anna Hay
Archi, Arji, and Arvin Sarroza