Albert Town, Marsa. Walk straight past the rowdy Tiger Bar for fifty metres and enter the docks at Triq il-Bacir. Yes, this road is finally open and you can now trek all of the way along the quayside to Corradino Heights three miles away.
Make sure you watch your step as you tramp across oil and grit and step over juddering steel planks bridging the deep dug trenches slicing up the road – clang of steel on stone as the trucks and cranes and passenger cars snake along the quay, inching forward at ten miles per hour.
Take a first glance and the road is one hell of a dismal sight. But just care to scrutinize the cracked open and crumbling stone walls of abandoned shipping firm buildings and take time to peer at the derelict factories petered along the way.
Gouged out glass. Empty, rusted frames of smashed in windows light up the guts of sprawling, corrugated iron warehouses fenced off from the road by NO ENTRY signs.
Marooned hulks of stone and steel daubed gold and dazzling white in the late afternoon sun.
Choking clouds of fine, white dust whipped up by the crush of heavy traffic jerking sluggishly forward.
Revving, high powered engines, thumping disco music, potbellied dudes slung back real low in reclined car seats. Outstretched arms tattoed in black and red and faded green from wrist to shoulder. Gripping down tight-fisted onto steering wheel knobs with one hand and texting and dialing numbers with the other.
Safer to climb onto the three foot wide stone wall at the edge of the quay and frame a shot of the towering oil rig across the creek and let these guys get along before stepping back into the road!
Two hundred and fifty foot high shipping crane straddling the road.
Four ten foot pillars of steel splayed wide open – two pillars either side of the road and the traffic shuttling past far beneath the steel scaffolding rising up to the cabin of steel and glass halfway up the crane.
Four pillars of steel and burst open faded green paint bleeding rust stains streaking down to the ground.
One and a half miles on and I see it – there’s the exit to Triq il-Bacir: steel gate announcing the road is open to traffic from 6-21, Monday to Saturday.
Time to leave the Marsa docks behind and trudge up the long, steep hill rising up to Corradino Heights.
Stop for a drink at the football snack bar right next to the mini, artificial turf football pitches enclosed by twenty foot fences of steel wire mesh. The Paola Nursery Team is at practice and parents are clutching and hanging onto the steel wire staring at their kids running and sprinting and dribbling the ball.
But at Cospicua the aspect changes and all the steel is gone – mammoth bastions of limestone erected by the Crusader knights four hundred years ago.
Step back in time as you walk past padlocked doors flaking off the last remnants of paint, revealing deep cut grooves of wood grain laid bare to the slanting rays of sunlight setting stone and paintwork on fire.
Malta – Cristian and warrior past. Crosses nailed into stone and wood.
Double padlocked, shut grille gates and heavy wooden doors sealing off the Knights’ gunpowder armouries hidden away deep in the bowels of the stone bastions looming high above me.
Cospicua – winding labyrinth of narrow lanes and dead end alleys and steep stone stairways where life is lived out on the streets: hollering mum, dad at work on a jacked up ancient Skoda cursing his five year old daughter kid now yelling out to him “Can I play with those two kids down there Daddy?”
Peeling paintwork, shuttered doors of derelict houses locked up a long time ago – a walk down memory lane indeed.
Not easy to get past the shut doors of peeling paintwork and into the padlocked homes of the people living in this village – tough and earthy and with a practical down to the roots attitude to life. Yell and holler and bear prejudice and this will get you nowhere. But learn to be patient and ready to understand and share experiences and you’ll sure win the trust and soul of the people living behind Cospicua’s locked doors.
All Text and Photographs Copyright (c) David Bugeja 2014