Sunday, August 21, 2016

Malta: Day 5 - Marsaxlokk Market

Our big adventure to Marsaxlokk turned out to be less of an adventure and more of a freak out. More on that later. 

We had an early breakfast and headed to the bus stop to get the bus for Marsaxlokk. On Sundays, the small village with a population of about 3,500 is transformed into a giant outdoor market along the town's waterfront that goes on for a few kilometres. 

The heat just waiting in the shade for the bus was already intense. We waited for more than one hour and when I decided that I'd had enough and would go back to the apartment, the bus arrived, quite full because everyone in Valletta must have had the same idea. 

It was a 30 minute bus ride but stifling heat and a crowded bus did not make for a pleasant half hour.  We headed to the water front and even with our trusty umbrellas providing much needed shade, the air was hot, so it was no comfort. Added to that, the massive crowd of people, combined with the smell of raw fish, it was enough to make me want to head back to the bus stop and go back to town.   

We persevered, but only because I kept reminding myself that I've wanted to come to Malta for a very long time and since we already missed one day because of our missed flight, I was going to see as much as I could, even if it was unpleasant. I took some pictures of vendors selling fresh seafood and local cheeses and veggies but after a kilometre of row upon row of cheap flea market items, I was ready to find a shady place to have a cool drink.

We walked around in the hot sun which drained the last bit of energy I had and collapsed into a couple of vacant chairs (the only ones we could find was at a cafe selling coffee on a 35C day. I needed a cold drink badly but I instead ordered a LATTE! How is that for a cold drink? It was a hot drink! But it turned out to be just what I needed after all - a jolt of caffeine and some internal heat. We sat long enough to cool off if you can do that when it's sweltering then headed back through town to the bus stop.

There we were at the bus stop waiting for the bus and minding our own business. The bus came along after 40 minutes and there was such a crowd, that I was sure we'd not be able to get on. People were shoving and pushing to get to the front. We joined the jostling crowd and inched along. There were two kind young men were in front of us and one of them touched me on the shoulder and waved me in front of him; he made a gesture that I should keep my bag close to me. Of course I was doing that anyway but I pulled my handbag a bit closer.

I am almost certain that in that instant, his friend reached into Robin's pocket on the leg of his cargo pant just as Robin was pulling his bag closer and boarding the bus and lifted Robin's pouch with his money and passport. We were the last passengers to board so it must have happened literally seconds before we boarded by the two lovely "gentlemen" who offered to let us get on before them and then told us to mind our bags.

It was so fast that I did not realize it happened until I got into the bus and asked Robin to check for his wallet. Something about the two men suddenly seemed suspicious. Maybe it was the fact that they did not board the bus behind us. They kept waving other people in front of them so they never had to board.

I thought Robin was joking when he said he passport was stolen because the same thing happened in Athens. I thought for sure it would not happen twice, especially when I bought a chest wallet for him soon after we returned from Athens a few years ago. And I even packed it for this trip! I was ready to flip right out but when he had such a panicked look on his face, I fast forwarded to the nightmare we'd have to get a temporary passport with no embassy in Malta and our flight reservation tomorrow to meet Sunita and her family in Rome.

Standing beside us was a young couple from Europe (by their accent). He reached down on the floor just as I was about to get angry and said "Did anyone lose a passport?" Robin recognized his passport right away because it had an address sticker on the cover. I was in shock! I could not believe it.

Thieves with a conscience! I guess they were only looking for money and had no interest in the passport. They managed to lift the wallet without Robin realizing it, rifle through it, take the money and throw the passport into the bus with us none the wiser. It must have taken 30 seconds. They got about 100 Euros which fortunately for us, was not all the money we had. Robin had put some in another pocket so that was safe. 

We went back to Floriana very subdued but grateful that it was a very close call this time. We did not have to miss another flight or ruin our vacation. We got the passport. Money can easily be replaced. When we told Subhadra, she could not believe what had happened. Frankly, neither could we. 

We showered and freshened up and went back to The Grannaries for our last night's dinner. 

Duck breast

Fish and fries

Hazelnut tart
Everything at dinner was excellent. I was happy about that because much of the rest of the trip did not go as planned and the sights that I so wanted to see were somehow disappointing. Maybe another time....

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