Friday, 26 April 2013

Day Four: Discovering the Azure Window - the scenery is beautiful yet fragile.

Gozo: Day Four

Go for an early morning climb to get a clear view of Xlendi, where our hotel is based. Wind is strong so take refuge in cleft of rock. Above me an array of birds mirror my actions. I jump as gun shots are fired above. It's shooting season and for a limited period of the day and for a few weeks only, it is legal to shoot Turtle Dove and Quail. As each shot fires yet more birds congregate in safety. I shan't tell. Join the painters today who after consulting the locals, change schedule and head for Dwerja as winds are so strong. Here the Azure Window, a prominent landmark is the attraction but is eroding fast due to ferocious waves and weather. It's predicted within 20 years it will be a mere sea stack. Waves pound dramatically through and completely fill the arch. I chat with Joan Grima from Gallery Crystal, which sells beautiful Gozo Glass. She grew up with this arch and admits she will be sad to see it disappear. I buy a vase from their Seaweed collection and pendant to remind me of this place. Fragility yet beauty sums up the scenery.

Ian Barber and his wife Carol, who act as the support team for Authentic Adventures, live in Gozo and fill us in about Dwerja's history. Ian points out Fungus Rock, believed to grow fungus containing healing properties. However in the 17th and 18th centuries anyone caught on this rock was put in the galleys for three years. A nearby smaller rock - Crocodile Rock - is so named for obvious reasons with its menacing jaw like form. Intrigued by the number of trace fossils embedded in the stone under foot, I receive an informative marine biology lesson from Roger, indicating his former BBC role as a senior producer on popular natural history documentaries. I attempt to capture the fossil imprints by tracing them in graphite and ink intense pencil before tackling the famous arch, which my fellow painters embrace determinedly despite losing various tools and canvases in the process due to the high winds.
Hilary Archer paints in acrylics

Paul Hewson paints an old doorway

The Azure window - in artists book form

The word Picnic now has a new definition for me. Mine normally consists of sandwiches wrapped in tin foil. Today we are given ceramic plates, proper cutlery and top notch island-grown salads, as we shelter in a fossilised sand dune. Enjoy the warmth of the sun rays and drink in bird sounds and those of squealing youngsters braving the chilly waters in the distance. Pretend to be a fossil detective and take tracings of the indentations left by these once-living creatures. Watch the brave, pull on wet suits and heavy diving equipment and disappear under the water surface, before seeking out members of the painting party who have dispersed in various places of shelters to capture boats, rocks and the general ambience of this idyllic place.

While Hilary Archer tackles the intricacies and colours in the cliff facade in acrylics, I settle for drawing Paul Hewson in graphite and ink as he attempts a watercolour sketch of a weather-worn doorway with strips of peeling turquoise paint. Just check the famous Azure Window is still intact before heading back to the hotel to chat with our ramblers who have been to Marsalforn Valley to taste the wines and cheese at a local farm and vineyard.