Swimming through Xlendi Bay is like a game of chance with jellyfish and it was suggested at the start of the final day that, to avoid the sting in the tale of the marine roulette, ‘Lucky’ Flook should start from a different bay to free up the swim for the rest of us.
But the Commander would hear none of it and, sticking to the regime of ‘all for one…’ the team headed back into the waters for the last swim of the trip. Swimming behind said lucky in the pitch black of the cave, poor Jane Kennedy and Angie Cullinan both got stung bringing the trip total up to 31, not to mention the mozzies who attacked during our descent down the sheer face of gorsebush alley on the second day.
The stings got so bad that medical advice needed to be sought this morning to bring down the scarring, especially to the facial wounds, but the good news is that Sarah Turley has already taken three pantomime bookings for the next Christmas season with her glow-in-the-dark nose.
Fuel for the journey was limited – a week of swimming trials that regularly challenge even the most committed groups of open water swimmers, jellyfish stings, sunburn and nasty bruising from being thrown around the Heylam Puki in heavy seas combined with an ‘interesting' meal on the Thursday night to make the going tough. The Commander and Lizzie had built up the famed Roulade, one of a number of ‘specialities’ at the restaurant. The order was placed for ten Roulades and the waiter went off to calculate The Commander’s commission before returning with a glum look to reveal that there were only two portions of the dish.
A quick re-ordering ensued and it was soon clear that Craig’s decision to go all Kiwi by ordering the lamb chops resulted in the best dish. Downsie had a challenge as he was presented with a plate of fish which looked like it had been freshly scooped out of the nearby harbour, whilst Stephen and Rob elected to go for the Suckling Pig which arrived looking like something out of a porcine remake of the Texas Chainsaw massacre and cooked up by local chef Damian Hirst.
The shot of Bajtra, a local spirit distilled from the prickly pear, helped to take the mind off the food, but proved to have its own issues on entering the cold water. Thankfully, Susie Orr was on hand for the umpteenth time in the week, supplying energy drinks and mints that had been liberated from the hotel bar, showing leadership qualities that will stand her in good stead as she retrains to become a teacher.
A quick 1.5km (c. 60 lengths) swim round the bay and up to the salt pans where Ian Downes scored 9s right across the board by re-entering the water a la Johnny Vegas in Benidorm… top bombing. Back across the bay for a bit of cave swimming in almost pitch blackness eased out the muscles and enabled the group to swim under a rock shelf about three metres down and three metres across and back into the bay, skirting the jellyfish encampments en route before leaving the water and narrowly avoiding the deposit that the local feral cat had left at the bank of Xlendi… an impressive effort, most agreed.
Leaving the water for the final time we looked back and noted with chagrin that it was the calmest, flattest water of the entire week. Towelled off and waiting for the minibus transfer back to the mainland, we saw that one of next week’s Swimtrekkers was an avid reader of the blog, electing to break her own arm rather than endure the torment that has been faithfully documented on these pages.
Into the back of another cut-and-shut and off across Gozo at breakneck speed, we headed past the local vendors who were busy selling converted minibus seatbelt holders as vases before boarding the ferry back at Mgarr Harbour, scene of the start of several adventures for the team. The half hour ferry trip ran parallel to our longest swim from Gozo to Malta and, for the first time on the trip we were all able to relax in the thought of our achievements with the thought of a cold beer as opposed to a cold swim!
Back at the airport and Cassie Allen was dragged towards the aircraft as she saw a ‘man in uniform’ and liked the cut of his jib… the only surprise was she hadn’t made an earlier play for the Commander but as Jane had earlier pointed out, she doesn’t do double-barrelled! Onto the plane and the aircraft seats, designed by Ethiopian Airlines on the way out had seemingly been replaced to accommodate a forthcoming USA Obesity Forum, or so it seemed from the trimness of the swimmers’ bodies on the return leg.
Congratulations to all who survived the 30.1km (notwithstanding rough seas) that have been covered this week and a huge thank you to all of our sponsors and to the crew at Swimtrek who made this massive adventure possible and, to all those who flirted with the idea of doing this trip this time around… we’ve got your names...
The Swimtrek Adventurers:
“A week of immense physical and mental challenge where the boundaries were constantly pushed and the bar of achievement consistently raised. A superb team effort in an unrivalled spirit of camaraderie, cordiality, conviviality and non-stop frivolous humour and mischief. A once in a lifetime experience with no better bunch of swimming and professional colleagues. Outstanding to all and ‘very well done’.” Stephen M Gould
“A challenging week with a lot of memories – hopefully we have reached our fundraising target and reaped the benefit of everyone’s effort. It was a week to remember, but not to repeat!” Ian Downes
“There were laughter and tears together with at least 30 death threats for Stephen as the going got tough, but the Commander brought us through unscathed. A massive undertaking for a very worthy cause… now, where’s the bar?” Rob Corney
“Scarred, but going back for more. After a week of jellyfish magnetism, next up is a swim to Monaco to try my lucky streak." Richard ‘Lucky’ Flook
"Despite the legacy of the jellyfish, looking forward to future challenges including a relay channel swim next year.” Sarah ‘Rudolph’ Turley
“It’s amazing what paths our lives take – four weeks ago, I met Ian Down who recruited me for the Maltese Islands Swim. Several km of swimming later with an amazing team it’s all over with lots of money raised for charity, a few tired muscles (!) and many happy memories, we head home. Thanks to all the sponsors and thanks to a great team.” Susie Orr
“I learnt more swear words in the jellyfish minefield than I ever did in Liverpool. Thanks for the life-changing challenge.” Ange Cullinan
“It’s almost a year to the day that I agreed to this challenge and I can’t believe that it’s over already. There are times I had thought about pulling out, but despite the sunburn, jellyfish scars and sheer exhaustion I can honestly say I’ve had a fantastic time and it’s brilliant to know we’ve raised so much for charity. Well done to everyone.” Cassie Allen
“What sticks in the memory? Unfeasible amounts of pasta, nervous tension before each swim you could cut with a knife and everyone in bed by ten. But if there’s one thing that sticks out above all others as an indicator of abnormal behaviour it must be the pathetic bar bill for the week typified by two things: Rob Corney nursing half a pint of pale ale through all of extra time and penalties for the Champions League final and Cassie, Craig and Susie splitting one glass of wine for their evening’s alcoholic intake.” Ian Down
“One year of anticipation, six months of training…. One week of blood, sweat and tears (and laughter) and now a lifetime of memories. Jellyfish stings, windburn, sunburn and throwing up whilst swimming will have me dining out for years. Personal high points however have to be Ian Downes’ Johnny Vegas dive into the bay and the cave dive – a fantastic week with fantastic people for a fantastic cause… will not be doing it again.” ‘Lady’ Jane Kennedy
“A week relaxing in the Med – what a great way to raise money for charity! Shame about the 30km swim in freezing, jellyfish infested waters. That said, amazing experience!” Craig Rowell
Today's swim blog is bought to you in association with Bella Sara. Granada Ventures is proud to sponsor Swim Trek with Bella Sara, taking inspiration from the latest Native Lights trading card collection featuring underwater fantasy horses. Targeting girls five to 12, Bella Sara has sold over 50 million trading cards and has over 2.5 million registered users on www.bellasara.com. Sababa Toys, HarperCollins, Codemasters and Hachette will be launching products in late 2008/2009.