Good and bad

Thursday was certainly a day of contrasts, both good and bad.  It all started so well, we were at Hondoq early, for our kayaking trip along the south coast of Gozo.  It was rather a grey morning but there was the promise of so much more.
As a small group the kayaks were quickly packed and we were heading east along the south coast towards the main harbour. The small cliffs, punctuated by a number of caves provided interest, whilst up above the clouds were moving away to the south east, to be replaced by warm sunshine.
It was the morning rush hour in the Gozo Channel, all 3 ferries were moving so we ensured that our crossing of the narrow harbour entrance coincided with a lull in the activity. To the west of the harbour the steep coast continued, rising up to Fort Chambray.  The Fort was built in the mid 18th Century, whilst during the Crimean War it was used as a hospital, which treated hundreds of injured British soldiers.
This wasn’t the only sign of military activity along the coast, we could clearly see the blue railings, which surrounded a Fougassee.  It was a weapon to protect the coast from landings, effectively a rudimentary form of mortar, excavated into the rock.  Effectively an upside down cone, which was filled with stones and gun powder.  When the powder was ignited it was supposed to throw the stones onto the enemy.  It all sounds rather haphazard and potentially not that effective.
We carried on to the cliffs at Ta Cenc, which are pretty spectacular and home to a number of breeding birds although we didn’t see too many on this particular.  All to soon it was time to retrace part of the journey, our stomachs were telling us that it was lunch time.
Lunch was at Mgarr Ix Xini, a delightful location but one which requires cars at times as the boat ramp is as slippy as any one I have ever experienced. After lunch, Michael, our enthusiastic guide from Gozo Adventures, offered to help some of the people in the group with their rolling. The enthusiasm of youth. I was more than happy to sit and enjoy some warm, early season sunshine.
In fact it was so warm I was tempted to have a swim, an activity which I don’t really see as that risky. The water was reasonably warm so Rachel and myself swam out to the steps, which have been so thoughtfully provided on the eastern side of the bay. We climbed onto the rocks, before deciding to jump back into water, swim back to the kayaks and start the journey back to Hondoq.
It is at this point, if I had the gift of time travel I would use it. My jump into the water, from just over 1 metre in height was accompanied by a rather large crack and as I surfaced I realised that I had a very floppy left foot. Now I am no doctor, but I can recognise the symptoms of a damaged achilles. I explained in a rather calm voice to Rachel, that I was in a bit of difficult situation and might at some point require some assistance.
I was able to swim, using arms only, back to Michael, our faithful rolling coach and explaining I didn’t want to cause a fuss but we had a rather tricky situation. There were a lot of people down the bay that day, the restaurant was busy, there were groups of French hikers etc. The last thing we needed was a spectacle and a lot of onlookers.
I continued swimming into shallow water and was able to sit on the age of the slip. At this point the shakes commenced, it might have been the result of the cold or some shock from the injury. Whatever the cause I received excellent support and care from Tracey, Rachel and Yvonne. Michael by this time was on the phone and calling the cavalry.
Cornil, the cavalry, from Gozo Adventures was on the slipway with a car within 20 minutes and I was on my way to Gozo Hospital, without anybody on the beach being aware that there had been a problem. On reflection it was a group of experienced paddlers, working together to resolve an incident, in an efficient and timely fashion. Exactly why we practice a range of scenarios on our training courses, it could be called incident management but in reality it is an appropriate and proportional response, to a situation, which ensures the comfort and safety of the casualty, whilst not forgetting the needs of the rest of the group.
The treatment I received at the Gozo Hospital was prompt, effective and delivered with such good humour. The staff seemed to have time to give the patients the care and attention they needed, without appearing rushed or stressed. I write this as British Airways flies me north from the Mediterranean sunshine, towards some inevitable further treatment but I feel pretty relieved. I was with a group of paddlers who tended to my immediate needs, I had access to prompt help from the company we were with and ended up in an efficient medical care system.  It was certainly a day of both good and bad.
So next time somebody proposes some training and looking at scenarios grasp the opportunity with both hands. Don’t assume that because there is somebody with greater experience in the group that you won’t have to become involved or even manage the situation. We are all potentially as vulnerable and just as likely to need care and support from our fellow paddlers.
Thanks, in no particular order to Michael, Tracey, Rachel, Yvonne, Geoff and Cornil. Hopefully we will be able to paddle together again before the summer is out.

Good and bad
Michael launching at Hondoq.
Good and bad
Almost everybody is afloat. Behind lies Comino, which is the destination for Friday’s paddle. Sadly I will be otherwise engaged.
Good and bad
One of the ferries, which the connection between Gozo and Malta.
Good and bad
Rachel passing under the steep slopes close to Fort Chambary
Good and bad
The Fougassee, taken whilst walking along this stretch of coast in November last year, but its location was clearly visible from the sea.
Just in front of the Mgarr ix Xini tower. Completed in 1661 it is one of the 4 surviving towers on Gozo.  One of the last photographs of me with two working legs for a few months>
Good and bad
Cliffs just to the west of Mgarr ix Xini are truly spectacular. This was about as far as we went before returning east for lunch and the somewhat inconvenient incident.
Good and Bad
I managed to swim towards Michael, who was conducting a rolling session. I received superb assistance from the other people in the group.