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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend in Malta

For the past 7 days I’ve been hanging out on the small islands of Malta, which are located just east of the African country of Tunisia, within the Mediterranean (or just south of Italy).  For those unfamiliar with the specific locale, here’s a quick map refresher:

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I was here for a bunch of work meetings until the weekend, when I then spent a few days checking out the island with The Girl.

1) Checking out the Blue Lagoon

On Thursday evening a work excursion brought us via speedboat to the below spot.  But The Girl and I enjoyed our short stay there enough that we came back two days later on Saturday after driving to the north end of the main island and then taking a quick 10 minute ferry over to the Blue Lagoon, which sits on a separate island.  It’s a bit of a cluster though right where the boats drop you off:

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So we hiked a bit away, and it’s just beyond here we hung out for the afternoon.

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We then decided to float our way across to another island, where we sat for a bit and got a better view:

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And of course, I got in a short openwater swim as well.  Though I didn’t quite have as much time as I wanted before the boat left, so I had to keep things to only about half a mile.  You can see that swim track image down below in the swim section.

2) Lots and lots of GoPro Hero4 testing

When I look at all the trips I take for work, and all the testing that I usually do during these trips in random activities – most of it isn’t terribly ideal for action cams.  Running watches?  Sure, I can pretty much easily run anywhere (even in Africa at night in the bush).  But creating interesting action cam content in a random blah city?  Not so easy.

Thankfully this past week that was silly easy in Malta.  Be it four drug-cartel style speed boats racing across the water at sunset….

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…or pool shots in a seaside pool (twofer actually, FR920XT swim shots and GoPro shots!)…

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(Awesome fact: This pool cost only 3€ to enter, and I was the first one in the water that morning.  Though, barely anyone actually seemed to use it the many times we passed the pool.)

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…or shots of waves crashing against the rocks to get high speed footage, it was all there.

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Plus, many other shots.  And, as I’ll cover in a moment there is lots of potential for yet additional footage and testing over the next 15 days of travel.  All culminating in a review of all three new cameras (GoPro Hero4 Black, Hero4 Silver, and the new GoPro Hero) more or less the day before/after my Garmin FR920XT review.

3) Enjoying some Maltese food

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Of course, no trip would be complete without some good quality food.  And in that area, Malta seemed to deliver.  It helped too that the prices were quite reasonable.

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We were impressed with two solid meals back to back this past weekend, both reasonably priced and with unique twists on things.  For example, below had reduced balsamic sauce pearls, that appeared like caviar.

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The food is a Mediterranean blend that heavily leverages from Italian food, which, I’m always quite happy with!

4) A week’s worth of openwater swims

Ok, this one isn’t so much this weekend exclusively, but, it is worthy of note since some of these occurred this weekend.

I was lucky in that the hotel I was staying at for meetings (and then a few days of vacation) was directly on the water.  Not only just on any old water, but more importantly – swimmable water.  Mostly quite clear and without too much boat traffic.

So I took every opportunity I could to get in swims.  From just after meetings ended in the evening, to morning swims, to replacing my lunch break with it.  Here’s a fun series of screenshots from this week.  I used screenshots from the Ambit3 since I like the coloring of paces.  Plus, in general the Ambit3 gives the cleanest non-swimcap track lines around:

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I’m sure I could swim every day in waters like these.  Well, minus a minor little incident on Thursday.  But I’ll save that for another post later.

5) And now…I’m going to fly a long way away

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I’ve already knocked out the first flight of the morning, just after 6AM for a quick hop back to Paris.  Then, later this evening after unpacking, repacking and swapping bikes I’ll begin the long trek to Auckland, New Zealand.  It’ll take me a few planes, and a bit over 24 hours of flying…but eventually I’ll get there.

And unlike most trips that last just a few days, I’ll actually be there for nearly 10 whole days before heading elsewhere.  Crazy talk for me to stay put for that long, I know.  But, that’s just how the work schedule panned out.  Thankfully The Girl will get to join me for a portion of the trip later on.

For those folks hanging out in Auckland, if you’ve got any recommended riding routes, or openwater swimming options I’m all ears.  I realize it’ll be a bit chilly, but looking at the water temps I’ve swam in much colder in training and racing.  And perhaps if there’s interest we can arrange some sort of swim/bike/run meet-up (one of those, not all of those…).

With that – thanks for reading!

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62 Comments

  1. Rick

    Ray,

    Great post. Look forward to your future In-Depth Reviews. Safe travels to you and the “Girl”

  2. Lucas

    Just a quick flight to Aus from Nz Ray.

    Much better fun here! :)

  3. Luigi

    I’m not dumb, no reason to explain the location of Malta.

    • No problem Luigi, I’ll ensure in the future to keep explanations to non-existent levels to satisfy you. I’m sure the global audience will appreciate it.

    • I am dumb and I am not afraid to admit it, so thank you for my geography lesson and the map of Malta. I throughly enjoy reading your blog and I am patiently waiting for my 920 from clever training and your in-depth review of the 920.

    • Patrick

      I was just about to Google Malta, so thank you for including it.

      All this time I thought it was just something in my milkshaka.

    • Rob

      Um, silly question but where is New Zealand? You didn’t explain:)

    • portlandpaul

      I love Malta (it helps that I’m European and know where it is), I learned to snorkel there as a kid and just love the water around the (rocky) coastline. The scuba diving around that area is incredible.

      Not terribly big though, so I think you’d go a bit stir crazy if you had to get a long bike ride in!

    • Pedro

      Dear Luigi, I am very sorry but your comment makes you (look) dumb… Cheers.

  4. Josh

    Does New Zealand mean Australia as well?

    • It does, but only for about 2hr and 15 minutes. :(

      Well, actually, 4hr and 30 minutes if you count the layovers in both directions. Bummer, wish I could have stayed there a bit too!

    • Paul Frylink

      That is a shame Ray, as after your 10 days in Aukland, your timing would be perfect for a quick jump across the ditch (as we call it!) to check out the Noosa triathlon (2nd November).

      The Noosa tri (olympic length) is Australia’s most popular/largest triathlon (and 3rd largest in the world I think). Not only is the location beautiful, but the spectacle of about 3000 individuals + 1000 teams needs to be experienced.
      In addition, some of Australia’s top athletes compete in 5km runs and criteriums on the Saturday afternoon.
      It is a fantastic weekend of activities – I also hope to pick up a new 920XT at the expo while there :-)

  5. Bummer, all my New Zealand travel was on the south island, so I don’t have any pointers for swim/bike/run. It’s absolutely beautiful there, though, so enjoy!

  6. Nick

    So the swims that started and finished in different places – please tell me you did not run back through town in your speedos :-)

  7. Dan

    Cannot wait to see some GoPro video of you swimming with the great white sharks! Please include your HR data. I’m looking forward to your action camera review. Thanks and enjoy.

  8. Miguel Estrada

    Ray – thanks for the awesome work, I enjoy the blog, when will you be uploading the Hero 4 reviews?, I am undecided between the Hero 4 black and silver.

  9. Hope you can make it out of Auckland and onto the IM NZ course at Taupo? Aiming for that in March !

  10. Aidan Campbell

    If you like hills or surfable waves, then head towards Piha Beach. You’ll go through the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland to get there. Even if you don’t go to the beach, the scenery and hills on the route there will leave you breathless. Check out the Hillary trails for challenging forest runs in the area. In the brief time I lived there I did some of my best training before I moved to London.

    I don’t know the rest of Auckland well enough, but Tamaki Drive is more centrally located and a very popular road for cyclists. Also, North Shore has a strong tri club.

  11. George Ross

    Safe travels, Ray. Would be interested in future posts to hear about the details around transporting your bike to NZ. What container you use (assuming you check it), airlines, costs, etc.

  12. Tim K

    I spent a couple weeks in New Zealand a year and a half ago. Found a great bike shop called Mt. Eden Cycles that rented 3 bikes to myself and 2 co-workers. The goal was to ride from the shop over the mountains to Bethells Beach (west coast) taking Swanson Road and then looping back on Scenic Drive. But we middle-aged rolling hill riders from Atlanta ran into more mountains than we’re used to and standard cranks on the bikes – rather than the compacts we ride at home.

    And then the rain hit. We gave up before the turn down the mountain to the beach and got to experience a white knuckle descent due to pouring rain, steep hills, and wet brakes. I can recommend “The Elevation Cafe” for lunch – good food, they had a big fire going, and they didn’t throw us out for leaving massive puddles on the floor under our chairs.

    We used the power of the Web to find a local tour guide named Ben from the University of Auckland Cycling club to ride with us. We bought his lunch – and still owed him – for making him ride in that mess.

    It was so miserable that it turned into pure awesomeness. The scenery – what we could see through the clouds, fog, and rain – was beautiful though.

  13. MAGNUS

    Never a dull moment… I don’t get enough open water swimming done but doubt that would be the case if I was surrounded by that kind of water.

  14. James Ewing

    5 things are definitely interesting, but I sure miss the week in review posts.

    • Yeah, I’m hoping to get caught up enough to re-instate those. Right now I’m just trying to get through a slew of product reviews and various summaries (like the Trainer Recommendations).

  15. SteveT

    Ray,

    If you want GoPro action go to Queenstown and do the Shotover Assault-low level helicopter, to jet boat, bungy jump Skippers Canyon (230′) and class 4-5 white-water back.

    It can be very dangerous if the water is up and I mean stingray stomping’, life flashes before your eyes, why did I sign that waiver, best one day adventure you may live through and never forget for the rest of your life and I got 4K video kinda fun.

    I also recommend the lobster in Kaikoura!

    Steve

    • Yeah, love it down there! Went back a few years ago, though, skipped all those particular ones.

      It was interesitng though, I was actually looking for a Friday evening flight down there and none seem to exist (at least through any major airline booking sites). I looked to both Queenstown and Wanaka, was really surprised there was nothing after 2PM. :-/

    • Kirk

      Queenstown airport currently doesn’t have night landing certification (coming in the next 6-12 months I believe) so that limits the flights quite considerably. It is a fairly difficult airport to land in seeing as it has ~2000m mountain ranges on either side of the approach. Major pain in the butt when you live down there and have to go to Auckland for a meeting. Means you have to go up there for two nights.

    • Ahh, that makes sense. I had wondered if that were the case. And driving from Christchurch just seems a bit of a haul for just a weekend. :(

    • SteveT

      It is . . . so spend a month!!!

      You know you and the Girl want to.

      The sheep miss you. Lol

    • Kirk

      Dunedin is an option, approx 3 hour drive to Queenstown and you it has later flights from Auckland.

  16. ira

    Please, Ray, get a more interesting life. (that is to say, I’m very jealous). Never been to Malta, so great to read a first hand account.

  17. Dennis

    Waiting for the Review of the new Go Pro entry level camera

  18. Matt B

    Enjoy New Zealand – awesome place and awesome people! I love their laid back attitude to life. If it wasn’t for all the extended family living 24 hours away I’d move there like a shot.

  19. Francis C

    Thanks for sharing Ray. I’m still flabbergasted at how you are able to cramp so much in a day. That’s a beautiful shot of the restaurant and food. Hope that wasn’t all you ate. Doesn’t look like it’s enough to cover 3 miles worth of calories. Hehehe

  20. JimG

    Your weekends are so much better than mine!

  21. Sauzee

    Lived in Auckland for a bit and used to cycle up to Takapuna for work, swim at lunchtime. North Shore is quality.

    Love the site, just looking for my first triathalon next year so will be checking in regular now. Have an amazing time in NZ.

  22. John

    Trail running in Waitakere ranges/piha, canyoning in Waitakere ranges (pronounced why-tak-err-ee). North shore nice for running/riding, also some good riding hills in waitak’s. Check out the black sand beaches at whatipu and piha, nice open water swimming around titirangi. The city isn’t that pretty, but the surrounding areas make up for it.

  23. Dennis

    Which camera is better for taking pictures while running?
    Garmin Virb or the new GoPro Hero entry level camera?

  24. Dennis

    Virb for 129 $ at amazon

  25. Bryan S

    Great post! I love seeing some pics from my dogs homeland. She’s a Maltese!

  26. BartW

    Quote: “Plus, in general the Ambit3 gives the cleanest non-swimcap track lines around”
    Does this really mean the new Garmin 920XT with both GPS and GLONASS in general is worse than the Ambit3?
    If that is true, is that because the IC used in the Garmin has only has one analog “downpath”, using GPS or GLONASS at a time but not both full functional (like other devices having limitations in the 1st generation).
    Or is there another reason which can be solved by firmware?

    • No, it doesn’t mean that.

      It just means that Suunto appears to smooth the track a bit more than Garmin does. Remember that openwater swim tracks are more a game of post-processing than satellite reception. The reception is crap no matter the GPS type, it’s a matter of making some magical from the crap.

      Interestingly, both actually get near identical distances each swim. So the distance accuracy is pretty close – it’s just each interpretation (guess) of where you went varies more with the Garmin than the Ambit.

  27. stan

    Awesome site, really enjoy your reviews
    In Auckland swim series in Kohimarama beach starts on the 6th of November: link to summerswim.co.nz
    Otherwise Mission Bay, Saint Heliers have reasonable beaches, just wach for tides. It can get very shallow!
    For running Cornwall Park, the Domain park or if you like flat course then you can’t beat Tamaki Drive.
    Enjoy your stay in Auckland

  28. Rolf

    Ray, thanks for sharing your worldly adventures. Quite honestly I follow it more for travel ideas than for tech reviews, although I read all those too. And thank you for sharing the location of Malta on a map for us. Sure I’ve heard of it, but didn’t know it’s exact location, so it was nice to see it right there and keep me from googling it. Why this bothers some people that you included it is beyond me. Last I recalled no one was forced to read your blog, so why complain with how or what you post? Keep up the great work!

  29. Tom

    Hi Ray. If timing works, would be happy to take you for a bike, run or swim along the coastline here on the North Shore – I’m at Castor Bay beach. Would need to be evening or weekend due to work, but daylight savings kicked in here a couple of weeks back so we’re getting light now through until 8pm which makes evening activity a little more doable. Drop me an email, cheers Tom

  30. Trish

    Hi Ray
    Looks like you have some good suggestions for Auckland.
    Takapuna beach on the North Shore is great for swimming also – actually any beach on the North Shore thru to Orewa.
    What are you doing in Auckland anyway?

  31. Malta looks INCREDIBLE. I wish I could be in that water!

  32. Richard

    How long are you in Auckland for Ray? Are you heading anywhere else on the North Island whilst you are here? Also are you planning on hiring a car? There’s some great trail running around 40 mins outside of Auckland if you do. I’m a couple of hours SE of AKL and happy to show you some runs/rides/swim venues if you’re this way. In AKL, Triathletes Corner ( link to triathletescorner.co.nz ) are pretty active with runs/rides/swims so look them up too.

  33. Thor R

    Welcome to Noo Zeald Ray!
    Auckland Marathon is on 2 November if you’re keen.
    If you want open water swimming without fighting surf waves then Auckland’s east coast beaches are great. If it’s surfing you want hit Piha or Muriwai on the west coast.
    Let me know if you make it to the capital.

  34. Ocelot

    10 days in Auckland is a long time – if you find yourself in Wellington (a much easier city to run and ride in), I’m happy to show you a few trails!

  35. Alex Walton

    Try this out – link to beachseries.co.nz

    Or simply swim off Takapuna beach and along the 200m yellow bouys.

    Take it you are in Auckland?

  36. Keith

    Hi Ray, there are many great options for you to get in some exercise during your stay in Auckland. The water temperature is still a bit chilly at the moment but this isn’t preventing people from swimming in the ocean, in wetsuits of course. As others have already mentioned there are some good bike and tri shops who can easily hook you up with training partners and equipment if you need it. Hot Cycles in St Heliers (www.hotcycles.co.nz) and Mt Eden Cycles (www.mtedencycles.co.nz) are very good and I have been on bunch rides with both of them. Triathletes Corner is a specialist tri shop in St Heliers where I live and they are also very helpful (www.triathletescorner.co.nz).
    Hope you enjoy your stay, cheers Keith

  37. vincent

    Hey,

    Did you get around to testing the bedit sleep tracking thinggie ?

  38. Christa

    Hey, this is great, I came across your blog ages ago when I was looking for reviews of Garmins etc. And I’m Maltese, so it’s cool that you came here and wrote about our little island, especially since most people have never heard of Malta (apart from Luigi, apparently).

    Glad you enjoyed your stay here, and there are loads more areas (in the south and north of the island) which make for even nicer open-water swims with far clearer water than the St Julian’s area you were in – so you’ll have to come back and try them out! There’s also an annual Gozo-Malta 5.5km (and Malta-Gozo-Malta 11km) open water race in August which is beautiful:

    link to facebook.com

  39. Matt

    i can’t wait to make it out to Malta. Just recently moved to Germany (from the States) and love the easy access to everything here. I’m just a 2.5 ICE train to Paris too. I stopped by the cupcakery a few weeks ago, but sorry I missed you. Unfortunately I had to leave the morning of the 2 year anniversary. Maybe next year. Keep up the great work!

  40. Allan

    Omerama Gliding is a few hours south of Christchurch NZ. I’m a glider pilot who dreams of going there one day – supposed to be the finest soaring in the world. Good place to check out one of your GPS units in 3D!

    I enjoy your website – the info and blogs. Thanks, Allan.