Looking at Facebook this morning, reading all the posts from my friends who have jetted off last minute to sunnier climes, I had a sudden urge to fly away and chase the sun. Mind you, after spending some time in our caravan in Mid Wales watching the rain hammer down, I’m not surprised I wanted to get away. But then I looked at my “What were you doing last year” post, I was reminded of the holiday to Malta that we took. Now I know I’ve bended more than a few ears about this particular holiday but I thought I’d share the blog entry that I wrote whilst we were out there, just to enlighten you all of this week of ‘blissful adapted outings’ (or whatever shite they came up with about this truly crappy week…!
Scene 1 – a group of 9 people are waiting outside a hotel in blistering heat ; some in wheelchairs.
“Don’t worry, the itinerary is all worked out, the places are all accessible, the bus will collect you all at 9.30am, don’t be late” said the lovely Rep, fab we thought, a day out, this will be fun……
9.30 – bus arrives
9.35 – bus driver realises said bus isn’t big enough for 2 wheelchairs and 2 scooters
9.40 – bus driver tries to think of how to get us all in
9.45 – tour guide shouts at him in Maltese then shouts down the phone to the bus company
9.50 – we start ‘loading’
9.53 – bus driver realises this way isn’t going to work, I get wheeled back off
9.55 – bus driver, tour guide and P discuss “how the f#*# are we going to get them all in?”
9.58 – our two wheelchairs are ‘carefully‘ loaded (shoved into place after running over drivers feet)
10.05 – two scooters loaded (yanked and pushed into the gap between the two wheelchairs)
10.10 – bus driver, tour guide and P wipe their very sweaty brows
10.15 – we’re off!
10.20 – stop in a bus stop as none of the wheelchairs or scooters are anchored to the floor and I didn’t enjoy the bouncing around the back of the bus very much
10.21 – said wheelchairs and scooters taken BACK off the bus so we can be loaded one by one and safely anchored to the floor
10.30 – we’re off!! (again!)
Scene 2 – 9 people cheerfully making the best of things on said bus, some of us so close, we’re getting to know each other very well indeed!
So the day began again, bouncing over the incredibly bumpy streets of Malta, “please tell your queen to come again soon, it’s the only time the roads get repaired” says the guide………
We arrived at attraction number one, a glass blowing factory with glassware to buy, with shelves 6 ft high full of glass ornaments, you know glassware, fragile, easily broken things – a fabulous and truly inappropriate place for two wheelchairs, two scooters and three people with walking difficulties to visit, we were afraid to move! Our friend Jack on his scooter was warned to not do anything stupid and only just managed to get out without thousand of Euros worth of damages……..
Scene 3 – on our way to a craft village….
15 minutes on the bus and 10 minutes walking on the main road later, off to a craft village we went. “Lovely” we thought, “a chance to buy some pressies” (well, I thought “ooh, earrings, lots of earrings….”) One problem, all the shops had ramps to get in but none to get out so after one particular incident in a gold jewellery shop where our friend Sammy got in but needed two strong men to pick her up and get her out, we decided to just sit in the sun and have an ice cream…….
Scene 4 – back onto the bus in our usual fashion (i.e. lots of sweating, grumphing and on/off – ness, such fun….)
To the ‘secret city’ of Mdina next and as if the day hadn’t been chaotic enough, there was more to come. Fabulous building and facades, gorgeous of architecture but not a single bloody ramp anywhere! What a disabled friendly place to visit, NOT!! Old cobbled streets full of cafes, restaurants, bars and a cathedral and everything with a step in front of it!! The Maltese idea of access is a plank and two bricks to make a ‘ramp’ to the entrance but then a step down on the other side, oh and the disabled toilets are usually locked. Ho hum, “Go and explore” said the guide “we’ll meet back in one hour” Ok, we thought and off we went, one whole hour of wandering through the lovely streets not able to get into anywhere! So we spent the hour that was left sat on another bench eating yet another ice cream (bugger the diet eh….!)
Scene 5 -in a different bus at a ferry port, late afternoon………
This time, boarding the bus went well, ‘cos someone had removed a row of seats. The bus boarded the ferry but due to the cramped car bay, we weren’t allowed to leave the bus, oh no, not us, so we spent the entire ferry trip stuck down in the bottom of the ship. After spending 20 minutes with a view of the ferry wall and inhaling diesel fumes, we then proceeded to what was described as “a tranquil escape called The Azure Window“. Unfortunately, only our able bodied partners could clamber over the rocks to take photos of this rock arch as it was completely inaccessible to us wheelchair users so we ended up spending 30 minutes in the car park! (Can you see the pattern building here? We could call it “The Rough Guide to Maltese Car Parks…)
Scene 6 – the same bus back at the hotel entrance……..
After a very weary conversation with our tour guide, who constantly kept apologising for the problems we had had and saying that she didn’t realise that this was a trip for disabled people or she would never had taken us on as a job (terrific!) as a group it was suggested that we should head back to the hotel bar and the calm of accessible ramps and rooms you can get into. This was wholeheartedly agreed upon and to the bar (and to many many raspberry daiquiris) we all went.
Now then, I’ve obviously written this with a bit of comedic license but the essence of this trip is unfortunately crazily accurate.
In true teacher styley, I need to reflect on this trip – what have I learnt?
Is Malta accessible? – Hell no! (In my humble opinion, don’t need a libel lawsuit thank You! )
Would we go back there? – never in a million years!
Would we take a ‘group tour again? – yes indeed! We met some fantastic people who took the same view as us which was “f*#k it, let’s just laugh about all this crappy nonsense”
But ladies and gentlemen, there’s a whole wide world out there and wheelchair or no wheelchair, I want to see as much of it as I can! (Just not Malta again, no definitely not, never again in my lifetime……..😂)