Cleanup of Xaqqa Valley, March 1996

The man who decided that he preferred insurance money over the luxury of driving around in his flash Merc had long since been convicted of attempted fraud. He had long since been charged by the Courts with removing the offending vehicle from the bottom of this beautiful valley. But let’s face it, not too many policemen and court marshals would head down into such a remote spot to check up on these things…so there it lay, offending the entire Maltese climbing community, blocking access to the lower part of the valley, gaining bad press for Malta and the environmental conscience of the Maltese – when all along the crime had been committed by a ex-pat!

Since what cannot be endured must be cured, something had to be done, and who better to do it than a handful of marginalised adventurers whose passion for the rocks was only matched by their love for the environment in which they climb. As a cunning plan hatches in the mind of one of these adventurers, he enquires whether any of his posse can handle an oxy-acetylene cutter (yes, the sort made famous by those bank robbery movies of the 70s). Two men step forward, Audrick and Andy, with a ‘yes, we will do it’.

And so it was that on a windy, wintry day in February, Andrew Warrington, Andy Bonnici and Audrick Plum headed down into Xaqqa valley carrying two large cylinders and a burner. Down they went on the rusted, twisted carcass of what must have once been a grand car to drive. They cut away at it for the best part of the afternoon, hacking away one panel after another, burning through box sections and beams until there was nothing left but manageable parts and the stubborn chassis that just did not want to dismember, however hard the white-hot flames cut into it. But their job was done. The heavy vehicle that would have toppled a crane had it been lifted whole had been reduced to a pile of manageable sized bits.

Next the local council of Siggiewi and the Environment Department were informed of the deed, and that the valley was piled high with litter of all sorts and needed to be cleared from top to bottom. The Env Dept provided a truck and a crane, the local council sent some helping hands – most notable among them the Mayor of the town who got down and dirty with the rest of us.

All the known climbing community at the time chipped in to help: Charlie Ellul, Ramon Sant Hill and Brenda, Ruth Zammit, Andy Bonnici, Audrick Plum, Mario Riviera, Jeffrey Camilleri, Richie Abela, Andrew Warrington…all rolled up their sleeves and took on the arduous, filthy and smelly task of lifting all the garbage that decades of decadent dumpers had dropped into the valley.

The result was a couple of truckloads of garbage being taken away to their proper resting place in a government appointed dumpsite (Maghtab). The crowning glory of the day was when the final part of the car was lifted out of the valley floor and placed on top of the last truckload of garbage to leave at the end of a very long day. The satisfaction of everyone there was palpable and the sight of that offensive chassis being lifted had us all break out in a round of applause.

The coordination, team work and determination of the whole group had succeeded in removing what seemed like becoming a permanent feature of the valley floor from a valley that deserves to be preserved and maintained for the enjoyment of climbers, environmentalists and adventurers forever.

This event galvanised the small but growing climbing community into an action group that took some responsibility for the environment in which they practice their passion. It sowed the seed for what was eventually to become the Malta Rock Climbing Club.

Andrew Warrington

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