Every year in Malta, something out of the ordinary occurs, unprecedented on the scale, and possible elsewhere only because of the huge amounts of populace in a country. Mid-September is when it happens, and this mass congregation is nothing short of stupendous.
For those attending this event, now over sixty years old and increasing in popularity year by year, it is nothing if not an extraordinary experience. Should I decide to do it once again, it would be my 25th participation.
I am, of couse, referring to the Cycling Pilgrimage that takes place a week or so prior to the celebration of ‘Our Lady of Graces’, or ‘Tal-Grazzja’ as it is called here.
Thousands upon thousands of cyclists of all ages congregate at Rabat to wind down to Zabbar, a cacophony of colour, noise, mix of bikes, creeds, religions, sentiments, and of course crazy fun.
Some eight years ago, falling badly ill, it seemed as if it was the end of not only my ‘walking life’, but pretty much everything else associated with the vertical. Until a cure, or a slowdown was available, I found it was difficult to do much, and essentially, my life as a mobile person was over. I needed to depend on others to do even the bare necessities.
So even thinking about once again ever participating in this ride was as far removed from my mind as reaching for the moon. There… but not for the taking.
After a year, I began to improve health-wise. I started taking to the bicycle once again. As a cycling nut, I couldn’t resist the lure of my trusty steed. I recall March being the month of my rennaisance.
When September came, and with it the first pangs of remembrance, I decided to take a gamble and try the pilgrimage once more. I wasn’t even mentally prepared for it, less alone physically. Cycling up to Rabat leaving home at 6am was definitely off the cards. So I drove up to Zabbar in my old van, with the bike safely ensconed in it. Buses took us up to Rabat, with trucks taking the bikes.
The pace on these things is obviously quite slow, and I started out only with the greatest fear, but as the miles sped by beneath my wheels, seeing thousands of people egging us on, my heart began to soar. I could do this. I actually began sobbing with happiness as this new found courage flowed and encouraged me onward…
As we arrived close to our destination, the crowds swelled immeasurably, and I could recognize family, friends and colleagues on the sidelines who knew what I had been going through. Their shouts of encouragement was way more adrenaline than I needed. It spurred me on.
I will always recall that day as my new birth. So this year, while undecided whether to attend or not, I will still probably rush down to the garage and grab my bike for this outrageous event once again…
… to boldly go