When the Hunters Become the Hunted: A Maltese Misadventure

The Unassuming Beginning

Mela, in the small bustling village of Siggiewi, two notorious hunters, Carmelo and Wistin, set out before the crack of dawn, equipped with all their ghajnuna for a day of ‘responsible hunting.’ The air was crisp, and the only sound was the distant chatter of nanniet heading to the first mass of the day. Carmelo, a burly man with a mustache thick as a ħobż biż-żejt, boasted to Wistin, “Uwejja, today we’re going to catch the fattest turtle dove this side of Mdina!”

A Most Peculiar Twist

The two hunters were deep into the countryside, just past the mystical walled city of Mdina, when Carmelo tripped over a protruding limestone rock—Malta’s natural tripwire—and tumbled down a hidden embankment. Wistin, always the jokester, laughed until he realized Carmelo wasn’t getting up. As he descended to help his friend, he noticed something glinting in the sunlight—lo and behold, it was an ancient falconry gauntlet!

“Il-ħażen qatt ma ġie b’waħdu, but finding this thing must surely mean there’s treasure nearby, ha? Kollox has a silver lining,” Wistin exclaimed.

Ignoring his minor injuries, Carmelo’s eyes lit up with greed, and forgetting all about their feathery prey, they set off to find their fortune.

Encounters of the Fur-ious Kind

And what’s a treasure hunt without a map? These hunters—who couldn’t track a rabbit if it were sitting in a plate of fenek stew in front of them—somehow stumbled upon a tattered map sticking out of a bottle of Kinnie, Malta’s favorite fizzy drink, discarded amongst the wild capers and crumbling rubble walls.

The Rabat Ruckus

Wouldn’t you know it? The map led them straight to Rabat’s Catacombs. In they went, leaving daylight behind, with nothing but their smartphones for illumination and Instagram selfies. The damp air was heavy with history and the pungent smell of pastizzi they’d stuffed in their pockets for a snack. As they progressed vultures circled above, knowingly.

It was there, in the eerie silence, that they faced their first challenger: a feisty Maltese tal-pepe cat named Miskina, who was guarding the catacombs’ best-kept secret – a dusty bottle of homemade prickly pear liqueur. Carmelo tried to be sneaky, but Miskina was sneakier. With a swat of her paw, she sent Carmelo staggering back into a pile of bones.

From Treasures to Traps

The map urged them onward, even though Miskina followed, tail up and eyes like headlights. Segwaying to Valletta, they meandered through the alleys, dodging tourists and street vendors selling lace and lottery tickets, until they reached the Grand Harbour’s edge. The map indicated a dive beneath the fortress walls where the treasure lay hidden. Carmelo, who couldn’t swim, stubbornly insisted he be the first to plunge in, hoping to float on his stomach like a qagħaq tal-għasel.

The Unexpected Culinary Culprit

With their clothes drenched, the map now soggy and barely legible, the hunters spotted a golden glint among the sea urchins. A chest! Was their fortune within reach? Nah! Turns out, it was just a shiny, oversized tureen of Timpana—someone’s carelessly lost picnic that managed to travel underwater, ta’ veru!

“X’inhu dan! We’ve been duped by a pasta bake?” lamented Wistin, but Carmelo was already scooping up the bħal rikotta-filled delicacy with his hands, blissfully forgetful of their original mission.

The Moral of the Story, Maybe?

Back home, it occurred to them that perhaps the real treasure wasn’t the glistening gold that they’d imagined, but the hearty laugh they shared (and the free meal they enjoyed)—a sentiment quickly squashed when Miskina showed up at their doorstep, demanding a share of the Timpana as rent for leading them out of the catacombs. Poetic justice, shall we say? Ix-xorti taf tkun biza, but their tale lives on in Maltese lore: sometimes, the hunters become the hunted…by their own bumbling antics.

And as for the actual turtle doves? They migrated peacefully over the ancient fortifications of Gozo, tweeting about the ‘silly humans’ they evaded yet again.