Sunday, 22 October 2017

Unspoilt Sardegna: A Revelation

Since my last post we've ridden from Castelsardo to Pula, bused to Cagliari and then caught the overnight ferry to Palermo, had a walking tour of historic highlights in the city and are now chilling out in our hotel. It's been a busy week, but I will try to give something of an overview of our progress. First of all, here is a map to show the total route we've covered on both Corse and Sardegna as well as the ferry trip and the beginning and finishing places here on Sicilia. (NB, the blue lines on peninsular Italy are from our Caesar trip last year.)


(In six more days - if all goes according to plan - we will have skirted the 
northwest and southwest shores of Sicilia and made our way to Syracuse.)

Castelsardo to Alghero ...

... was another beautiful ride. I didn't actually take a lot of photos this day as I was just enjoying riding along with Di. But there was a fun snap from morning coffee with Bernadette and Tim sharing a chat ...


... and this one of Ben and Marcello at lunch ...


We did stop to snap this mysterious structure off the side off the road (which we couldn't get close to because it was fenced off) ...



Alghero is a beautifully preserved Medieval city with a strong Catalan tradition We descended through the town to where our hotel was perched just across from the beach. As we walked into town we enjoyed the sun setting on another gorgeous day in Sardegna ...


Alghero to Cabras

There was an additional 36 kilometres and 600+ metres of elevation on offer for anyone interested in doing the longer route from  Alghero to Cabras on this day's ride. It sounded like a fun day out, so I set out on my own while Di rode with Roberta and Emilie. Morning coffee was at the lovely little town of Bosa, which happens to be Marcello's home town - and he had arranged for us to be set up adjacent to a coffee shop run by some friends of his. They do great coffee, and have a great way of drawing one's attention that java is at hand ...


We have had some lovely places for coffee stops, and the piazza for today's stop was another gem ...


For the rest of the day I was really just focussed on riding, but Di had a very busy day taking photos, and you can see some of them here if you're interested. Cabras is notable for the "giants of Mont'e Prama", which are prehistoric statues and other archeological treasures from the ancient Nuragic civilisation of Sardinia. They are preserved in a dedicated museum where we had a tour before dinner and I think we were all suitably impressed. However, what really made the day for Di and me was the wonderful cantu a tenor singing that Simone had arranged for us. This traditional singing with a centuries-long tradition is experiencing a revival along with the sense of national pride generally on this wonderful island. Here is a photo of the group that performed for us ...



Cabras to Buggerru

We were told by Marcello that we would be passing through three ecological zones along our ride to Buggerru, starting out with wetlands, passing into a plateau and rugged mountainous zone where a lot of mining took place in the past then back to coastline with headlands and beaches. 
Unfortunately, the early going was on generally fairly rough and busy roads so there wasn't so much opportunity to enjoy the landscape, or take good photos. Just towards the end of the first section we crossed a long causeway and I took this photo of Di over my shoulder ...


.... and shortly thereafter we arrived at a hamlet with a bar where we had our morning coffee. I had to take a photo of one of the little lorries we see all over this part of the world ...



As we left the morning coffee stop the landscape changed immediately and we started climbing up into scrubby hills ringed around with rugged mountains. While I was waiting atop a hill for Di to catch up I took this photo ...



... and then a picture of Ted and Tim rolling by ...


... with Di arriving shortly afterwards ...


Just before our high point for the day we passed through an abandoned tin mining area. It was clearly a very productive and prosperous mine if the mine manager's residence was anything to go by ...


From there we began a long, lovely descent to the coast before climbing up a short hill overlooking Buggerru with a view down towards the harbour and headlands along the coast southwards ...


... and a lovely view back the way we'd come ...


Normally I don't like to stop when I am descending a hill, but this time I couldn't resist grabbing a more revealing photo of where we were headed for the night ...


Buggerru has converted its economy from that of a mining town to a tourist destination with a great sheltered beach, tours of the mine and some good walks in the area. For us, it was another chance to be put up in a good hotel right near the beach with great seafood close at hand for dinner, all in a fairly quiet environment. What's not to like about that?

Buggerru to Sant'Antioco

This was a really neat day, with some riding along the coast and inland, then visits to two islands via ferry. I really should show you the overview of the day as it looks on ridewithgps as the route is quite quirky, but for good reason ...


Once again I rode with Di. The climb out of Buggerru was testing but also rewarding with great views back down into the town ...


We climbed for quite a while and then had an exhilarating descent - with some goat dodging just towards the bottom. There was a choice of branching right or left at the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately, at least one of our party misread their Garmin and descended further into a little hamlet in a fantastic setting ...


... before she realised the error of her ways and climbed back out again. 
We arrived in the village of Nebida, where I had to stop to take a couple of photos of this bike outside a shop running local bike tours ...




Once again, our brilliant local guides Simone and Marcello had picked a great spot for morning tea - but this was the best yet and would be hard to beat anywhere. Here are a couple of images to illustrate the wonderful views we enjoyed, which can only be accessed by foot or bicycle traffic ...



A meander inland, back to the coast, inland again and then back to the coast yet again brought us to the little port village of Portoscuso, where we had plenty of time to visit the town ...


... have a gelati, and generally relax for a while before caught the ferry across to the island of San Pietro and its wonderful town Carloforte
Di decided to have a few hours relaxation while I flew off on the bike for a quick tour of the island. Along the way I thought I might nick out to the lighthouse for a look but was stopped by this fence and signage ...



Upon my return, I tootled around the town a bit on the bike for a look around and found this lovely church square ...



... and then found Di, but chef at the restaurant where she had lunched with other members of our tour had just knocked of work, but I found another cafe open nearby and they served me a delicious seafood carbonara pasta. Di took a photo of me resting between courses ...


... and another of my bike resting between rides ...


... and I took one of the speciality Carloforte dessert, which consists of one of their unique cookies served warm with a glass of moscato ...


Our ferry to Sant'Antioco island and our stop for the night left at five o'clock in the evening and landed us at about six p.m., leaving us a quick run of about eleven kilometres to our accommodation for the night. While the visit to San Pietro Island didn't suit some of our group, Di and I both really loved getting off the beaten track and visiting this special place.

Sant'Antioco to Pula and Nora and then by bus to Cagliari

A red-letter day! A beautiful ride; a passage through Pula, the home town of Simone; a chance to visit the Roman ruins at Nora and then it's off to Cagliari and the ferry to Palermo. 
Di and I rode together but it was overcast so we didn't stop to take many photos. I had a very close call when - of all things - a van pulling a trailer load of bikes almost knocked me off the road going around a sweeping bend (he only missed by that much, says Maxwell Smart). 
We did stop automatically - as it seems did most of our group - when we came upon this beautiful fortified tower right beside the road ...


... and while we were there Di took a photo of some trees ...


At the ruins of Nora Di did the tour while I ... well ... basically just drank beer! She said the tour was very interesting and she got some photos including these ones ...

Roman road

Mosaics


Marble pillars
One of the interesting things about this site is that apparently the Romans were moving inland away from the site into Pula because, being on a peninsula, Nora was very vulnerable to attack.

A Final Word about Sardegna

As you might have surmised from the title of this blog, I think we were all pretty much blown away by our brief stay in Sardegna. The landscape is beautiful and varied, the people super friendly and the food delicious. We were so lucky to have two wonderful local guides in Simone and Marcello to share with us special delights of the island that we could have easily missed otherwise. There is one thing I find confounding however. There was a considerable amount of litter along the roadside, which only increased as we moved southward. At times we came across bags full of household rubbish that had clearly been tossed out of cars, often split open - perhaps by wild pigs. With such a sense of burgeoning pride in their wonderful land, I just don't get it how this happens. Perhaps there needs to be a big push to change the mindset of the people so that fewer people will trash their landscape and more will pick up after the folks who do. After all, like so many places, this bit of paradise increasingly depends on tourism to drive its economy.

The Transfer to Palermo

It was about a forty-five minute bus shuttle into Cagliari for us all, while our bikes were put on the trailer and van in readiness for getting on the ferry ...


Being from an island myself that relies heavily on a ferry service for both passenger and the transport of freight, I must comment briefly on the ferry we took to Sicilia. Basically, it was brilliant! State rooms were just that bit larger and more comfortable than on the Spirits of Tasmania. As for the public areas, the difference was incredible. The recent, utilitarian refurbishment of the Spirits have left us with a couple of quite characterless vessels, whereas the ferry we took overnight to Palermo was palatial in comparison. Very, very pleasant indeed, giving one a real sense of occasion.

A Taste of Palermo

As we arrived first thing in the morning with a rest day scheduled and our hotel rooms unavailable until the afternoon, our tour company had arranged for a guided walk around the docks and the old centre of the city. Suffice it to say that Palermo is a fascinating city with layer upon layer of cultural influences being built upon the previous, beginning with the Phoenicians and continuing through to Normans. 
The old fishing port is now largely taken up with expensive recreational sailing vessels, but there is still room provided for small fishing boats to tie up, land their catch and repair their nets. The old city centre has some stunning palaces built through the centuries - many of them in various states of disrepair due to the bombing. What caught my eye more than anything else was some of the fresh fish for sale in the oldest market in the city ...


... and especially this guy and his swordfish ...


We had a fabulous lunch with the group, Dylan facilitated an efficient processing of all our laundry, and Di and I had a quiet, early dinner on our own. It's now evening and this is the view across the square in front of our hotel to the stately Massimo Theatre ...


And now it's time for me to crawl into bed and ready myself for our first day of riding in Sicilia. I'm looking forward to it.

No comments:

Post a comment

It's always good to hear from folks who have visited.
Please leave a comment!