Tired legs and a bit of a foggy head from too much local vino last night, sitting drinking what was meant to be a mocha but came as a coffee with a scoop of nuttella in, chilling after what turned out to be an epic 3 day bike tour round the Sardinian national park.
We caught a ferry across from Corsica last Wednesday and headed straight out to Eastern Sardinia where there is a huge national park lots of beautiful little coves and rugged mountains. The whole region would be really difficult to travel around if you don’t have your own set of wheels, there is little public transport, its rare for anyone to speak any English and if the weather comes in it can be as much as 50km before the next village.
The whole area is filled with mystery and rich in tradition. The women are often in traditional clothes and bars are filled with groups of elderly men playing cards with a bottle of red. We Parked our van in Dorgali a town near the cost, its main attraction is a large network of caves and grottos. We managed to catch a little boat to have a look in one we were able to walk a km through the underground cave network into where the seals used to go to pup away from people but this network is thought to stretch for up to 70km under the island.
We found a little agritourismo to camp in overnight, we spent the evening getting kit ready and making a rough plan of where to pedal over the next few days. We both used 2 Alpkit dry bags on the front and back of our Charge plug 5 bikes. In them we took a sleeping bag, roll mat, bivi bag, toothbrush & paste, board shorts, a thermal, arcteryx primaloft jacket and pair of flip flops. Then all the riding kit that we wore. We managed to keep kit to a minimum and our riding cloths that we chose to wear are from the Giro new road range so feel great for riding in but you also don’t look out of place if you wear them in a cafe/bar. A lot of the riding kit is made out of merino wool so if you wear it for a few days it doesn’t smell makes chatting to the locals a bit easier!
I’ve never done a totally unsupported tour before so really had no idea how it would go, having the extra weight on the bike, where to sleep, would we find food, what if something happens a bike breaks or something like that?
We set off up and over a col above Dorgali on our first 50km leg to the next town and we climbed the col I looked back over my shoulder a couple of times at our van and camp sight but didn’t feel nervous at all but felt a huge sense of adventure without a worry in the world all I had to do was ride my bike, nothing else to think about.
We dropped down the other side of the col had lunch then descended to the coast. From there it was back to climbing as we ventured into the national park. The further we got in and the higher we climbed the cooler it got, untill the sun was gone and we were riding though forests and fog, it was now late afternoon but felt late we had to turn lights on the bikes but as the villages were so small there was no where to stop. I had an exposure joystick and Ben was using the new dynamo revo system which worked really well.
We pedaled through towns that were deserted with houses that were falling apart and must have been empty for years. It was really creepy it felt like we had cycled into another world and had no idea what would be round each corner. The thought of biviing in the wet was horrible we tried to ask in a few villages for any accommodation options….. nothing! Eventually we found 2 ladies sitting on a bench who told us there was 1 hotel 15km away. All up hill we kept going with all of our hope on the hotel being open with space, if not it was 30km to the next place. We made it, it was a tiny village surrounded by a huge rock face in the hotel there was us and a couple of climbers. We got a room and had a luke warm drizzle of a shower. Starving we headed out in search of food, there was 1 tiny pizzarea open but it was perfect the pizza as delicious, made in front of us to order, absolutely massive and €3. The spooky feeling of the mountains vanished as families flocked up to pick up a Sunday night pizza or sent there children to collect dinner. By 9pm we were asleep, waking up early ready to get back on the road with a coffee in the hotel and what seems to be the typical Sardinian breakfast of a slice of cake.
Day 2 was much easier the sun was out an we set out checking the map every now and again for the next village to aim for. The riding wasn’t any harder than the day before, similar amount of climbing and distance but a bit more of a mental struggle the terrain was quite repetitive. We got into Gavoi, quite a large town and were both craving a cold beer. We had been through Gavoi previously on a day loop when we first arrived in Sardinia and had been in a bar for lunch (wild boar panini’s). One of the men who worked there had spent some time in London so spoke good English so we went back to have a chat and ask him where would be a good place to sleep. He quickly phoned his friend a lovely lady and we went and stayed at her house. She had entertaining down and even had a play list of songs ready to suit the occasion. In the morning she had prepared a huge elaborate breakfast of 6 different types of cake, yoghurt, fruit, hams and cheeses. We ate as much as we could then packed the left overs into a little lunch box. When we were all packed up and ready to set off the songs came on and she blasted out “please don’t go, i love you so’.
The first half f day 3 flew by we went through Nurro the mountain capital then headed out to a town called Bitti where we stopped for lunch. At that point though my legs were suddenly knackered but we only had 50km to go. We had a gradual downhill back towards Dorgali down a road covered in rocks at first we though there had been a rock slide but we kept seeing more and more – it turns out that if there is a crack or hole in the road in Sardinia they think its best to just cover it up with a lot of rocks and dirt! Dorgali sits at about 450m and we were then down at 70m so it we had a final climb to face to get back and it was slow. My knee started to ache and sitting on my saddle was becoming very uncomfortable. But we did it we got into town and stopped at the first supermarket, put our waterbottle in our jersey pockets and beers into our bottle cages.
Back at the campsite we were greeted by Angelo who had misunderstood that we were going cycling for a few days and had been really worries that we hadn’t returned for days. That evening Angelo served us an all you can at feast, we had a 5 course dinner of Sardinian specialties, a cheese tart, fricatta , battered courgette, potato and meat dumplings, beef and veg , panacotta, jugs of wine and a shot of a local digestive. It was all amazing all home made and the perfect way to end our tour…. excited and looking forward to the next one.