Justine Curgenvan and Barry Shaw are almost on their way to Sardinia for a circumnavigation of the island.
They’re in for an extraordinarily beautiful journey. I wouldn’t mind doing it again
I wish them the best of luck.
Justine Curgenvan and Barry Shaw are almost on their way to Sardinia for a circumnavigation of the island.
They’re in for an extraordinarily beautiful journey. I wouldn’t mind doing it again
I wish them the best of luck.
Last year, when we started our circumnavigation of Sardinia, our very first camp site was on a little beach behind the Marina Piccola at Poetto, on the outskirts of Cagliari.
In the morning Wendy left on foot to buy or find something, I don’t remember what, and took her time. When she came back, she had met another kayaker who had offered her a coffee and was on his way around to meet us.
Roberto Durzu came to the beach paddling a yellow plastic kayak. We had a nice chat and took some photographs together as we took down camp and got ready to start. Roberto followed us for a while, maybe half an hour or so, before he turned back home after a different morning paddle.
Roberto later commented on the blog, and he wrote later still asking for advice on buying a new kayak, and about what he ended up buying.
Now as I’m back here in Sardinia, I hear that Roberto died a short while ago when out paddling his newly bought kayak.
He went out with a group of friends, but after an hour they decided to return, as the weather got much rougher than they had bargained for. On the return trip Roberto paddled last, at a distance of circa 50m, and at some point he disappeared. His friends searched for his as they best could in the waves, but had to give up, paddle back and sound the alarm.
The search teams located Roberto’s kayak fairly quickly, capsized but with the paddle inside. They later found his hat and a shoe. The body of Roberto was only found the next day at some distance.
Apparently, the cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. There are two hypotheses around. One is that he capsized in the waves and got separated from the kayak before he was able to reenter, the other that he had a heart attack, either before or after a capsize. He had a heart attack four years ago.
Roberto was 52, and leaves his wife and two children of 14 and 15.
Of course it is not the first we hear such a story, and probably not the last either, but the impact is so much stronger when its somebody you’ve met and knew, even if only superficially.
I still have Roberto’s number on my phone, and had planned to call him as I approached Cagliari, so we could meet for a chat. I didn’t manage to meet him last year as I passed Cagliari. Now I have to search for a cemetary instead.
Its all very sad.
Franceso and i had planned to paddle to Cala Goloritzé in the Golfo di Orosei yesterday, and we got up early and set off fetching kayaks at a local camping where Francesco keeps par of his gear, and then on the road to Santa Maria Navarrese.
We launched in calm weather, a force 2 scirocco (SE) and some following waves and swells, but with a forecast of up to force 4 during the afternoon.
The paddle northwards went easy enough, and we passed Pedra Longa and the Grotta della Columba without problems, but as we approached Capo Monte Santu the going got a bit rougher. The Capo Monte Santu is cape with a 200m vertical rock wall that drops straight into the sea for some 2-3km, and there are almost always difficult winds and waves there.
We had a bit of a fight with waves and winds around the cape. Personally I find following swells and waves quite difficult to navigate, as I have no visual forewarning of what is in arrival, but I think both of us found it a bit difficult there, as Francesco headed directly for the entrance to Porto Quao, which is a completely sheltered natural harbour on an otherwise not very welcoming coast.
We landed in Porto Quao and laid our gear out to dry in the sun. After a while we decided to abandon the attempt to reach Cala Goloritzé and instead enjoy the sun in our little sheltered corner, until the afternoon when there was a good chance the wind would wane a bit.
The little bay was as enchanted in the sun, so we made a little photo session. We took turns to climb the rocky cliffs around the bay to take photos of the other fooling around the sheltered area in kayak. It was hot and sunny, the rocks were steep and razor sharp with dense mediterranean vegetation, which for a nordic type like me translates to sunburn and totally scratched legs, but it was fun and we got some nice photos of our kayaks in the crystal clear waters of the Golfo di Orosei.
At about three thirty we got ready to return. As soon as we rounded the corner, we discovered that the wind was still a nice force 4, with swells of 1-2m but modest waves of less than 1m. It still took an effort to round Capo Monte Santu, and as we moved well away from the coast to avoid the choppy rebounding waves, we got separated and lost visual contact for extended periods.
Francesco knows his waters and was both much more confident and a lot faster than me, so he was well ahead of me most of the time and probably closer to the rock wall than I wanted to be. In any case I lost him for quite some time, and at the same time didn’t feel I had the resources to actively look for him, as the wind and waves gave me plenty to work with.
I wouldn’t say I was in trouble there, but it wasn’t easy going. The first hour took all my effort and concentration, but I did handle it in a controlled and steady way. My own feeling is that I was quite close to the limits of my abilities in a kayak, but not outside.
In the end all went well, and as soon as we were around the cape we found each other again, and we paddled together for the next couple of hours back to Santa Maria Navarrese. I was quite tired in the end, more mental tiredness than physical.
We had a coffee at Santa Maria Navarres and drove home to yet another dinner thet couldn’t be beat, and then off to bed. I slept well.
I arrived in Cardedu in the afternoon on Saturday, and I was hardly in the door at Francesco’s before he declared that we were going fishing in kayak that afternoon. It is like that at Francesco’s house. It is very hard not to end up paddling most of the time.
We went to a local camping where his trailer were, picked it up and were off to Cardedu beach for a late afternoons paddling and fishing.
Francesco does a lot of fishing from his kayaks, and he has had some spectacular catches, including a 27kg “pesce luna”, which is a tropical fish not normally found in Sardinian waters.
We didn’t catch a thing. Francesco got a few “tracine” but they either got off the hook or were let off because they were undersize.
Anyway, when we got home after sunset, Elisa, Francesco’s wife, had made homemade pesto with basil from the garden, so we had another dinner that couldn’t be beat nonetheless. Food is good here in Sardinia, and much of grows literally on people’s doorsteps.
I should have written something on the blog then, but we ended up in front of Francesco’s computer looking at photos, websites and leaflets, and at eleven I just collapsed on my bed.
Francesco is a person who prefers to stay active rather than taking half a day off, so Sunday morning we were off again to take a couple of Poles out paddling at nine. Just as we were about to leave, the camping where they stayed called to say that they were still too drunk from the evening before, and that they weren’t going. We had, however, recruited a few others for the excursion on the beach the day before, so we left anyway.
On the beach, only one of the promised three persons had showed up, so the group ended up being of just one persons. After a bit of instructions, communicated in an unholy mix of Italian, German and English, we paddled down the coast for a while, and back again. It was a quite calm day, with a light scirocco and only some modest swells to deal with.
Back on the beach we had a beer with our German paddler, and they and Francesco arranged for next years exchange of German beer for Sardinian red wine.
In the afternoon we went sight-seeing in most of Ogliastra on motorbike. We drove to the Lido di Orri, to Santa Maria Navarrese, over the small mountains and down to Pedra Longa, then back and on to Baunei and up to the Golgo plain behind the Cala Goloritzé and the Cala Sisine I visited last year in kayak. We spent some time there, throwing pebbles into a 270m vertical hole, visiting a 16th century church, and hanging around the local bar.
We then returned almost to Santa Maria Navarrese, before going to Triei where they had a city-wide celebration of the ancient traditions, with people dressed in traditional clothes, stands serving local specialities and many old houses open for visitors. The city also sported a large number of murals, some quite interesting.
There we met some friends of Francesco, who took us up the hills to see an ancient nuraghe and a “tomba dei giganti”. The nuraghe had been really big, but it was in bad shape, mostly a ruin, and it wasn’t even indicated on the street signs like other local sights. Francesco’s friend told us the it had been quite different when he was a kid, almost complete, but it had been ruined on purpose by somebody over 20 years ago. It is so sad to hear than something which has been standing for thousands of years has then been ruined so recently, but of course, human stupidity and ignorance know few bounds if any.
The “tomba dei giganti” is another type of neolithic monument, traditionally thought to be a tomb, but who knows what it was. This one consisted of a covered passage with the remains of an elongated mound, with a crescent shaped series of stones on one side. According to our guide it had the shape of a bull’s head when seen from above.
It was getting late, and we had a pizza appointment at Cardedu Marina a 8, so we had to head back homewards. We arrived half an hour late, found nobody there but desided to eat anyway as we were rather hungry and heard on the phone that the others were coming anyway. Not as soon as we had ordered did they show up anyway.
Today Francesco and I got up early and we’re off for a paddle to Goloritzé and back, which is about 30km along some of the most beautiful coastline in Sardinia, which is saying a lot as most of the coast here is breathtaking.
It is hard to find a bit of time for blogging, as Francesco likes to keep his guests on a tight schedule. After all, you can always sleep when you get old(er)
It also helps that there is no mobile coverage in or near his house, keeping me offline unless I go and sit in the orchard or between the vines.
I have now booked the ferry to Sardinia for the last leg of my circumnavigation of the island. In a few days time I will push the Skim Distance back in the water exactly where I pulled it up last year, and finish what I set out to do last year.
On Friday I’m off on my motorcycle from Venice to Genova. The ferry departs in the evening, and the crossing to Arbatax takes some 16 hours, so I arrive there at noon on Saturday.
First stop is at Francesco Muntoni of Cardedu Kayak. He has the kayak and most of my gear stored, and he will help me return to Fertilia just as he helped me away from Fertilia last year.
I will do the remaining part of the journey alone, except that I will probably be joined in weekends by some of the many paddling friends I now have in Sardinia, all those I know from last year, from our visit in Easter this year, from the Vogalonga in Venice, and from the symposium recently in Bibione here in the Veneto region.
Once I’m in Cagliari, I will have to return to Cardedu to pick up the motorcycle and put the Skim Distance back in the shed, until we either find a permanent home for it (I know Francesco has a very good suggestion – he likes it ) or I find the time from family in Denmark and kayaking activities in Venice to do the circumnavigation of Sicily, which was part of the original plan and my original reason to come along in the first place.
I don’t have many specific plans for the final part of the journey, but everybody I’ve met says the last part is the most beautiful, though I have a hard time believing anything can beat the splendour of the Golfo di Orosei.
In the Oristano area I want to see the ruins of Tharros, an ancient Roman city, and I want to enter the Stagno di Oristano to see the flamingos there. I have never seen flamingos close up in the wild, and I’m not going to miss that chance. Weather permitting I would also like to have a look at the Isole Sulcitane in the SW corner of Sardinia. Then there’s the ruins of Pula, but they’re near Cagliari so it would be fairly easy to return there later.
I am so looking forward to this.
I’m on the train from Genoa to Venice via Milan right now. I have a bunch of posts to prepare and loads of photos to upload from the week Valentina and I spent in Sardinia with Francesco Muntoni and his family and friends.
Francesco kept us on such a breathtaking schedule that I haven’t had a chance to finish much, but I will try to work off the backlog in the coming days.
On Sunday the 30th of March we went paddling along the spectacular coast of Golfo di Orosei, where I also paddled last year. A 50km stretch of coastline is part of the national reserve of Gennargentu-Golfo di Orosei, which means that here isn’t a road or a house to see in the reserve.
I paddled along this part of the coast of Sardinia in October last year, and it is a very dear memory, and I couldn’t wait getting back there. I paddled the same boat again, because the Skim Distance has spent the winter at Francesco’s.
A few friends of Francesco had decided to come along. Francesco Ravasio from Cagliari was there, and so was Stefano Diana of Diana Canoe and two local girls Adda and Valeria. Stefano had brought a prototype of a new boat of Francesco for a first try in the water, and they had a long and heated debate all’italiana about who was to try it first, but in the end Stefano came out on top and started in the prototype.
We all drove from Cardedu to Santa Maria Navarrese at the south end of the national reserve, and launched from the beach just below on of the many ancient Spanish towers that dots the coast of Sardinia.
The first part of the paddle were along the sloping coast until we reached the Pedra Longa, a rock spike 128m in height which stands exactly on the coastline. You only really understand the size of it when you’re sitting just under it looking up. Fortunately, we had calm weather and it wasn’t a problem getting close to the rocks along the coast.
After Pedra Longa the coast changes to vertical rock wall, which must be several hundred meters tall, because the Pedra Longa seems small in comparison. Shortly after rounding a cape we arrived at the Grotta del Colombo. It is a very large open cave where the internal parts look a bit like a dove in flight when seen from a distance.
A bit further ahead is another cave. From the Grotta del Colombo the entrance looks small and bell shaped, but it is some 15-20m tall. The cave is rather deep and in the calm weather we had, we could move all the way in without any problems. The inner walls are of a strange green-yellow colour in vertical stripes, which I haven’t seen anywhere else.
Our first stop was planned as Porto Quao, the hidden harbour, which is a sheltered cove just after the Capo Monte Santu. We arrived there and hauled the kayaks up on the very limited space, the bottom of the cove is just a few meters wide, and had lunch and a rest there. Porto Quao is a place Francesco uses often on his excursions in the area, since is the an easy landing and launching spot even for unexperienced paddlers.
A few of us had a nap and Valentina found a dead goat. It had been dead for a while, because only the bones were left.
It had been our intentions to continue to Goloritzé a few kilometres ahead, but we had launched late and spend too much time fooling around on the way, so we decided to return from Porto Quao. It was a bit sad, because Goloritzé is an incredibly beautiful place, but it was the right thing to do.
The return was slower still, because we now had a slight headwind. We paddled back towards Pedra Longa, and had another short rest on a little beach close by, before continuing back to Santa Maria Navarrese, where we arrived at six thirty in the afternoon, shortly before sunset. Hence, we did right not continuing to Goloritzé, because then we would have had at least an hours paddle in the dark at the end.
Valentina had to catch a flight early the next morning from the airport of Alghero which is two and half hours drive away. There was little chance of making the journey in the morning, so we left almost immediately from Cardedu towards Alghero with the intent of finding a hotel for Valentina near the airport. We drove in the darkness through the tiniest of mountain roads, and it was well after midnight before we said goodbye to Valentina at the hotel. Francesco and I drove back to Cardedu, but suddenly on the way back, Francesco turned down a small by road and parked the car in front of an old stone wall. It was a nuraghe which he thought we should have a look at now we were in the vincinity. We arrived at four in the morning.
First we drove to Jerzu which is a bit further inland from Cardedu, where the mountains really begins. Francesco drove up some of the steepest and most curved roads I have ever been on, up to what is called the “Tacchi di Ogliastra”, meaning the high heels of Ogliastra. They are a series of mountains where the top is surrounded by vertical rock walls of maybe 100-200m. The mountains in Sardinia aren’t high by Himalayan standards, the tallest peaks are just over 1800m, but they’re still impressive in all their ruggedness.
The many vertical rock walls are a little paradise for climbers, who come from all over to play in the Sardinian mountains.
We continued along the slope of the valley to Osini. The town seems to stick magically to the mountain side, and on the other side of the valley the town of Gairo clings on to the other slope. You can see from one town to the other, and there might only be about 2km across, but going there by car would still take an hour. It would probably be faster to ride a donkey over there.
The towns were less sticky in the good old days. A few kilometres down the road we passed Osini Vecchia, the “Old Osini”. The old (probably ancient) town of Osini were slowly sliding down the mountain side, for whatever reasons, and in the 1950s it had to be abandoned completely, and the entire population of Osini moved to the “new” and current Osini.
The story is by no means unique. Just across the valley “new” Gairo was located a couple of kilometres from “old” Gairo, in much the same way. Not everybody in Gairo moved to the new town, though. A part of the population moved further away, to the lower hills towards the coast, and thus Cardedu came about. Cardedu too is a new town, and a child of the landslides in the mountains.
From Osini Vecchia we moved up some roads even smaller, steeper and more curved than before, with the intent of finding a nuraghe.
The nuraghe are unique to Sardinia, where there are still over 6000 nuraghe in existence. In the rest of the world there are none. A nuraghe is a neolithic building or monument from the period 2500-1500 BC so they were already ancient when the Phoenicians and the Romans settled in Sardinia. Little is known about their purpose as their constructors have left no hints, but they do give an impression of being defensive fortresses.
Most nuraghes are made of a single conical tower with double walls. In the centre is a single room, sometimes with niches in the walls, and inbetween the two outer walls a stairway to the top or rooms further up. The walls are built by roughly cut stones stacked without the use of mortar.
The nuraghe is almost always placed in a strategic position on a hilltop or on a ridge in the mountains.
We ended up at the Nuraghe Serbissa after a very long drive on some very rough roads through a forest, and we only found about an hour before sunset. The Nuraghe Serbissa is the largest I have seen so far. There is a well preserved tower which can still be climbed by the original stairway, and two other towers standing to a lower height but still clearly recognisable. On the ground the outline of maybe another five or more towers could be seen.
The Nuraghe Serbissa is now situated in a completely deserted mountain forest, but who knows how the landscape was 4000 years ago, and how these people lived.
That evening we ate out, in a local restaurant in Barisardo. Francesco had a steak so huge it couldn’t have been made in a normal frying pan, it was served on a pizza plate, and Valentina had a dish of grilled fish and seafood that was plain scary. I have no idea how they got through those quantities of food.
Francesco Muntoni has run Cardedu Kayak for ages. He organises kayak excursions for both beginners and experienced paddlers along the middle part of Sardinia’s eastern coastline, from between Muravera and Cardedu to Cala Gonone, which includes the national park of the Golfo di Orosei.
Visiting Francesco without ending in a kayak is an impossibility. On our first day we went for a short afternoon paddle from Marina di Gairo south along the coast, admiring the fantastic rock formations in the red rock of the Cardedu coastline. Many look like manmade sculptures. There’s the eagle, the old lady and many others.
Francesco spends most of his time either on the water with tourists, or getting ready or cleaning up after an excursion. In his spare time he works for a local wine cantina. The Perda Rubia cantina is one of the very last cantinas that still produce Sardinian red wine of the local Cannonau grapes in the traditional way.
We got a special guided tour of the cantina, which is a fascinating place with fermentation tanks and oak barrels so huge they have been built inside the cellar when the cantina was started in 1949. Francesco presented me quite unexpectedly with a very special and absolutely priceless gift: a bottle of Perda Rubia from 1964, the year I was born.
Sardinian cuisine is a journey in itself. That evening we had culorgiones, a kind of large ravioli with a filling of potatoes and pecorino.
Tuesday evening (March 25th) we left Palermo for Trapani. The ferry was scheduled to depart at nine in the evening, but we ended up at Giacomo’s chatting until after seven, and arrived at Trapani harbour at ten to nine, only to discover that the ferry departed from a new more distant pier, which we had problems finding as the signs weren’t quite in working order. We hauled our gear from the car onto the ferry, said a hasty goodbye to Giacomo and hurried on board, only to hear a message on the loudspeakers that departure had been postponed to ten o’clock.
Francesco Muntoni of Cardedu Kayak wouldn’t be able to pick us up until in the late afternoon, so we carried our gear to the nearby bus station where it was possible to leave luggage for a while. We checked in our bags, and a greenland paddle, and set off exploring the city.
Cagliari is an ancient city. It was founded by the Phoenicians some 800 years BC, and later pass into Roman hands, followed by Byzantine, Pisan, Aragonese, Spanish, Austrian, Piedmontese and finally Italian. We walked through the busling lower quarter Marina on our way up the hillside to the old fortified city, the Castello, which in comparison seen almost lifeless.
Francesco Ravasio, one of the persons who brought sea kayaking to Sardinia over twenty years ago, met us at the station at half past three, and he took us for a short excursion to Nola before dropping us off at Diana Canoe, a local kayak producer run by Stefano Diana.
Diana Canoe makes a wide range of recreational kayaks in fiberglass, and they can make almost anything in fiberglass and kevlar. When we were there they were even working on some fiberglass roofs for ambulances.
Francesco Muntoni of Cardedu Kayak came to Diana Canoe a bit later to pick us and a couple of kayaks up. Francesco uses kayaks from Diana Canoe for most his excursions in the Ogliastra area in Sardinia. The kayaks in question are in part designed by Francesco himself, especially for daytrips with less experienced paddlers along the rocky coast near Cardedu and in the area of the Golfo di Orosei.
We had a quiet drive to Cardedu in the dark, and arrived there at about ten in the evening, dead tired and ready for bed.