Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Roughing it in Sardinia

Oops, I'm a couple months behind in getting out an update, but I've only just now finally taken a look at my pictures. It was great to see many of you in New York - as for the rest of you, I hope you'll come to Brussels sometime.

I wrote you last from Rome, where I promised you a picture of the blue tongues of the water buffaloes...

* * *

After I signed off, I met up with Laura in the Roma Termini station, and we almost missed our train, and then almost missed our ferry, and after much running and sweating, made it to Sardinia (which, as I mentioned before, is that big island off the west coast of Italy). Our ferry took us to Olbia, in the northeast portion of the island, which we quickly found out was deserving of its terrible reputation.

After a night's sleep, we took the bus to Nuoro, capital of what we had heard was the least touristy, beachy province of Sardinia. We then found out that Sardinia is in many ways still a developing country, as we sat in the bus station for hours waiting for a promised bus that never seemed to show up. Finally we made it to Olgosoro, a tiny town famous for its political murals. The town is a gorgeous mountain town, and it's absolutely covered with murals, many with commentary about Italian and Sardinian politics and social movements, but several that commented on issues from other regions. Most people over 30 in this region are still dressed traditionally. The men mostly look like these guys, who were playing bocce ball in the square.

We stuck around till the next day for the Festival of the Assumption, in which there is a town-wide parade of women dressed in traditional regional costumes and men on totally out-of-control horses who do everything they can to avoid trampling the onlookers, but don't entirely succeed. It was possibly the scariest parade I have ever attended, including the one where oranges were thrown at us with baseball pitcher speed. Coincidentally, Laura was there for that one, too. This is followed by dancing and music and traditional song, sung by groups of three men in chorus with one soloist, which I have to admit sounded a bit like human didgeridoos.

Next we went to Oliena, which we used as a base to walk to Tiscali, the ruins of an ancient Nuragic settlement high up on a mountain, built inside a natural hollow in the rock. Supposedly the town was in use thousands of years ago, mainly as a refuge when nearby cities were under siege. The ruins themselves were unimpressive, although it was amazing to think whole families made it all the way up there, goats and all, and the hike itself was breathtaking.

After this it was time for a little R&R on the beach in Cala Gonone, as beautiful as had been promised. The water around Sardinia is still crystal clear and clean... let's hope it stays that way. We spent one day in Cala Gonone, and then did a one day boat tour along the coast to a number of grottoes that can be reached only on a boat or by foot.

After visiting from the boat, we went on foot. Although we were walking from beach to beach, there is a steep cliff above each beach, so you have to climb up that and walk along the top and then descend to the next one. The walk was gorgeous, through alternately sandy and rocky terrain. We camped along the way, and the first night we camped in a spot overlooking the beach, affording us with a beautiful view of the pink sunset sky over the water and then an amazing view of every star in the sky. When it's that clear, you see the Milky Way and lots of shooting stars, which made the anxiety from all the random rustlings in the forest totally worth it.

Three days into our hike, the sky clouded over and it started to pour, so we changed our plans and overnighted indoors, and then detoured to Santa Maria Navarrese, where we visited the beach and stayed in a campsite full of Germans riding bikes in bathrobes. Once the sun had returned, we did one more hike, to the gorge of Gola Su Gorroppu, which they claim is the deepest gorge in the world. We hiked down to the bottom, wandered around amongst the immense boulders, and then climbed back up to the top, where we made camp in the bushes. Little did we realize, however, that this was grazing ground for a herd of cattle, so we spent the first half of the night throwing rocks to scare the cows away so they wouldn't squash our heads in the night.

After this, sadly, our time in Sardinia had come to an end, so we found our way back to Olbia to take the ferry back to the mainland. On the whole, I had a very positive impression of Sardinia. Although it is a tourist resort at many places on the coast, we saw very few tourists in the inland regions where we traveled, or even really at the beaches we chose, and, perhaps as a result, the people were some of the friendliest I've met anywhere. We soon realized that public transportation was not a viable option, so we hitched the whole time, finding that people not only were super friendly, but sometimes drove miles out of their way to take us where we were going, even though we didn't ask them to. The language was fascinating - supposedly it's very close to Latin - and it changes by region. And the scenery was beautiful. Someday soon I hope to go back and see the rest of the island, since we only covered a tiny portion of it. And you should, too, because Sardinia is exceedinly charming and offers something for every kind of traveller.

Well, I think that's enough for now. I'll write again soon with an update on my trips to Germany, and then I'm off to South America for a while. Hope you all had a great summer!


No comments:

Adventure map for 2009...