Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sardinia - the scrambling and rappelling continue

The next day dawned much like the previous few days.  By now we knew that the best weather was in the morning and the rain would arrive in the afternoon.  We headed out early and started with an ascent of a peak via fantastic a limestone pavement and cliff formations.  Again, we utilized the precarious looking wooden steps and ladders built by shepherds hundreds of year before our arrival.

From the summit we descended by a series of rappels over impressive overhangs.  One of these ended up in a huge bramble patch and we were all nursing scratched legs by the end of the day.   Finally, we hiked down to the coast via a rough path that gave us views of "Pedra Longa" a free standing pinnacle just off the coast.

At the summit

Looking down at the sea

Sheri on the trail

A 60-meter rappel in free space

Our guide shows us how it is done!

More rappelling

Views of Pedra Longa

Comparing bramble scratches 

Sardinia - back on the trail

The next day we headed back to the coast (by Landrover) and picked up the Selvaggio Blu Extreme trail.  There were patches of blue sky, but also lots of clouds swirling around us.

Today's route involved rappelling (abseiling) down the cliff face to reach a series of ledges which we then scrambled and hiked along.  This included climbing down an ancient shepherd's ladder made from an old tree trunk.  After passing though a couple of natural stone arches we reached a series of caves down by the sea.  We then traversed along rock ledges just above the crashing waves to finish our day's adventure.

It was a great day and the rain held off until we were hiking back up to the Landrover from the coast. But that didn't matter because we had dry clothes to change into and a warm bed to sleep in.

Preparing to descend to the bottom of the cliffs

Our descent begins

Nearly back on the ground

Down-climbing an ancient shepherd ladder

Arriving at the caves

The rugged coastline

Moving from one cave to another...

And another...

And another....

Natural stone arches on the trail

Views along the way

Almost down to sea level...

A traverse above the waves

Finally we reach the sea!

Sardinia - more rain...time to change our plans

The next day we awoke to more rain.  Whilst Michele made some more phone calls we ate a fantastic homemade breakfast of fresh baked bread, local salami, honey, and freshly-made goats milk cheese.  And strong coffee too!

The poor weather was predicted to last for a few more days, so a change of plans was needed.  Our guide managed to find us some indoor accommodation for the rest of the week.  We would use this as our home base and then make day trips to explore the Selvaggio Blue route.  We could get wet during the daytime and have a place to dry-off and get warm in the evenings.

The rest of the day was spent relocating to our new accommodations, drying out, and getting ready for the remainder of the week's hiking.

Departing from the shepherd's house

Interior lampshade

Sheltering from the rain

Ready to depart from the shepherd's house

Our guide (Michele) and Barbara (our new host)

Barbara's home-made pastries

Checking the weather

Preparing lunch with produce from Barbara's garden

Sardinia - a bushwhack to the shepherds house

We awoke the next day to the sound of heavy rain on the roof of our shelter.  This event had been in the forecast, but none of us could really believe that it was raining so hard.  Sardinia is usually dry and hot, and this was not welcome news.

After a quick breakfast we packed up and awaited instructions from our guide. He had hiked to a nearby overlook where he had cellphone reception, and he managed to make some changes to our itinerary.  We learned that we would spend the day hiking to a nearby shepherd's house where we could shelter from the rain and enjoy a traditional Sardinian meal in the evening.  We would get wet during the day, but we would have a dry place to sleep that night.

The hike was uneventful and followed dirt roads through the woodlands.  As we got close to the shepherd's house (after 10+miles of hiking) Michele suggested that we take a short cut.  This involved scrambling up steep rock faces, crawling under small thorny trees on our hands-and-knees, and bushwhacking through an impenetrable forest in the pouring rain!  Needless to say we were cold, wet and tired when we arrived at the shepherds house.  The food and wine that awaited us tasted so much better because of our 'shortcut'!

The traditional shepherd's house

Lots of handcrafted woodwork inside

Goat roasting on the open hearth

A fantastic meal of salad, local pasta, roasted goat, and home-made ricotta and honey for dessert

Our bedroom for the night

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Sardinia - the start of our adventure

Day-1 started with our group (1 guide, 3 Italians and ourselves) meeting at the hotel.  We had day-packs and duffle bags with our overnight gear that would be ferried by boat to the beach where we would camp each evening.

The first day was to be a hike down a spectacular limestone gorge ending at the sea on a pebble beach. To get started we needed to travel by Landrover down some very bumpy and twisty roads just north of the town of Baunei.

The hiking was fantastic and the weather was warm and dry.  We saw lots of native flowers (peonies and cyclamen growing in the wild) and quite a few goats too.  The trails we were taking were ancient shepherd paths and they were steep, exposed and loose in many places.  And they were also high up above the valley with precipitous drops below!

The day passed very quickly and soon we were at the beach, where we swam in the sea and picked up our overnight bags.  From there it was a short walk to a primitive beach shelter where we would have dinner and spend the night.  After a hearty Italian meal and lots of wine we headed to bed early.

Wild peonies


Entering the gorge

Wild cyclamen

Traversing high up in the valley

Limestone everywhere!

A path amongst the cliffs

At the beach in time for a swim

Sardinia - Our Arrival

During the last week of April and the first week of May, we took a vacation on the island of Sardinia. The island is part of Italy (just off the west coast) and is famous for its dramatic limestone scenery with lots of cliffs, mountains, gorges and warm weather.

We planned to take a trip with our friend and mountain guide Michele Barbiero who we first met in the Dolomites in 2016.  The week-long trip, named 'Selvagio Blue Extreme', would take us along the rocky eastern coastline of the island exploring ancient shepherd paths and camping each night on the beautiful beaches.  We were excited for a return trip to Italy and for the chance to do some hiking and scrambling in a stunning unspoiled area.

To get to our meet-up point (the town of Santa Maria Navarase) we had to fly to Rome, and then onto Cagliere (Sardinia's capital city).  Then it was a 2-hour car ride to our destination.  We planned to arrive a day early to allow time to get over any jet-lag and to explore the town.  The travel all went according to plan and we woke up on our first day to a beautiful blue sky and abundant sunshine.  We quickly dusted off hiking boots and took a walk from our hotel to explore the hills near the town and then walked back along the coastline.  What a great way to start our vacation!

We arrived just in time to see the sun set

An old tower in Santa Maria Navarese

 Our route for the week ahead

Dinner for the weary travelers!

And a full moon celebration of our arrival

Our hotel in the morning

First breakfast in Italy

The harbor in Santa Maria Navarese

Along the trail..

Limestone everywhere

First sight of the mountains

On the trail...lots of goats

Our first glimpse of the famous blue waters of Sardinia