Dinner and flowers

I had thought​ that the meal organised by a local bar for the people in the B&B would be the culinary highlight of the trip. I hadn’t counted on the fantastic festival in the nearby town of Girasole.

The dinner in Lotzerai was very nice – a starter of prosciutto and salsiccia, then culurgionis, pasta stuffed with potato and mint in a tomato sauce (a Sardinian speciality), and then roasted pork – but the festival was something else!

Dinner for the inhabitants of the B&B.

Girasole had clearly gone to town – there were stalls selling jewelry, sweets, toys, kitchen things…, And about 20 different food places, many of which were set up in people’s gardens. I went on the Saturday and the Sunday, and had two completely different meals. I (over two nights) had melted fontina cheese on flatbreads, deep fried pastry puffs, grilled tuna, Sea Urchin, pasta with mutton, the potato and mint things again, spicy octopus, and roast mutton. It was fabulous. At the same time, there was music, traditional dancing, and most bizarre of all, a group dressed in goat skins, with antlers on their heads, soot-covered faces and bones hanging on their backs that banged as they walked, that marched through the village and danced around a fire. Amazing!

Culurgionis, pasta stuffed with potato and mint. Yum!
Roasting mutton.

Since I know my parents will be interested, I’ve also put a few flower pictures in. April is a brilliant time to visit Sardinia as everything is in flower. The hills are full of rock roses and ??? with ??? under the trees. I still can’t believe how quiet it is.

Butterfly orchid?
Cyclamen are everywhere at the moment.
Masses of Asphodel.
A lake full of aquatic buttercups.
Some kind of bee orchid.

When guidebooks go bad…

Have you ever done a walk where the guidebook seems to have gone to a completely different place? This was one of those days: when the guide said “stay on a narrow, sometimes unclear path that leads you between ancient oak trees” I would have said “traverse across a desperately steep scree slope on faint goat tracks; beware of the goats showering rocks on you”. Maybe I didn’t find the same route, but it started and finished at the same places, although the guide claimed there was a shepherd’s hut in between.

Pleasant oak woodland or horrendous scree?

Anyway, the place was the Serra Oseli, on the East side of Codula Luna, again in the Supramonte of Sardinia, and apart from trackless, goat-filled scree, it had plenty to offer. It set off traversing a wooded hillside before climbing to yet another shepherd’s hut, this one tucked under an overhang on a beautiful spur. After this came the scree,  followed by an awkward descent down scree, at the bottom of which I stopped for lunch with a friendly lizard, having reached a track that provided a reassuring escape route if things ahead continued in a similar vein.

The attractive lizard I shared lunch with.

Happily, they didn’t. The scree was less steep, and the path had been reinforced so apart from a small scramble up a rockface, travel was swift to the next sight, the outlet of the short, narrow, but impressively tall Gorroppeddu gorge. I scrambled up it as far as I could,  but was stopped by a step I thought I could probably climb, but might not be able to get back down. Little did I know that it would take 2 hours to get to the other side of the step!

The awkward step in Gorroppeddu gorge. Two hours later I’d be at the top of this.

After the gorge scramble progress was swift to another hut, at Cuile ‘e Ghirovai. This was again under an overhang, and clearly some shepherd really wanted to get to the top, as they had constructed a spectacular route featuring a rock and juniper log staircase up the rockface (known locally as a “Scale ‘e Fustes”). 

The unlikely Scale ‘e Fustes constructed by the shepherds.

From the top, the path pretty much vanished into the vegetation, and clearly the guidebook anticipated this as they made it clear which col to aim for. After some searching for cairns, I gave up and made for the col over very sharp limestone, and met the path I’d been looking for there. The col led into a pocket valley that was the catchment for the gorge, so I headed for the lowest point, which featured a grove of lovely old Yew trees. From there I scrambled down the same gorge I’d scrambled up earlier until again stopped by a step I couldn’t easily descend. Interestingly, I found two dug cave entrances on the way down.

The Yew trees and gorge entrance from the top.

After the gorge I headed out of the valley over another col, at which I took a quick detour to the top of the Serr Oseli ridge I’d been circumnavigating all day, before a lovely long trail run back to the car.

The ridge I’d spent all day circumnavigating.

Gola de Su Gorropu, a very deep gorge

With rain forecast for the afternoon, I decided on a shorter route with hopefully no scrambling which could be tricky on wet limestone. The walk I chose was to the top end of the Gola de Su Gorropu, apparently one of deepest gorges in Europe. It started off through pretty woodland with wild peonies and other flowers,  before heading over steep limestone, past the picturesque local shepherd’s huts and using some of their unlikely pathways built of juniper logs supporting stones. Eventually (after I’d spent quite a while traversing the valley side having lost the path) I headed down towards the dry riverbed in the bottom of the valley, led by a prominent hut on the other side, and managed to locate the route down and up the steep sided canyon.

The shepherd’s path, supported across the steep rock by juniper branches.

From there I carried on on a much clearer track, past a massive old Yew tree and a bronze age passage grave, or Giant’s Tomb as they call them here, before starting to descend into the Gorropu gorge itself. Just before the steep part of the descent a side trail led to Sa Pischina, a pool of water with massive overhangs on two sides and a spout for a waterfall to plunge into it when the river is flowing.

Sa Pischina from under the biggest overhang. Too bad the waterfall wasn’t running!

The descent into the gorge was fantastic, with another pool below and the deepest part of the canyon in the distance, all picked out in horizontal layers of limestone. Remarkably, for such a spectacular walk, at this point I met the only other hiker I would see all day, a German woman who was returning from the canyon floor as I was descending.

Gorropu gorge on the descent.

The track reached the riverbed at the pool, and I stopped for lunch before exploring the canyon. Downstream I got to a vertical drop into a deep pool, with a cable leading around the side. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought a climbing harness so I left that for another day. I then headed up the side canyon that was the end of the valley I’d been walking down earlier. I was hoping to reach a waterfall issuing from a cave entrance high above, but as I was scrambling up to the foot of it, the rain started and I decided the rocks was much to slippery to remain there once it got wet, so beat a hasty retreat.

The pretty pool where the path, and the valley I’d been following, meets the main Gorropu canyon.

The route back was supposed to be the reverse of the way there, but when I got to the point where I needed to cross the valley it was raining pretty hard and, concerned by the possibility of traversing long distances on wet rock I instead opted for a long, boring, and featureless slog along a dirt road back to my car. The only interest on the return was when the now quite heavy rain turned to snow for a while. I arrived back at the car just before the German woman, who told me the other trail had been fine in the rain, so all that boring running on the road was for nothing.

Looking down the side canyon. It’s amazing where the juniper trees manage to grow.

This evening I’ve been invited by the B&B host to a typical Sardinian meal, at which, so he says, there will be enormous amounts of food, so it’s good that I’m currently starving, having been trying to resist the urge to eat since the end of the hike.

The Wild Blue of Sardinia

I’m in Sardinia for a few days holiday, staying at the wonderful Lemon House in Lotzerai and spending my days trail running, hiking and whatever comes along. Lotzerai is at the south of the Supramonte, home of the Selvagio Blu trail, and while I decided not to do all of that, I’m doing some of the bits that don’t involve abseils or climbing where I’d really need to have a partner. For my first full day I decided on a nice looking loop in the Supramonte from the Golgo plateau down to the famous beach of Cala Goloritze and its rock pinnacle.

The start (after paying €6 entry) was on a rocky path that climbed over a low col with the first glimpse of the sea then steeply descending under oak trees into a canyon that led down to the beach. The sides were spectacular vertical limestone cliffs, and it was a glorious run, dropping 600m or so to the end, where a staircase had been built to give access to the beach.

Heading down the canyon to the beach at Cala Goloritze.

There was a pretty big swell, with waves crashing on the rocks and very little beach to be seen – definitely not swimming conditions – but the view was fantastic and it was a lovely spot to sit, watch the waves and have lunch.

The beach at Cala Goloritze and the famous pinnacle.

Afterwards I headed back up the canyon and then up a side canyon to eventually climb steeply up to a magnificent viewpoint at Punta Salinas that looked out over the pinnacle, the beach and the Gulf of Orosei. As with most of the smaller trails around here, route finding was pretty challenging, so a certain amount of scrambling and pushing through the vegetation was needed to get there from the main path, and yet I followed a perfectly obvious path back.

Looking down to Cala Goloritze from Punta Salinas.

From Punta Salinas I headed inland, past a traditional shepherd’s hut, over a saddle, and then down a very steep and rocky descent to some interesting Bronze Age ruins and back to my car. This really was a great walk – it felt like there was something to see around every corner.

A traditional shepherd’s hut.