We decided not to do the boat trip here so the next morning we left to do the 5 kilometre climb to get out of Cala Gonone. Despite Elaine’s lack of faith on Bertha’s ability to climb mountains; we got to the top quite easily and didn’t have too much of a procession behind us by the time we got to the top. I do not think the picture from the layby at the top shows perfectly how far we had climbed but it will give you some idea because the town you can see in the distance is the town we had just left.
We moved just a little further north to visit the Grotte di Ispinigoli. The boast is that this grotto has the second largest stalagmite in the world: the first being in Cuba. When we got to the carpark we saw a sign saying that the tours are guided tours and one was just about to start. I think Elaine and I proved just how fit we are as we ran up the hundred or so steps to get to the entrance and the ticket office. We made it and as we were paying our entrance fee we were told that filming or taking photos is strictly forbidden (with or without flash). The chamber was very impressive and our tour took around 45 minutes and the guide spoke in English and all the other nationalities had to put up with a type written explanation in their language. When the tour was over I went to the ticket office to get some form of leaflet to keep as a reminder as I had no photograph. They had nothing but she did say that the restaurant in the carpark sold postcards. I purchased three cards and spotted a picture on the wall of the inside of the grotto. The bar tender very kindly allowed me to go behind his bar to take this picture of his picture.
Our map of Sardinia highlights scenic routes so we continued our zigzag tour of the island by following these highlighted roads towards the northwest of Sardinia and we were aiming to get to a sea side resort just north of Sassari. What a brilliant day! We were soon climbing and as our satnav show metres above sea level: we were soon 500 metres up and still climbing. The views were spectacular and the windy roads with the 180⁰ sharp turns made it a fascinating drive. Way above us and in the distance we saw a town perched on top of a flat mountain.
I had to assure Elaine that there was no way we were going as high as that. What I actually said was that if we were going as high as that we would need oxygen. When the satnav said we were 830 metres above sea level I pulled over by the side of the road for lunch. We were just below the level of the town and the peace and quiet up there, other than the occasional car, was a real pleasure.
All we could hear was a cuckoo calling somewhere in the distance and the bells worn by a flock of goats that we had passed earlier.
After lunch we actually drove higher than this town that we saw was called Orune. The scenic route then dropped a bit and we drove on through the towns of Bitti and Ozieri and the plateau we were on remained in the region of 550 metres above sea level. Either side of us for miles and miles were cork trees and their precious bark had been stripped off every tree we could see.
Other than the cork trees, it is the first time we have come across large flocks of sheep grazing on the lush looking grass. Down at sea level, the ground is already looking parched and whitened because of the consistent daylight sunshine and the very high temperatures. Up here, on this plateau the grass is still green and the huge lakes we have driven by show there is plenty of water up here.
Really that was the end of the scenic drive so we then turned on to the road heading into the large city of Sassari. At Sassari we turned north to get to the coast and knew we had a free camping place at Castelsardo, a seaside town and I followed the directions the satnav was giving me to get to our parking place. As we drove through I misunderstood a direction given and turned onto a very narrow 2 way road and couldn’t turn round. People were stopping walking wondering what we were doing coming up here. It was narrow and I had to squeeze through the narrow route. A car driver stopped beside us and said there was no way we could get through (or that’s what we thought he said!). The satnav said turn left and suddenly I could see what the driver was talking about. In front of us was a very narrow, sharp incline with an immediate right hand bend at the top. I had no choice and all I could do was to give Bertha a proper test of hill climbing. I waited until the cars had come down then went for it knowing that if any vehicle had come round the corner then if I stopped then we would not make it to the top. We made it despite the fact that I could feel the tyres slipping when we got near the top.
It ended up being a beautiful place to park for the night overlooking the bay and the mound with the old town with the castle at the top was our view from the motorhome side window.
I went out a couple of times to take night photos of our beautiful panorama. It had been a long day and wasn’t surprised to see that our day’s journey had been 141 miles. It may not seem a lot but driving up and down mountain passes is slow and takes a lot of concentration.
After our busy day yesterday then we decided on an easy day today. We walked back into town and started to climb the slopes towards the old town and the castle that had been the subject of last night’s photos. We explored the medieval streets and the 15th century cathedral. Along the narrow streets older ladies could be seen sitting in their doorways making and attempting to sell their basketworks and other wares. Castelsardo is also known for its other handicrafts and goods made from cork and coral. The castle at the top was closed but we had some very nice view from the that high up and from there we could now see Bertha all on her own as the other motorhomes that we were parked alongside of us last night had all moved on. We walked back along the erroneous route we took last night because I wanted a photo of the sharp incline. I do not know if this photo shows adequately the degree of slope we encountered but I know I will always remember the relief I felt when we had passed this hurdle yesterday.
We were going to move on ourselves so we drove 6 miles further on and got to the village of Valledoria. Our camperstop app had told us that there was a free site we could stay in where we could get water and where we could empty our waste tanks. An hour ago we pulled in to what looks like someone’s very large front garden. We found a drain and a tap and got filling and emptying as quickly as possible but so far no one has been out to see us and the whole place still looks deserted. Possibly this might be a restaurant or may have been a restaurant in the past. We may just be in totally the wrong place and may have to do a quick exit if we have got it wrong. Something I didn’t mention yesterday were what looked like large bullet holes in lots of the metal road signs we saw as we crossed the plateau as though the local pastime was to practice marksmanship during a country drive. We both took notice of the paragraph in one guide book describing this area as bandit country. So this blog may be the last you hear from us.
We are parked rather close to a cage full of geese so let’s hope they will not be noisy neighbours during the night. Good news, a man turned up and told us that our stay was free and told us where we could find the water tap. He hasn’t shown us a menu, if it is just a way to get customers for his diner. So it looks as though we will stop here tonight as long as the geese behave themselves.