Ciao Sardinia, for this year: October 2014

Well, here we are approaching our last week in Sardinia. The weather is still lovely but a bit cooler at nights and a bit cloudier with the odd drop of rain and some thunder. I am not looking forward to the cold and dark of Scotland but we are ready to come home and really excited to see the family and friends again after 6 months away.

Our friends Trina and Joe arrived at the end of September, for 10 days and we explored Olbia and visited the museum and we managed  5 days sailing, going up to the Madelena islands (Porto Palma on Caprera), then down to Cala di Volpe. Everything was much quieter than in September but the water was still great for swimming and snorkelling and we saw dolphins too. There was even a tiny sea plane that landed while we were in Cala di Volpe.

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The weather was its usual unpredictable self with flat calm turning to F4/5 within an hour, but lots of sun. We are used to that now so it doesn’t surprise us anymore! Coming back to Olbia around Capo Figari is always exciting and it did not disappoint this time either, blowing 22 knots against us. Vaila is up for anything and Joe helmed splendidly (he has seen worse seas off Peterhead!!)

The last few days of Trina and Joe’s holiday were forecast to be very windy, so we took the bus up to Porto Rotondo one day. This is one of the super expensive Marinas on the Costa Smeralda. Everything built of granite with very posh shops and restaurants, most of which were shut for the season. It was nice to see it but we were glad we had not come in on the boat looking for something to eat as little was open! We did have a very expensive round of drinks while sitting on the quayside though!

 

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For the last 2 days we decided to hire a car and explore a bit more inland. We drove from Olbia to Tempio in the centre of the north part of Sardinia (the region called Gallura). The mountains are high and the roads wind up and up round countless hairpins with signs for snow and ice by the side of the road in preparation for the winter. When you get to the top somehow you expect to go down again but instead there is a very high plain with huge forests of cork oaks and a few vineyards scattered around. The hill towns flow down from the tops, catching the precious breeze in the summer. Everything was incredibly green.

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A lot of the cork oaks had been harvested, leaving the trees stripped up to 2 m and bright red. Luckily the trees are not harmed by the harvest and the thick cork grows back in about 11 years. Sardinia produces 80% of the cork in Italy but the industry is suffering due to plastic corks and screw tops on wine, we are doing our best to keep the sales high! Cork factories have huge stacks of cork outside waiting to be made into products. There is even a cork cloth available which is incredibly soft!

We had a picnic lunch stop at a reservoir high in the hills. There was still water in it, but the level was down waiting for the winter rains. This reservoir feeds Olbia and the towns in the north. Close by were some very old Olive trees. They are protected and a small fee is charged to go to see them. The oldest one is 4000 years old, 40 high and the trunk is 11m in circumference. The other 2 trees were slightly younger (about 3000 years old!).

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Nuraghe Major

We continued on the road and had a look at one of the many Nuraghic sites still preserved in Sardinia. The Nuraghic civilisation was around from the middle Bronze Age (1600 BC) to 600 BC when the Carthaginians arrived on the island. The people built “Nuraghe” (round defensive towers consisting of double layers of stone with steps between the layers and small rooms inside). This is so like the Brochs we have in Scotland – surely not just a coincidence??? Unfortunately no written records were left behind but archaeologists have pieced together their lives from artefacts found on the 7000 sites that are dotted around Sardinia. The people were shepherds, fishermen, metallurgists and had a good knowledge of the sea. Interestingly there are also many stone age standing stones and dolmens in Sardinia, again pointing to a widespread civilisation in western Europe.

The tower we visited (Nuraghe Major) was quite well preserved up to first floor level, with rooms visible. The stones in the walls were huge, rounded lumps of granite. How on earth was it all put together? The darkest chamber also had a roost of about 20 lesser horseshoe bats, so that was an added bonus. The girl in the entrance hut was very helpful, spoke excellent English and was very interested when we told her of the similarities with the Brochs of Scotland. She also made lovely jewellery with cork and semi -precious stones, so of course I had to buy some!

Our day continued to the lovely town of Cannigione, back on the sea and with a stunning background of spiky mountains. Luckily the Gelato shop was open!

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The following day was Trina and Joe’s last and we headed for the beaches. We started at Cala Capo di Cavallo where we had anchored earlier in September with a fantastic view of Isola Tavolara. The water did not disappoint but the wind was blowing into the beach so we moved on to Brandinchi which faces south. A lovely beach and obviously geared up for many tourists in the summer but thankfully pretty empty at this time of year. Swimming and sunbathing was idyllic, hard to believe it was 3rd October!

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As Trina and Joe left, our friend Paul arrived. It was lovely to see him and luckily the weather held out and let us get 4 days sailing done.  We went back up to pretty quiet Islola Caprera, after spending a night tucked in behind Isola di Figari (at the mouth of the Olbia estuary). On the way back we stopped again in Cala di Volpe, a favourite spot especially now that the water skiers and super yachts have gone. Coming back towards Capo Figari, the wind was forecast to be very strong against us (so what’s new), so tried out the combination of reefed jib and new staysail. It worked an absolute treat and made sailing into a headwind of 20+ knots much easier and safer. We will definitely be using this combo more in the future, especially as the winds are so unpredictable around here!

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Returning to Olbia we spent a day in town and had another visit to the museum. It was really great to see it again and take in more of the information.

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Old church in Olbia

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Inside the museum in Olbia showing parts of the 2000 year old boats recovered, with steering oar and a reconstruction of possible cargo

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On Paul’s last day we took the No 4 bus out to Pittulongu beach, which is the nearest nice beach to town. We managed some swimming and sunbathing before the wind got up and sandblasted us! We retreated to one of the beach bars for a delicious lunch and watched in awe as the wind surfers and kite surfers came out to play. It was probably blowing a good F7 and the surfers were pulling lots of stunts, very entertaining.

So now we are into boat cleaning and packing up mode. It has been an amazing 6 months. We have covered 1600 miles, visited loads of islands, met some great people on the way and had family and friends out to visit us. Roll on 2015…

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