We decided it would be nice to have a little look at Sardinia and then maybe catch the 40 minute ferry to Corsica.  It was a bit of high risk thing to do (you think we would learn after trying to camp in Tunisia) as I could only find one open campsite in the whole of Sardinia before April came around, but what the heck!  We headed north

1 route to Rome 1

2 Route to rome 2

3 Route to rome 3

 stopped overnight in the nice Roma campsite (heated bathrooms, pure heaven!) and, although it was €26 per night, it still made a nice change. 

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We headed on up to Civitavecchia

5 Route to Rome

(if you want to give any local Italian a laugh, all you have to do is try to pronounce ‘Civitavecchia’- it’s something like ‘Chivit-ah-vech-ear’)(we can nearly say it after five weeks or so of lessons from giggling check in clerks) to catch the overnight ferry to Cagliari, which was remarkably easy after our adventures there on the way to Tunis.  The boat was very quiet and so only the self service restaurant and bar were open.  The food was about edible, being not hot enough and the vegetables overcooked, but there wasn’t a lot of choice.

There was a group of about twenty very nicely dressed young men and women, all in suits and wearing flash name tags.  No drinking (we thought that they might be Mormons) but they were having lots of fun playing some circle game involving swapping seats.  Of course, curiosity got the better of me, so I asked some of the nice young men who they were.  It turned out that they are an international (at least American, Canadian and Italian) group of missionaries for their church to or in Sardinia and they had just been to a conference in Rome.  I never did find out if they were protestant, catholic or anything else…. I did manage to sneak a photo of them as they were leaving the ship.

8 missionaries

The next morning the boat was like a ghost ship, as a lot of people had got off somewhere else at 3am (I never did find out where, I just hope it was a port!).  Breakfast was OK, if you like burnt croissants and tea that tastes of coffee (YUCK!) and the little dollop left by one of the onboard mutts on the carpet by the stairs, just added to the ambiance.  The weather was starting to really deteriorate and the waves were large enough for the ferry to smack down really hard a few times.

We arrived in Cagliari at about 10 30am and we were off the boat by about 11(amazing) so we decided to explore the city.  The old town was lovely and small enough to walk right across.  It’s a shame that so many places were not open (like the botanical gardens) but we liked it very much, just the same.

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I liked a local solution to the fag end problem…

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We then drove up to near Tortoli half way up the east coast to the wonderful-sounding campsite I had checked out on the internet.  Restaurant! Bar! Shop! Lovely camping spaces!  The route was beautiful, so green and covered in wild flowers as we wound our way through the mountains.  (Green was a bit of a clue about camping in Sardinia, by the way).  The rain started to hammer down and I looked wistfully at the cloud closing in.  The views must be really spectacular in the rare good weather…. 

13 a Sardinia 1

13 b Sardinia 2

13c Sheep sardinia

We found the campsite with relative ease, but the deep puddles and ruts on the approach road were a bit of a cause for concern.  The gate was shut, but there was a board out front in 4 different languages saying they were open and to come on in, camp and sort out registration later.  I managed to open the gate and was met by the owner’s daughter, who said, yes indeed we could camp anywhere, so we had a look around at the surrounding quagmire. 

14Arrival in Campsite Sardinia

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Luckily the place also had cabins so we took one of those instead.  The cabin was OK, if rather tired, but it was warm and we even managed to get some hot water the next day.

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We were heartily relieved not to be under canvas, because there was quite a storm overnight.  Once it stopped pouring the next day we went beach combing, rescuing jelly fish and wondering at how much debris had been thrown up on the beach. 

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Tim Dowle, saviour of the jellyfish.

Tim Dowle, saviour of the jellyfish.

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17 Beach Lotzorai

The way the water was emptying itself out of the coastal marshes was quite a lesson in hydrodynamics.

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The next day we went for a drive, and it was beautiful, but we didn’t get much beyond the local hill town of Baunei because it was VERY stressful with the narrow, hairpin roads coupled together with the usual tailgating and mad overtaking from the locals.

23 Route north Sardinia 2

22 Route north Sardinia

21 Road to Baunei

24 Sardinia 3

Considering how dangerous the roads were, even in a nice safe Land Rover, we wondered if the locals actually like bikers or were trying to get rid of a few.

25 Biker trap

We popped into the local marina on the way back

26 Marina Santa Maria Navaresse

Sardinia is one of the most beautiful places we have visited; I have never seen so many wild flowers and everywhere you travel, there is a sequence of stunning mountain views.  March is NOT, however, the time to go there.  The weather was horrible and most things were shut, including the many campsites.  I would love to go back there in early May.  Well, maybe one day…..

Our plans to go on to Corsica soon crashed and burned, as well.  The only ferries that operate before April go straight back to Civitavecchia.  As the weather was foul on our last day in Sardinia, we were happy to take a ferry from the local port of Arbatax.  It was a tiny place, but we were interested to see this huge monster being built there. 

27 Oil rig in Arbatax

Our ferry was not due to leave until 11 pm, so we tramped around the port while the delightful Sardinian deluge soaked us through.  We realised that the monster was actually moving, being inched forward by giant crawlers.  We eventually went in search of a place to eat and we saw neon lights across the marina, promising us food.  It took us about four goes to work out how to get there and we ended up having a lovely evening there.  We met a couple of Brits who were in charge of the 80m long tug that was going to take the oil platform to Norway.  We had a fabulous meal, including lots of free nibbles and slices of ham, and then headed off to wait for our ferry in the tiny port.  We could not imagine how it was going to work, but all of a sudden a huge great ferry just pulled up by the car park, let down a flap and the 20 or so cars that were waiting drove on board.  We were made to wait until nearly last, as we could not fit onto the car deck and had to park on the ramp.  It was a tad of a worry, because the sea was quite rough, but the crew did put a single wedge in under one of the tyres. 

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The crew was obviously not particularly interested in the few latecomers onto the boat nor was the breakfast snack much cop the next day.  I get the impression that Tortoli Line is highly subsidised to keep Sardinia connected with the mainland but they do not train their staff or pay them particularly well.  None of them looked particularly happy and it was very hard to get decent service.  Still, they got us back to Civitavecchia in one piece and more or less on time.

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