Giant gorges and big leap north – Porto Ottiolu, Sardinia, Italy

We were as usual awake fairly early this morning. Kev peaked through the blind on the accommodation door as he was making tea and said “wow, the sky is on fire over there”. So the kettle was switched off as we all filed out to watch the sunrise on the beach. This east coast has the most amazing sunrises. We tried to capture the amazing colours on our phone cameras, but it is just never as good as the real thing.

Sunrise at Torre di Bari

After breakfast, we made our packed lunches and prepared dog supplies for a hike, sorted all the services for the van and headed off. A quick stop off at Crai Extra supermarket on the edge of town to get a couple of bits we could not get yesterday, we only ever seem to get 80-90% of our shopping list in one stop.

How is that for dog friendly?! At the local supermarket.

Our destination for the day was a walk at Gorropu gorge. Shaped through millennia by the Flumineddu river, Gorropu is one of the deepest gorges in Europe and only 4m wide at its narrowest point. It was only an hour’s drive from last night’s camp spot. There was also a campsite, open all year round, next door to the start point to the hike which takes you along the bottom of the gorge. There were even jeeps to drive you back up to the top rather than walk the 700m straight back uphill.

We could tell the plan was not going to go that smoothly though when we arrived at the all/year- round campsite, down a rough track on the edge of the clifftop, to find the gates padlocked. The nearby carpark, frequented mostly by cows and their friendly but skinny doggie companion, had big signs saying no camping. That is fairly unusual in our experience so far in Sardinia and made us reluctant to stay there.

From smooth tarmac to 4×4 to find the campsite closed

The signs said it was €5 to enter the gorge and the ticket office was at the bottom of the 700m climb, a 90 minute walk. The bar, hotel etc at the top were all shuttered closed, apparently for weeks. All indications on line though suggested everything, except the bar was open but that is no indication at all from experience. I tried calling and a What’App message to the jeep company / official Gorropu site with no answer.

We were just deliberating if it was worth the walk to potentially find the ticket office closed and the way barred. Plus we would have to leave the van fairly exposed in a very remote place. Our dog Lizzy has cataracts in both eyes and as you might expect has a real struggle with depth perception which makes walks on very uneven terrain a challenge. Then it started to rain. Even so, we thought we would try the jeep company base which was 10 minutes further to drive. Sadly, this too was shuttered up, so gorge walk was reluctantly abandoned.

1.5 – 2.5 hrs and -700 meter walk to the ticket office and can’t find out if it is open!

However, the day was not lost because we did get to drive most of the SS-125 from Dorgali to Arbatax road, regarded as one of the best driving roads in the world. It has for large sections perfectly smooth tarmac with extra granite for grip, amazingly, for an island with pretty terrible roads in general. As such it is a big draw for bikers and presumably Italians in sports cars enjoying the bending / twisty mountain sections. Thankfully though, there were none of those out today to interrupt our more sedentary journey in a 4×4 camper.

Gorropu Gorge, you can see in the centre how the water has carved a path through the mountain

The views were really spectacular though, one of those journey’s where you both repeatedly say “wow” as you turn the next bend and then the next. Parked up at the jeep station to eat lunch, we could see the towering cliffs of the gorge and where the river had sliced through the terrain. Sadly we could also see the rain clouds incoming and confirmed today was really not the day to go venturing.

SS-125, a legendary driver’s road, Sardinia’s version of Route 66

We looked for an alternative place for the night and found Cala Gonone on the coast, with another all year round campsite. However, we are learning this lesson now, as despite the help of a nice maintenance guy we found it was definitely not open, nor was anything much in the whole town. We are finding that this east side of the island, being much more tourist orientated, is a lot less campervan friendly, there are much more prohibitions to wild camping and people reporting being moved on by police even in November, well after the season has finished. However, in addition the campsites are also now closed.

We also tried a carpark spot in central Orosei, being less touristy inland town, which people had reported staying at more recently. It was a little off putting that the entrance of the town was basically a huge open cast quarry where huge blocks of “Sardinian stone” were being chiselled from the hillside. When we pulled up in the carpark a large coach drive right through moments later. Less of a carpark then, more parking in the middle of the road. Then another “all year” campsite at Cala Liberotto, further north, also closed.

We have eventually settled for the night in Porto Ottiolu in a large carpark near the immaculate marina and lovely white sand beach. We even passed a sign to say a restaurant opposite is open… tomorrow at least.

As we backed into the space I jumped out to check our clearance over the kerb at the back. Before we had even finished reversing, a local police car drove around the otherwise empty carpark to pass us! We decided this was a good sign though, as he did not tell us to leave and at least they are keeping a good watch. It provides some reassurance they are so vigilant, with all the reports of campervan break ins at the north of Sardinia.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: