Our trip started in a blustery Lyon, wrapped in our fleeces and a woollen hat, we cut our way through the centre, keeping our prepaid tickets zipped away. A short train journey separated us from Toulon and our ferry.
Slipping our way along the glistening quayside at Toulon, we were greeted by a laden surly and its engine, Laurent, a bright eyed tinder fiend. His compagnon, another Laurent turned up shortly afterwards. We shared a meal together at a questionable purveyor of seafood, trading battle stories and our plans for Sardinia. We finished the meal feeling consoled by their seeming lack of planning.
We headed as a pack to the quayside. Although impressed by the height of the canary yellow hull towering over us, we lost no time in wrapping our honed bodies in oil skins as the spray lashed around us. The swell perfumed the air with the enticing odour of mechanical toilets.
Entering the hold, we strung up our steeds with haulage cables. A dispute among the shippers assaulted our ears with latin in its most vulgar form. A night spent ignoring the cough of a poorly child and the snickering of teenagers in the conference room cum free dormitory we were glad to sea landfall, keen to stretch our legs. We were to be greeted by the sight of a rear flat tyre. The quayside at Toulon had been a veritable fakir’s chair. Glumly accepting our fate we strolled out onto the crisp tarmac, the flat tyre oozing behind us.
At Dorgali, the day’s climb a few metres away, we decided to stock up. Heading into a local shop, I was proferred green olives and fromaggio di capri. Eyeing the tender’s rotund physique I became wary of their transformative properties.
Heading uphill from Ulassai, our guide Pietro tied his hair back with the flamboyance of Lanzoni, gunned the 4×4 and stuck jimi on the dusty stereo. The gradiant was steep. My arse tightened.
Swooping gracefully down to the coast on tiring legs we sought out a spot to camp. A strip of dune beside a seemingly abandoned campsite would be our « cavallo blanco ». A toblerone bar’s of Northern Europeans looked on with bemusement as we undressed under the setting sun before heading for the water. We yearned to be free of the suncream film clothing our skin like a hardening pastry on a marble countertop. For those in any doubt our finely honed bodies can be likened to the metamorphic matière.
Wearing the same steadily darkening cut off shorts and erratically taking care of my personal hygiene, I feel free. This sensation could be written off as being the lightheaded effect of mild heatstroke or bacterial growth.
Jan looked patiently at my clumsy rolling technique. I still had a while to go before I mastered the thumb flip.
At the caves of Ulassai, we swirled bitter spritz in flat-bottomed glasses. We were introduced to the golden circle : climbers, DH stars, homecoming Cagliari sappers. My synatic fluid topped off with olive oil and my heart pounding with strong coffee I natter away.
The Sards, although known for being somewhat insular, were nothing but welcoming. Unhurriedly looking on a I bumbled my way through broken Italian, neurotically using hand signals. They respond graciously « prego ».
Following a monday of rain, hail and grinding uphill we cut our losses and bused it to Nuoro, decorating our host’s apartment with the nose wrinkling odour of wet dog. The morning after, the sun making a welcome appearance and our legs fresh from the luxurious double bed we plunged downhill before rising towards orgosolo. Checking out some flowers by the roadside we were overtaken by a bicycling duo of cat burglars. Their matte carbon steeds glided effortlessly over the tarmac. Following in their wake, their shapeshifting forms gently shimmering, we adopted pur best peloton impression. The wind tugged at our luggage. “Where are you from?” I inquired. “Ze nezerlands” one of the cat burglers replied curtly. Inspired by their affable nature I dug my heels in. My dry chain croaked.
Arriving in orgoloso we threaded our way to the piazza, scarlet street art looking on with all of the charm of a constipated lenin. A café proposing gluten free produce and 70s rock welcomed us in. The tattooed waitress shooed away busloads of elderly package tourists fearing for the state of the establishment’s plumbing.
Metting up with the Laurent and Laurent we left orgloso, heading for the west coast. We struck out for a good camping spot before finding a trail leading us to an elevated crag overlooking the valley floor. Lighting up our respective stoves and polishing off a bottle of wine we nattered until dusk. We awoke to a grumbling sky and the whistle of wind. Keen to get moving, I looked on as our compatriots flustered around, simultaneously losing and finding their equipment in a flurry of cordura and tarp. I was glad to have packed light. Separating into our respective groups, the clouds glared, their temples pulsing. We knuckled down for rain. At Teti, before midday, we happened upon an unassuming bar where a gregarious barman pumped us full of limoncello and mirto, a local liquour. Slightly drunk we continued our climb. Around 1pm, the cliuds finally broke, heavy droplets darkening our luggage. Finding shelter in the alcove of a water spigot we looked dolefully on. Fimally arriving at the coast, the sun made a welcome appearance, rejuvanating our spirits. A sneaky campsite shower and a dune bivouac ensured that the day ended on a positive note.
A salty morning rinse and a leisurely coffee on a seaside terrace put us in the mood for the decidedly arduous trek of the final part of our trip ; heading north along the coast.