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Cycling to Africa: Onwards to Sardinia

16:46 8th August 2013 By Pavel Trcala

Pavel rolls on. This time he returns to italian territories, cycling through the Sardinian badlands. 

Ferry to Sardinia

Pavel ruining a perfectly good view of Tavolara island just off the coast of Sardinia

Pavel ruining a perfectly good view of Tavolara island just off the coast of Sardinia

A short ferry hop and I’d made it to Sardinia. The ship’s captain made it obvious that we were in Italian territory by pulling into the small harbour of Santa Teresa in a way that a teenage boy would pull into a driveway to impress his girlfriend- full forward, hand-brake then full reverse. Shaken but in one piece I jumped ashore.

After a pizza for less than a half the price of one in Corsica and a late start heading out to hit my prescribed forty kilometres on the bike. It was a good ride along the famous Costa Smeralda seeing some of the Russian Millionaires’ super yachts. Not being able to afford a night on one of those, I opted for the local caravan site. “Oh, the caravans are full, but we also rent rooms”, said the owner and showed me into a room that appeared as it used to be the master bedroom of the house with chateau like furniture. After three nights on the ground – I slept like a king.


Costa Smeralda

The waters of Costa Smeralda are like in the Caribbean and the scenery is breath taking. The bays and coves resemble Croatia, just with a much higher ratio of luxury yachts.

After a brief visit to a village market, I pedalled over the hills into Olbia, the main city in the north of Sardinia. Before heading further south I wanted to check the ferries to Africa.

A ferry from Sardinia to Africa?

On maps there is a dotted link between Sardinia and Tunisia meaning that, in theory, there should be a ferry connection between these the two. Accidentally, a friend was in Sardinia few months ago and saw a sign for Tunis at the Cagliari port. We both tried to find that ferry company on the internet but with no luck. I even attempted to call the companies running ferries out of Sardinia, but got nowhere.

So I thought that my best bet would be to find a travel agency and get someone in the loop to answer my question: “Is there a ferry from Sardinia to Tunisia?” “Oh, yes, there used to be, but they stopped it last year”, said the lady at the travel agency. “Your only chance is to take the ferry to Sicily and then go from Sicily to Tunisia”. Well, it would be a detour, but my whole trip is a detour from everyday life anyway, so at least I get to see Sicily, I said to myself. “When is the ferry leaving from Cagliari?”  “In two days and it only goes once a week,” explained the lady.

That meant that if I did not want to hang out in Sardinia for another week, I would have to speed up- I only had two and a half days to make it to Cagliari.


The wind at my back

A roadie's dream...

A roadie’s dream…

Luckily, the wind from the north picked up and helped me on the exposed parts of the journey. I watched kite and windsurfers in the bay near Porto San Paolo with the majestic Isola Tavolara in the background. In San Teodoro, I saw sign for a full lunch for 8 Euros. I could use some protein, I thought. Well, the piece of chicken served on a plastic plate with plastic utensils was so miniscule that it made me get back onto my tried and tested pizza fuel.


Scary road

A roadie's nightmare.

A roadie’s nightmare.

Before turning inland, I made a daily swim stop in the bay near to Santa Lucia and for me it was the last beach with clear water in Sardinia. Fresh from the swim I was ready for the mountain stage on the bike again. The road, marked as dirt road on my map, was actually a very wide paved road climbing gradually into a pass. I found it fascinating, if a bit scary.


The valley after the pass was desolate with no crossroads, no villages and no houses for tens of kilometres. I felt like I was somewhere in the Western United States.

There were almost no cars and it didn’t take long for my paranoia to get the better of me. Fearing bandits and, for some reason, being robbed at gun point I began to scan the valley for escape routes. There were none- jus rocks and dry grass with no place to hide. And seeing gun shot holes on traffic signs was not encouraging.


Cuban dancer

The sun setting over Dorgali

The sun setting over Dorgali

I eventually made it over the pass and down the hill to Irgoli, but nobody warned me about the impending climb to Dorgali, almost five hundred metres higher! When I took the descent to Cala Gonone and met with friends, they greeted me like a Tour de France hero. “Pavel, are you too tired or can you make it to the Havana club with us. They have a Cuban dancer!” “But of course!” I lasted an hour, before I passed out on the terrace of the apartment, never making it to the club.


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