Some arrive in Sardinia by ferry on the fifty minute route from Corsica. ‘Diverse and pretty’ was the verdict on Corsica from one couple we talked to; diverse enough, at least, to breed Napoleon, Henri Padovani (original guitarist for Police) and Cap Corse Mattei, the ‘legendary’ aperitif.
The BB and I bypassed all that and flew from Milan. The houses on the hilltops of Sardinia, caught in the evening sun, glinted like hundreds and thousands.
On the map it is a small island. Not so in real life. Driving from the airport in Olbia in the north to Cala Ganone on the east coast, took us a surprising two hours and was indicative the island’s TARDIS-like qualities of much packed into little, of variety and timelessness.
Take the road south from the town along the coast to its end (a few minutes drive). A steep, twisty footpath deposits you at Cala Fuili. At the corner of the cove is a small crag with some nice, though short, climbs. Down on the beach there is no need for concern about sand getting in your electronic book reader or camera. There is no sand. It’s all stones – sea-smooth, white stones interspersed with grey volcanic rocks.
Here, today’s beach-goers continue the extraordinary rock-moving work of Bronze Age Sardinians – albeit for a different purpose.
The beach pebbles provided me with state of the art sun-protection and were far more yielding as a mattress than sand is. I had a very comfortable sleep beneath my hat and long sleeves but no doubt looked an oddity amongst the many who presented their skin to the sun with impunity – Australian habits and knowledge die hard.
From this cove, walk one and a half hours to the next – Cala Luna. It’s two hours back, due to the initial ascent. My attention had been drawn to Cala Luna in the airport as we waited for our hire car. On a map of the island crowded with photographs of the coves, this one stood out. It was a green jewel amongst myriad blues.The number of visitors attest to its reputation of one of the most beautiful beaches on Sardinia. If you want to avoid the arduous walk in the sun, tourist boats make regular drop-offs.
Twice, we hired a dinghy for the day and motored along the shore, ducking in here and there. Hire boats cannot be taken past the southern end of the bay but there is plenty to do in the allowable curve.
Reflections of the cliffs extended 300 – 500 metres out. The pinks, greens and tans of the land formed a marbled layer through which the deep, rich blue bulged and folded.
The Grotte del Bue Marino is the largest cave in Sardinia. Its gnarly, creviced walls and ceilings, lapped with the aquamarine of the sea chopping below.
It is the stuff of tales, with two kilometres of routes winding deep beneath the land like paths of imagination through knowledge.
Traversing these waters, I thought often of my mother. When I was a young child, crossing a narrow channel of ocean water with her, she told me how much she enjoyed looking at the changing colours. It was possibly one of my first glimpses into her internal life; the understanding that she existed in a dimension unrelated to mothering was a revelation.
I reserve swimming for times when I am very hot. One day, when I actually was not, the lure of the docile sea and the realization that I did not want the later ‘lost-opportunity’ regret of having left the island without immersion, overcame my reservations. I felt like a dolphin cavorting in the deep recesses beneath the overhanging rocks.
At day’s end, the floating jetty at Cala Gonone, was disconcerting. The rhythm of water in a small and busy harbour is not the same as that of the open sea.
And the rhythms of Sardinia are not those of the rest of the world.
Go here for tourist information on Cala Gonone