Sardinia: Sassari and the North West
20.06.2009
I'm grateful to Someone Up There for listening to my prayers – as we are leaving the campsite, the sky is overcast and I feel a gentle breeze.
We intended to cycle inland, but to avoid cycling against the wind Igor proposed a flat road along the shore. Later during the day the wind gets so strong that we almost fall off our bikes. On some sections we cannot go faster than 10 km/h! Obviously we are far from delighted. Igor is angry and he wants to go back to Corsica. I swear like a sailor, but after all no wind can make me give up! Our recumbent bicycles show one more advantage today, namely low wind resistance. In such conditions, we would not be able to cover the same distance on "normal" bikes.
In La Muddizza I get a flat tyre – the first one during this expedition. What a day! Our spirits rise around 4 km outside of Castelsardo, when we see a downhill stretch and finally a beautiful view! The mediaeval citadel of Castelsardo is situated on a bare rocky hill protruding into the sea, with new, colourful houses built at its foot. This motley tongue of land washed by the waves of the bay looks terrific! The town was founded in the early 12th century by the Doria family from Genoa. It was originally called Castel Genovese, but after the Aragonese conquest the name was changed to Castel Aragonese. Eventually in 1796 the King of Sardinia named the town Castelsardo, which simply means "the Castle of Sardinians".
We take a turn towards Sassari, intending to reach Alghero by night. Our moods are not as good as in the previous days. Igor keeps thinking about going back to Corsica. We are tired of struggling against the wind, and the landscapes fail to reward our efforts. Moreover, our map is not fully up-to-date, and we have to take many detours to avoid roadworks and noise of traffic jams. Finally we manage to pass Sassari and find the right way to Alghero. It is now late afternoon and the wind has subsided. Unfortunately, the traffic has not. Suddenly Igor hits the brakes hard, so I follow suit. I only notice some object lying in the middle of the lane, but I don't know what it is. Igor turns around and says: "Look – a suicide tortoise". The frightened animal hid in its shell. We wait a few minutes until the tortoise sticks its head out. As soon as he sees two strange creatures on strange vehicles, he pees on us just in case, and then sticks out all the limbs. We take a few snapshots and then carry the animal to the roadside. If it wasn't for Igor, who took the tortoise away from the middle lane of the road, it would surely have been crushed by one of numerous trucks passing this section.
Afterwards we cycle for a few kilometres along vineyards, and around 9 pm we arrive at the superb campsite in Alghero – "La Mariposa" (www.lamariposa.it; EUR 10 per person).

21.06.2009
Have I already mentioned that the campsite is great? Located 2.5 km from the town centre, right on the beach, it features giant bathrooms: with numerous toilets, showers with hot and cold water, designated sinks for washing dishes and separate ones for washing clothes. Next to the bathrooms there is a big hearth with a grate where everyone can grill anything they like. The shop, bar and the reception desk are open until late evening and on Sundays. Customer service is excellent. The shop is well stocked.
After breakfast we indulge in a short siesta, reading a guidebook in the tent. The night was windy and now the sky is darkening with rain clouds. We quickly zip the tent, and when the rain starts to pour we start to laugh – not so long ago we complained about excessive heat! After a few minutes we put on our rainwear, and having left the luggage in the tent, we go sightseeing. The town was founded in the 12th century by the famous Geonese Doria family. In mid-14th century it was captured by the Spanish ruler Pedro IV of Aragon, who brought Catalan officials and settlers to the region. Alghero was one of seven Sardinian locations to receive the status of "King's City". Even today Catalan language and origins are a source of pride for the citizens.
The wide quay with a breakwater is an ideal place for long walks. You can also swim in the sea unless you get discouraged by seaweed (which gave the town its name – "Alghe" stands for "algae"). We stroll farther into the old town area. Cobbled streets are narrow, full of shops, connected by countless small squares. Street names are still provided in Catalan. Above the streets we can admire Spanish arches decorated with laundry, as usual. The town prides itself on several Gothic churches, surrounded by mediaeval walls and towers. One of them – San Michele – captures our attention as the most exquisitely ornamented baroque church we have ever seen. On our way back to the campsite we have lunch in a pizzeria on the waterside. We watch people passing by and talk about all the afternoon attractions. We especially enjoyed our walk along town walls with circular bastions, which surround the Old Town, offering a spectacular view of the bay and Capo Caccia.
Back in the tent, Igor decides to go to Capo Caccia, while I stay at the campsite to do some washing and prepare an itinerary for the next days.

22.06.2009
Breakfast is delicious – fresh bread rolls from the shop, a few slices of ham, and fresh figs.
The ride is nice, even in the sun that starts to break through the morning clouds. Two hours later we make a break to dry up our towels and eat a few fresh figs.
The SP105 road running along the coast to Bosa is fantastic! Slightly sinusoidal, it is wide and has a good surface. All the small bays and white sandy beaches that we pass are among Sardinia's most beautiful views. Our enjoyment of the ride is further enhanced by the lack of any traffic. We suspect that most drivers choose the main N292 route, which is great, because now we can easily cycle side by side, immediately sharing emotions or observations.
Compared with Corsica, in Sardinia it is much more difficult to set up a tent "in the wild". Fields stretching along the roadside are usually fenced, and "wild" paths leading to beaches are scarce. Besides, camping on the beach would be next to impossible due to high tides. As we cross various bridges, we only see plaques with river names, but unfortunately there are hardly any rivers. Sometimes there is some water in the riverbed, but it is difficult to call it a "watercourse". After meeting a few locals, we come up with an idea that if the people of Sardinia moved to Corsica, it would be a paradise on earth!
We also promise ourselves that in every town we will "dive" into the narrow streets, between buildings. What deserves particular attention in Sardinia is the walls. All of a sudden you may come across a unique mural, a tiny courtyard with a curious window, an amazing forged postbox, or a door knocker. Sometimes they are genuine works of art!
After a 3-hour ride Bosa emerges from around the corner. It looks like a mirage! Set between two mountains, a myriad of red roofs glisten in the sun on the shore. Founded by Phoenicians, the town lies on the banks of the Temo – the only navigable river in Sardinia. On one bank lies Sa Piana district: tall, colourful houses, and narrow streets leading up to the Castello Malaspina, the castle raised in the 12th century by the Malaspina family, later serving as a headquarter of the Aragonese nobles. The district once comprising the free city of Sa Piatta lies on the river bank, featuring many elegant houses. At the river mouth, in turn, Bosa Marina district prides itself on beautiful seaside beaches.
Siesta has just begun when we realise we are hungry. A quick turn to a ristorante with a shaded terrace. Obviously it is too late for lunch, but we are lucky. The super-friendly owner asks the cooks what they could prepare. We expect that the easiest thing would be some pasta with sauce, but not this time! They prepare grilled vegetables and delicious, huge steaks. We moan with pleasure. Wishing to show gratitude for such hospitality and friendliness, we do our best to explain where we are from, where we are going, what kind of strange bikes we have, etc.
Later we face quite a steep section to Magomadassi, and then we turn towards Tresnuraghes. We are greeted by elderly gentlemen sitting on a bench. They all wave at us simultaneously, as if they were practising this gesture all day long.
From Sennariolo we take a look at Cuglieri situated uphill. Even earlier we did notice the silver dome of the 16th-century Santa Maria della Neve church, but we did not feel like covering the extra distance only to look at this single monument. Thus we cycle past Cuglieri, unfortunately uphill. Igor wants our distance meters to show more than 100 km at the end of the day. It is quite possible, because in just a while we start a long downhill ride all the way to S. Caterina di Pittinuri. We are enchanted by a cliff coast and pebble beach. A bit farther – near S. Archittu – the cliffs look simply breathtaking in the rays of the setting sun. A few photos, a few sighs, a few hugs and we hop on the bikes. Pushed by a gentle wind on a flat road, we reach Cabras, expecting to find a campsite nearby. Indeed, there is one, but on the other side of the lake. A quick glance at a map is enough to find out that Marina di Torre Grande is much closer. We exchange the lenses in our cycling glasses, and put on head torches. Apparently we don't look too strange after all, because the camping guard does not ask any questions when showing us the place to set up the tent (www.campingspinnaker.com). Our usual evening rituals proceed much faster because of blood-thirsty mosquitoes. It is quite late when we finally relax, smiling at each other, sipping instant soups.