November 13, 2016
True to the idea of taking some time away from computers (and technology in general), we’re just going to write about a couple of highlights – which turns out to be harder than you’d think. Nothing long, no story arc, just some of the things we enjoy about these places. We’ll let Nita’s pictures do most of the talking…
Sardegna is beautiful. Our plan in Alghero, is to take some time off from writing, processing images, thinking. We’ve found a wonderful little campsite on the edge of town and close to a sandy beach. On paper it all looks very good. The roads and landscape along this wonderful islands west-coast continues to impress. It’s mix of flowing curves, gentle elevation changes and rich views in every direction gives us beauty to ponder for years to come. Sardegna is a book we wish would never end.
Not too far from Alghero, we descend from the mountains into one of the most picturesque towns we’ve ever seen. Bosa is colourful and bound by a vibrant energy that fills us as soon as we cross the bridge into the main centre. Even a brief stop to refill the bikes saturates us in a feeling of “Ah.” People throw wide smiles to one another, hanging from the windows of their cars as they pass friends along the street, waving and joking as they idle towards their destination. Even the gas attendants seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. As always, we wish for more time. Time is the true currency of life.
We ride along the palm-lined streets before once again climbing into the lush mountains and the deep-black tarmac that winds along their edges. The views from these paths are stunning and require frequent stops to take them in properly. Close to Alghero the road folds back over itself in a series of switchbacks that lead us back to earth, both of us smiling all the way. Soon we’re making our way through the town itself, and while the traffic is heavier than it’s been all day, it’s all moving along at a wonderfully relaxed pace. In a few turns we arrive at Camping la Mariposa and our home for the next five nights.
After being so spoiled at Camping la Pineta, any campsite is going to have a hard time to compare, but we find a great spot to set up our tent and it’s not long before we settle in for the afternoon. Our time at Camping la Mariposa is exactly what we need; days are spent along the beach, walking through Alghero’s old town and it’s beautiful marina. The sun almost never leaves us during our stay and every night in our tent we’re lulled to sleep by the sound of waves gently lapping the nearby beach. Well, that and the sound of a rugby team downing as many beers as they can! Still, the lads are a nice bunch and we even get to know a couple during our stay. One looks a lot like a bearded Ben Affleck and we’re half-tempted to ask him for pictures. Instead, we simply stalk him with a camera a take sneaky photos to add to our celeb-sighting fantasy! We meet Luke, the patriarch of the team at a small cabana and spend the better part of two hours talking about life on a professional sports team and his dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. He’s a great guy and, as we head back to the campgrounds, he offers us a place to stay in Rovigo if he’s around.
We also meet a great guy from Belgium – Dino, who’s on a three-week trip around Sardegna aboard his Guzzi. His small bike is loaded with the biggest tent we’ve ever seen! He can easily sleep in it with all of his gear and his bike which gets a laugh from all of us, but we love that he remains completely unapologetic about his choice. He loves his tent which makes the effort all worthwhile.
Most evenings are spent walking the beach-front and stopping in at what becomes our watering hole of choice – a small cabana called Bar Maracaibo that’s run by two fabulous brothers. Beautiful scenery, the hits of the ’80s and great company make this the best spot we find to watch the sun go down over the Mediterannean. It’s at this tiny place we meet Lina, a lovely woman from Lithuania and, separately, Eike – a man from Germany who looks a lot like Stallone – our second celebrity sighting! On our last night in Alghero we all spend most of the night enjoying beach-side wine well into the early-morning hours.
The touring hightlight of our stay in Alghero has to be our visit to Grotte di Nettuno, a massive cave with an incredible display of stalactites and stalagmites. It’s accessible by land or sea and we opt for the water approach rather than the 654 steps down from the nearby cliff – which in itself looks to be quite beautiful. The boat ride is a quick 30 minutes and finishes with an exciting plank-walk from the bow of the boat along a foot-wide aluminum “bridge” that rocks steadily with every wave. At just a meter above sea-level, the cave is often closed during heavy winds and rougher seas which can apparently result in travellers getting taken on a scenic tour of the area rather than actually going to the grotto itself. Our journey to the mouth of the cave is windy but beautiful, and the views of the cliffs as we approach are simply breathtaking. Perched high atop a cliff, a lone lighthouse catches the attention of everyone on board. Apparently, this is the image everyone seems to want as the relatively still crowd suddenly springs to life with camera’s clicking from every free viewpoint on deck.
After walking the plank, we pay up for the guided tour which is now the only way to tour the cave. As we make our way through the caverns, the guides voice drifts into the background as we take in the incredible beauty here. It’s hard to believe that places like this actually exist outside of story books. Every corner reveals something more incredible than the last; giant stalactites hang from the caverns ceiling, reaching like fingers to their counterparts that rise from the floor only to meet somewhere in the middle. Around another corner an old canoe sits idly in the water that’s pooling and bringing the colour of the stone to life. Truly, it’s a place that needs to be seen.
Once we’ve made our way as far as we’re allowed to travel, we slowly head back towards the boat, retracing our steps along the narrow pathway, through tight openings and, all the while, being careful not to damage the surprisingly delicate environment we’re fortunate enough to be visiting. Soon, sunlight floods the passageways and we see our boat waiting for us, plank extended and inviting us aboard once more. As quiet as the ride was to the Grotto di Nettuna, the ride back is even more still. Our last evening Alghero is spent with Lina and Eike along the beach celebrating our wonderful time in this place, and our last day in Sardegna.
The next morning we say goodbye to our hosts at Camping Mariposa and head north toward Porto Torres to catch our ferry to Barcelona. The break in Alghero is exactly what we needed and we’re feeling spry even with the early departure. At the ferry terminal there’s a line of people waiting to check-in; the ferry’s a couple of hours behind schedule and the idle time allows us to meet some great people in line – including David and Andrea, a newly-engaged couple from Ecuador who’ve been climbing in Sardegna and Pepe, a fellow rider who plays trumpet with the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya.
Other than a militant waitress who wont let anyone sleep in the bar during the twelve-hour voyage, the ferry is quite quiet. After about an hour, the Mediterranean begins to protest and the rough waters soon have deck-hands rushing to drape sea-sickness bags over every available surface – and it’s not long before they’re getting some solid use! Nita and I have been in the habit of taking non-drowsy ginger Gravol on every major water crossing but in these seas we’re still getting a sense that sickness is just around the corner. We pop some full-strength pills and in no time the sickness is dissipating and our eyelids drooping.
After dozing-off for most of the journey the port at Barcelona shines like a massive beacon as the ship navigates it’s way to the dock. From this vantage point the city seems massive, but once we’re on the bikes navigating our way to the hotel is simple. The city has been designed incredibly well and travel through it’s streets – while busy – is easy.
Originally, we intend to stay at the Best Western Alfa Aeropuerto for only a few days. The rooms are cheap and access to the city is straightforward but a message from our friend Daniel Rintz has us contemplating a longer stay. Dan completed a journey from Germany to New Zealand over the course of 946 days and did it without any money saved. All the while, he filmed his experience and is in the process of making a feature-length documentary that looks to be fantastic.
After helping with Daniels Indiegogo campaign, he asked if we’d be interviewed for his movie – a question that could only be answered with the most enthusiastic “Yes” possible! The only problem being that our route is taking us to Morocco – and not via Dresden – but some quick flight-checking finds us a €70 ticket from Barcelona to Berlin.
While I meet with Dan, Nita stays in Barcelona to watch the bikes, explore the incredibly beautiful city, it’s rich architecture and famous landmarks. It’s the first time we’ve been apart in nearly a year and it’s quite a strange feeling. Before our life on the road we were together and still independent. On the road, we’re always together – and we love it. While the distance is a nice reminder of our own individuality, Berlin and Barcelona are somehow slightly less interesting without each-other to share them with. Still, I’m back in two days and, after a day of enjoying Barcelona together, we’re quickly planning our escape south.
The day before we leave, I notice that the spare fuel bracket on my bike is bent as if someone has been trying to pry the container from the bike. We ask if there’s video at the front desk and, while we’re waiting, the man lets us know that he found the bikes on the ground an stood them up again with the help of a friend. While he seems convinced it’s the wind that blew them over (unlikely) we figure someone simply wanted to sit on them but, since they’re chained together, pulled one bike over creating a massive metal domino.
Our route along the east coast of Spain is interestingly Canadian with decent tarmac, considerate drivers and a lovely landscape that whizzes past us a fairly high speed. We’ve got Morocco as a goal in our heads and that seems to somewhat falsely limit our time here. Still, the roads take us past vineyards and over long sections of rolling asphalt that leave us feeling like all of Spain is ours alone. There’s something about this place that is pleasantly familiar to us. The roads take us inland and, at points, we’re only aware of the water to the east by the miles of beachfront apartments that line it’s shores.
Our next stop on the run to Morocco is Hotel Termas Marinas El Palasiet in the town of Benicàssim. It’s pretty plush and even with the amazing deal Nita finds on the internet we can only afford the cheapest room. The reception is at the top of a steep driveway and, with the parking area closed for what seems to be a child’s birthday, we’re forced to park on the hill. As Nita begins walking toward the entrance to check-in, we both hear an almighty crash! Turning around, Nita’s bike is almost upside down. Her Laminar Lip is dangling awkwardly and her left indicator is smashed but luckily they’re the only injured parties. Surprisingly, the Laminar Lip just needs to be reattached and the indicator is fixed with a wealth of duct-tape.
The bikes have suddenly become fans of falling over – something we hope is a passing fad. Only time will tell, but both of us can’t help but wonder if this trend isn’t the beginning of a new phase in our journey…