I mentioned before that when in I served in Bosnia in 1995 during the civil war, I asked an interpreter how the nation had sunk so far in terms of civilised behaviour. I have long accepted the answer ‘Don’t judge us until you have been tested by similar circumstances yourself’. This and other experiences has made me understand that civilisation is fragile.
To test this assumption in a very small way, we can observe human behaviour towards each other in situations where resources are finite and rules are not enforced, like the Moby Lines Olbia to Piombino Ferry.
The ferry will be familiar to anyone that has sailed on one of the longer routes from the UK to the European continent. On one leg, it is a night ferry and most people have cabins. On the other leg it is a day crossing and few people take cabins. There are a number of places to eat, there are a couple of bars, there is a bad shop, a video games area, an outdoor bit and a children’s play area. The price of everything is high and the quality low. You know the type.
We were on a day crossing, and this means that every passenger is visible as they don’t take cabins. They all need to find somewhere to sit and a place to call their own for the next 7 hours. We reserved two seats in a lounge for €4 and I’m so glad we did.
For the most part, this situation leads to fairly normal, if not slightly antisocial, behaviour: expendable small personal items left on seats to show they are taken and hard stares are given to people who venture too close. There is also the selfish behaviour of people who don’t care that there is a shortage of seats, they need at least two each because they want to spread out to sleep.
Then there is the behaviour that is normally kept in the bottle through rules. If, on a train or a plane, someone sits or lies in a corridor, a member of staff normally rather quickly asks them to move. Not on this ferry, so in every stairwell, and every corridor people are stretched out on mats, blow up mattresses, towels, and in one case a full blow up bed (see photo). It is less of a ship and more a shanty town. There are also dogs. Lots of dogs. I like dogs and on my first lap of the ship, mulled the question ‘where will they poo and pee’. I got the answer on my second lap. Wherever the fuck they want. Some owners pick up the poo. As poo picking up doesn’t seem to be enforced, others don’t.
There are people lying in bikinis on the deck. It may be so that they have fewer clothes to wash the dog piss out of when they get off.
So, we left Sardinia on our floating poo and pee shanty town after a pleasant week on the island.
After our driving tour of Corsica we decided to take a different approach to Sardinia and confine ourselves to seeing just a small part of the Island: 4 nights in the north eastern town of Santa Teresa Gallura, 3 in the north western town of Alghero, and an overnight in Olbia so we could get the early ferry. This meant we could relax a little more but also means our judgment of Sardinia is based on a very small part of it.
The beaches are incredible. Crystal clear blue water over white sand creates some beautiful colours that J says rival the Caribbean. The easily accessible beaches are very crowded at this time of year, the less accessible ones are reasonably crowded but with thinner, fitter people and the best ones are only accessible by boat. We did a bit of all three types and I loved jumping in the warm clear Med from anyone of them.
Our day on the less accessible ones was around Capo Testa, a small peninsula a few km from Santa Teresa Gallura. The beaches are reached by steep paths, climbing over sharp boulders and negotiating disintegrating steps. We dressed accordingly. Me in Birkenstocks with soles worn to a shine through 100s of km of walking, and J in ultra supportive Havianas. We did get to some beautiful beaches, almost entirely without sharp words, but I have to say, if I were to do it again I would choose alternative footwear. Too much blood, too many scratches and too many times that I thought my marathon campaign would end with a trip to A&E.
For the boat one, we took a small motor yacht from the nearby town of Palau. They take up to 10 but we were lucky enough to to have only 6 onboard. Besides us were a lovely young US/Iranian couple (who were not a fan of the tango tosser) and an older local couple. You can take either motor or sailing yachts to explore the Islands of the ………. If you haven’t done much sailing, this would be a lovely and peaceful way to do it as it seemed that most yachts actually used their sails (in many places, they seem to be decoration). The advantage of a motor yacht is that they have no need for a keel, so they can get more places and on a windy day with limited sheltered anchorages, this is great.
The two US/Iranians were millennials, and, true to their generational stereotype, were bright, thoughtful and abstinent. We enjoyed chatting to them, and very much enjoyed trying to get through a booze ration for 10 people largely between J & I.
The wind led to a lumpy sea so the sensible amongst the party (everyone one except us) did the transits between islands under cover. I thoroughly recommend putting on a rashy and swimmers and clinging on to the bow. It’s even more fun after a bottle and a half of wine.
Santa Teresa Gallura itself is a bit soulless and very much a holiday resort. Most of the town seems to be built post 1950 and there are few buildings of note. There are some good restaurants though and some great negronis to be had. Our favourite place was called …… and whilst not glamorous featured thin, tasty pizza that was mostly ordered ‘half and half’ (a wonderful option for a couple consisting of a veggie and meat eater) and outstanding service.
We had one day exploring the area on a scooter, which I would also recommend. We got to some places we wouldn’t have normally got too, found some mini donkeys (we miss Freddie and Mr P), felt safe and enjoyed the freedom. I still feel like I am in my twenties when I ride a scooter with J hugging me on the back.
Alghero, reached after a 2 hour comfortable bus trip, is nicer and has a lovely old town as well as some good beaches. We were staying on the fringes as usual and most of the time the 1.2km stroll into town along the seafront was pleasant. Our Airbnb was in an area that we wouldn’t have settled in but the place we had was perfect and the hosts hugely welcoming, and this makes up for so much.
The major highlight of Alghero was that Melinda and David joined us, flying from London for a mini-break. Again, it is lovely to catch up with old friends and it was great to have a couple of days eating, drinking, laughing and exploring with them. We did two trips:a day trip on a local bus to Bosa, described by some as the most beautiful village in Italy. It was pleasant but we concluded that the ‘some’ may not have traveled much!
We also went to visit the caves at……. This is a huge cavern with gigantic stalactites & stalagmites and indoor pools, most easily reached by boat. If you like caves, it is worth a visit, but at this time of year it is really a tourist sausage machine and made less pleasant for it. If you do go, do take a boat and not the bus. A boat involves a pleasant view of the coast, a chance to see dolphins (we didn’t), has a bar for a cold beer on the return journey and is timed to coincide with the tour start times. The bus involves a bus, 640 steps down to the entrance and of course back up again at the end of it, and a wait of perhaps 30 mins for the next tour.
From Alghero it was time to leave Sardinia. First we had to get to Olbia, via two trains. The first a modern, air conditioned narrow gauge to Sassari, then an old hot but on time normal train to Olbia. The most difficult bit was the 1km from the station, in the heat of the afternoon pulling bags over poorly maintained, narrow pavements. I had a very hot and irritated wife by the time we reached our bnb. Taxis are very expensive in Sardinia so I have been reluctant to take them (the trip would have cost about €10….. for 1km). J pointed out that this was the price of 2 negronis and we can always afford negronis. Perhaps we need to change our priorities…… She has a point.
Next stop is Piombino, a staging point for a trip to Elba.