Corsica-Sardinia, Day 5

Tuesday, May 1st

We’re early today because we have to catch the ferry to Sardinia. It’s scheduled to leave at 8:30 and we’re at the ticket office at 8:15. The woman at the counter tests Markus’ nerves by patiently answering a long phone call for an urgent reservation. We are each given two tickets, of which one is handwritten. The unfriendly personnel on the slippery loading area is only interested in the handwritten slip of paper.

There are safety announcements in four languages, and the German one is funny. Translated, it says that one should throw up on the safety arrangements. We’ll do our best. Only the motorcyclists join the seagulls on the outside deck in the wind, until it starts raining intensely, that is. There are more safety annoucements that advise us not to jump into the sea and not to get into the rescue vessels. These are probably reserved for the personnel.

Upon our arrival at Santa Teresa Gallura at the northern tip of Sardinia we’re in a torrential downpour again. Luckily we find the only dry place under some roof so we can prepare for the trip ahead. We let a group of German BMW GS-riders have their adventure in the wet.

The filling station attendants have problems with the concept of filling up completely. Because, for some strange reason, everybody seems to pay in cash here, the attendants are used to filling up to a certain round amount of Euros. Markus needs to remind them that full is fuller than 15 Euros and also fuller than 20 Euros.

We ride off in the pissing rain again and there is a lot more of it in the direction of Sassari. I intended to leave the main transit route soon to ride the twisty roads in the mountains, but a look at the foggy hillsides makes me change my mind. I just want move on to cover some distance until the weather clears up. There is a glimpse of blue hope at the horizon and it almost stops raining near Badesi, where we take a break in a supermarket parking area. We park all the way up front which frustrates some lazy local drivers. After he’s seen that we’ve taken his regular parking spot, a pick-up truck driver has many near-accidents when slowly driving backwards. Some drivers are so disabled that they don’t even manage to park on the disabled spots. As good citizens, we take all our garbage with us because there is no trash can and we wouldn’t want to leave it in the recycling container for olive oil bottles, would we now?

The blue hope is turning into certain sunshine and the roads are dry now. Instead of riding to Sassari, we follow the coast to Porto-Torres, the most run-down town we’ve seen on Sardinia so far. We find a restaurant that looks appealing and find out that it’s actually huge inside. Entire kids’ football teams are eating here with their trainers and other support staff. French-fries pizza? Nutella pizza? They have it all. We have something else for a change.

Under meanwhile completely clear skies we continue to south to Alghero. I found a tip on the internet from a rider recommending the SP42, which is part of the reason why we diverted to Porto-Torres in the first place. I can’t recall who it was, but Markus says it must have been someone who has had his handlebars welded to the frame. SP42: straight and boring, not recommended.

We encounter a lot of traffic in Alghero. It’s about time to fill up, but this place is just too crowded. The GPS reports a filling station half an hour away from here and we head for the mountains quickly. Anticipating plenty of curves from a look a the map, I mount my camera on the bike to capture the action. The asphalt is wide and of excellent quality. We haven’t seen much of that on Corsica, and it’s a relief.

The fuel station we find is merely a pump and a machine that only takes cash. I’ve expected something like this in the Sardinian middle of nowhere, so it’s time to get out the stack of small denomination Euro notes. To compensate for the lack of service, the fuel pump does have a generous 10 meter long hose. We’d fill half of the Monster’s tank with the contents of the hose if we could only lift it high enough for the fuel to come out. We exchange some creative ideas about funny scenes we could stage here, but refrain from executing them.

There’s more of the wonderful tarmac ribbon ahead through the rolling hills, which come in 255 different shades of green. A couple of carabinieri (military police) have sneakily positioned themselves at the end of a long straight. I can’t see whether they have any means to measure our speed, but it’s not 130km/h (80mph) here… Upon coming closer, they don’t seem to be checking speed or stopping anyone or doing anything else for that matter. They’re both sharply dressed in dark blue and white (in that sense, this still is Italy) and each carry a signalling disc. When nobody is looking, I think they quickly put a little net on the hood of their car and play ping pong. If that offends you, I meant table tennis.

We take a break a few minutes later at a great quiet spot in the beautiful surroundings. I feel like executing a plan I’ve had for long: filming us riding past the camera, first filmed from the front and then from the back in a second run. I’d edit the videos such that it seems nearly seamless. It’s a little more hassle than it seems: positioning the camera, riding back to where we came from, turn around, blast past the camera, ride out of sight and turn around again, reposition the camera to make it face forward, riding back to the first place, turn around and accelerate in the same way as the first time to keep the distance between us about equal in the second shot, blast past the camera again, turn and recollect the camera. This almost takes longer than the editing afterwards.

Just as we’ve finished the drive-by shooting, the carabinieri reappear. They’re driving quite slowly and give us a mean look as they pass. They return two minutes later, still looking mean. I think the one carabiniero is giving the other one a driving lesson, and it’s not going well. Markus doubts the genuineness of the carabinieri because they drive a Subaru. Every self-respecting carabiniero would drive an Alfo Romeo, of course. Perhaps this explains their bad mood.

We continue through nice, quiet and authentic villages. Somewhere between two villages we encounter some sort of sportscar on a test drive, which is painted in a strange pattern of black and white stripes in an attempt to make the Maserati unrecognizable. At first sight, Markus thinks that the driver has bad taste because he had his car painted like an ugly iPhone cover: “you can’t even see which car it is!”

We near the town of Bosa which is beautifully situated where the river Temo flows into the Sardinian sea. The view from the hairpins above is superb, and the town itself is pretty too. So pretty perhaps, that I completely miss the no-entry sign to a one-way street on a busy square. Markus waits patiently for my return at the square. I still haven’t noticed that it’s a one-way street and only find that Markus is missing once I’ve ridden through completely. Therefore I make a left turn and wait for Markus at the river bank. After a while, I see a familiar looking headlight in my rear view mirror and ride off. After a minute or so, I notice that that wasn’t Markus at all. Annoyed about my stupidity, I return to my spot at the river. Two underliverable text messages and a crappy phone call later, he finds me and we move on.

When crossing the river, we’re slightly puzzled about the traffic sign that generally prohibits drivers from using the bridge, yet it has a small exception sign that says it’s fine for cars and motorcycles. I suppose there is a local shortage on traffic signs for weight or width limits and they’ve solved it in a charming Italian way.

The town of Modolo prides itself with it being denuclearificated(?), which probably means that they’ve unplugged the entire town from the power grid. This would explain why there is a stench of coal burning like it’s 1860. What follows is an unexpected series of long downhill straights. To our surprise we are overtaken by a deceptively silent but fast Fiat Panda for organ transport with a flashing blue light. It’s only going this fast because it’s coasting downhill in neutral.

We’re driving straight to Cabras, where we’d like to stay this night. The road administration has been a bit confused about the order of the signs Cabras 6km, Cabras 13km, and finally Cabras 9km. Undeterred about this fluke in space-time, we arrive at Villa Canu, which is a fine place to stay. The bikes get their parking spots behind the locked gate so they won’t be on the street overnight. Our spacious bathroom was built with the disabled in mind. I wonder whether disabled applies to ‘before’ or ‘after’ visiting the hotel because I see no pool and mistake the folding shower chair for a diving board.

Before dinner we take a long walk through this authentic town where we share the otherwise deserted streets and unfinished promenade with stray dogs and the occasional bat. Most of the restaurants we find have plastic curtains and fluorescent lighting. We’re not surprised that nobody is eating there, until we just enter one by chance and find that it’s completely packed with children, parents and grandparents, secretly celebrating the dolce vita, inside. There’s literally no space for us in this cacophony so we get some greasy but tasty take-away from the neighboring restaurant and devour it on the hotel’s patio.

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