Sardinia, Oct 2023

Sunday 1st October

It was finally the day for six intrepid CKC kayakers to rendez-vous at Laguna Blu campsite in Alghero, Sardinia. The preparations had been ongoing for much of the previous year from planning calls with Clark, our local operator and provider of kayaks, to group zooms where kit lists, food plans and the all-important route planning was discussed.

The “advance party”, comprising of David, Liza, Fiona and Rich had flown into Olbia, on the other side of Sardinia couple of days before.  They had enjoyed some exploration – which seemed to have largely involved eating and buying local cheeses – before travelling to Alghero. 

Andrew and I (Claire) took the risker decision to fly Ryan Air direct to Alghero.  Ryan Air delivered and we were on time for the early afternoon trip to the supermarket to stock up for the week ahead.  Here there was much debate on which vegetables would last longest in our kayaks (aubergines, sweet potatoes and avocados it would later transpire) and if we indeed needed more cheese or not! More cheese was bought and it was a good hour and half later that we emerged laden with supplies. This was just in time for Clark to arrive at the campsite with the all-important kayaks and a briefing as to our route and camping options for the week ahead.  We were ready, or so we thought, for our adventure!

Monday 2nd October

Monday started with a relaxed breakfast at the hotel across the road from the campsite.  This is where I had opted out of the first night’s camping for the luxury of a bed and ensuite.  There was a general census that we needed a good breakfast to set us up for the week ahead, so the others headed over to join me for very good Italian coffee and multiple trips to the buffet. We then began the task of organising our kit and packing our kayaks for next 5 days wild camping. It took us over 3 hours to get organised before we finally launched at 2pm.  Quite a bit later than we had planned!

We launched on the lagoon by side of the campsite after some rather challenging carrying of the loaded kayaks down a slippery mud bank.  We then began to get accustomed to our new kayaks as we navigated the channel and emerged under a bridge to the sea.  With Alghero on the horizon to the south, we headed north and had our first views of the spectacular coastline which would unravel in the days ahead.

We had 15 kilometres of easy paddling as we adjusted to the hot and sunny conditions, a welcome change for us UK paddlers.  We saw the first medieval watch towers, of which we would see many over the next few days,  and paddled into the first caves of the trip.   The final stretch of the day was over a long bay to reach the beach where we would wild camp in front of a (sadly closed) beach bar. 

Due to our late start, it was almost dark by the time we arrived, so everyone was keen to set up camp and start cooking dinner.  The entertainment for the evening was a family of wild boars who were keen to share our food and kept having to be chased off by the braver members of the group.  We named the lead boar “Boris” who was pretty insistent on joining us, along with his wife and three babies. 

We were all pretty tired by this point and headed to our beds, only to be woken up by Boris and family re-appearing.  Luckily, Rich and Andrew, were quick to jump out of their tents and chased off the boars again!  Too much excitement for day 1 of the trip.

 Tuesday 3rd October

A full day of glorious kayaking 24 kilometres north awaited but first we had the daily task of de-camping and packing up the kayaks. 

The question of the week was “how quickly can we pack up in the morning?”.  On Tuesday we were still taking a pretty long time ….  about 3 hours from waking to leaving.  There was a lot to do to get everything back in the dry bags and then much groaning as items were pushed into every available space in the hatches. There was so much kit and not all of it was needed!

By luck the beach bar opened just as were ready to go, so it seemed rude not to order a round of coffees.  One of the few “luxury” moments on the trip!

Our paddle today took us around the coastline of the Capo Caccia and the Natural Park of Porto Conte – this has a number of fantastic caves and islands, which we took time to explore.  We enjoyed paddling around the rocky coast with the sheer cliffs above and gliding over the turquoise waters.

There were so many caves that warranted investigation, we developed a paddle signal system to let the rest of the group know if the cave was worth the effort of entering.  A paddle 90 degrees in the air equalled a fantastic cave and you must come in!  45 degrees and it probably wasn’t worth the effort.

 After a few hours of cave and coast exploring, we really had to push on, as there was still 15 kilometres to our campsite.  Hence a long paddle further up the coast and across a bay, finally brought us to the night’s campsite – a nudist beach…

 It was somewhat like a scene from a Carry-On movie, as we landed on the beach to be confronted by many naked men, who by the looks we were given, weren’t entirely keen on us being there!  Especially as we proceeded to create what became known as the “airplane crash” scene with kayaks, Ikea bags, tents and other kit spread across the beach.   We were quite a sight and so were the locals!

David and Rich had volunteered to paddle back across the bay to meet Clark for an all-important water re-stock.  They came back heavily ladened with twice as much water as we had requested due to a mix up with Clark. Still at least we weren’t going to be thirsty in the days ahead.

 After another long and exciting day, tents were pitched and dinners cooked, before early nights again for everyone.

Wednesday 4th October

Every morning we did a check in to see how everyone was feeling and Wednesday started in the same way. Fiona requested we scored how we were feeling out of ten and compared ourselves to animal.  Some took this more seriously than others!

Once we established everyone was fit to get going, we decided to paddle straight to the next area of caves, which we were keen to explore.  Here paddles were regularly hoisted to 90 degrees.  Andrew had a brilliant torch which allowed us to see some fantastic rocky interiors.  The most exciting was a very long cave that went entirely under a small island.  If it wasn’t for the rock formation in the middle, we could have paddled through the island.

We had a quick break on a rocky outcrop where Rich managed to rescue a stranded football, later to become known as Wilson, (see Friday).

By lunchtime, we had arrived at the old mining town of Argentiera, and landed on the sandy beach for lunch.  It was a very hot day and we were lucky to find some shade below the sea walls for another picnic lunch where Liza made a great salad and more cheese was enjoyed.

We were getting weather forecasts on a daily basis from Clark during our evening check in phone call.  He had warned us that windy conditions were due on Thursday.  As we headed out into the bay after lunch, it soon became clear these winds had arrived early and the sea conditions were the bumpiest we had experienced on the trip.  Initially, this was only swell of around 1 metre but as we rounded the headland at the north side of Argentiera Beach and Cove, we encountered very choppy water and a hotch potch of waves (clapotis) coming from different directions.  I was very nervous as these conditions were beyond any I had paddled in before, but the more experienced members of the group were fantastic in coaching and supporting me through it.  After a couple of hours paddling, we still had a fair way to go to our planned camp site.  Due to the conditions, and my increasingly slow pace, a decision was made to divert onto the beach at Porto Palmas.  Liza and Fiona went ahead to land in the surf and help the rest of the group safely get ashore.

The upside was a really beautiful campsite on a pebble beach with big pounding waves adding the wildness of the location. No phone signal meant a long hike up the hill to speak to Clark and update on the next day’s conditions.  It was another starry night chatting over hot drinks before bedtime.

Thursday 5th October

The morning check-in confirmed all were fit to paddle despite the drama of the previous afternoon.  We had a shorter paddle today so could take it a bit easier.  Saying that, there were some navigational challenges, and a bearing was taken to cross the bay in an effort to find the camping spot. By lunchtime, we had arrived on a rocky beach only a short hop from our campsite.  Everyone was pretty relaxed, swimming and snorkelling in the bay and enjoying their lunch time cheese.

We then headed round a couple of bays to our camping spot, finally having a bit more time for rest and relaxation.  Of course, this meant everyone went straight back out on the water taking the opportunity to practice rolling and rescues, prompting much interest from the tourists sunbathing on the local beach. After sunset it was time to get on with cooking dinner.

Friday 6th October

Unfortunately, this morning, we had two injured group members, so the immediate priority was to take a decision on the days paddling plans.  David had slipped in the camp the night before and hurt his wrist but decided he could paddle. Sadly, Rich’s efforts in teaching others to roll and using a euro blade he wasn’t used to, had left him with tendonitis in his wrist and arm.  Despite best efforts to keep going, it soon became obvious he couldn’t continue. It was indeed a low point of the trip when we left him on the beach awaiting collection by Clark.  Not to be left of friends, Rich promptly turned his football into Wilson and they spent the day, happily hanging out on the beach.

The rest of us set off for the last stretch of the western coast of Sardinia. It continued to offer the caves, cliffs and rocky shores we had enjoyed over the past few days.  There was little in the way of landings but David managed to find a sheltered rocky outcrop where we could have lunch.  We named it “David’s Cove” and settled in for some swimming, snorkelling and chilling.

Eventually we paddled round the most western point of the coast and arrived into the very touristy bay of La Pelosa.  This was all a bit of shock after the last few days of being in wilds especially when confronted by a very large pink flamingo! Plans of landing and having ice cream were quickly abandoned, as we couldn’t face the crowds.  Instead, we continued north in search of our campsite on Isola Piana.  Fiona and I hung out here, whilst Andrew went off for a hike and David and Liza, keen for more, paddled up the west coast of the large island to the north, the national park of Asinara.

Our last night of wild camping followed.  Bartering food had become the normal over the past couple of days amongst dwindling food supplies. It amazing how exciting it can be to swap a sweet potato for some onions.  Bartering complete, we cooked under the stars for the final time.

Saturday 7th October

Morning check-in confirmed everyone was pretty tired after so many days paddling.  Group antics were getting pretty crazy by this point – morning check-in was now a number out of 13 and what plant you felt like.  We also had a range of injuries from sore wrists to aching shoulders.  Hence a decision to take an easy paddle to see what we could of Asinara before we needed to head south for our get out.

After some easy paddling with views of the island’s sandy beaches, we again pulled into a rocky cove for a final swim and snorkel session.

All that was left, was a 10 km paddle south with a bearing across the bay to our get out south of Stintino.  After unpacking the boats for the final time, we were very happy to jump into Clark’s van and be driven back to Alghero for a night of luxury at an argiturismo hotel.

After goodbyes and thank you to Clark, and a reunion with Rich, long showers were enjoyed by all, before a fantastic dinner of local food.  Our adventure was complete, and we had a great evening celebrating with a few limoncello and glasses of the local brews.

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