The cape of Monte Santu is a point on the east coast of Sardinia where towering cliffs meet the sea, funneling wind and waves in a such way to make sea conditions very rough and challenging for sea kayakers in comparison to the areas just to the north and south of it. Luckily there is a hidden cove called “Portu Pedrosu” right at the roughest part where you can take a break, stretch your legs, and even camp for the night as many people do even though it’s technically prohibited to camp or bivouac anywhere in the area of Baunei. It’s also a good base for hiking up into the surrounding landscape though hiking is pretty strenuous in this area at this time of year for people like me who don’t perform so well in high heat and humidity.
I spent last Friday night there and then on Saturday I paddled a bit further north to Cala Goloritze, one of the most scenic beaches in this part of Sardinia. Most people arrive at this beach by driving to the high plain up behind Baunei, an area called “Golgo”, where they park their cars and hike an hour and a half down 500 meters in elevation to the beach. Boats are not allowed to land there as at other beaches but kayaks are ok. My plan was to leave my boat there at the beach and hike up to Golgo with a back pack with everything needed to stay over night and attend the “Sagra di Capra” or goat festival being held there that evening outside the historic San Pietro church that resides in the middle of Golgo.
The hike was pretty rough in the summer heat but not so bad since it was already after 4PM. At top there is a parking/camping area and small cafe that sells over priced drinks and water which I was counting on to rehydrate myself after the trek. After that I walked about a kilometer to the church/fair grounds just in time to get on line for the roasted goat feast. They were also offering a plate of local cheeses so I decided to get one of each. The strips of goat flesh on the skin were greasy tasty but the actual meat inside was very dry and tough and I over heard a man commenting that the goats were too old. The cheese was quite tender on the other hand. The fresh ricotta was amazing and there were a couple very nice pecorinos and a soft smoked cheese that was so strong that one bite burned my mouth to the point where I couldn’t taste any of the other cheeses afterwards.
After eating I headed through the brush to a nearby tree covered nuraghe to setup my hammock. I lost my shirt along the way and had to scramble through the dry stream beds again the next morning to find it. Once I was setup I put on the spare shirt I had and walked back to the church, this time along the road, to check out the evening’s entertainment. On stage a man was playing traditional Sardinian songs on accordion along with more modern material accompanied by electronic rhythm tracks. Much of the performance was pretty far from traditional but there were many opportunities for people to practice their traditional Sardinian dances, mostly teenage girls dancing with each other. There was a large, well-served bar where all the men folk were standing around discussing whatever it is they discuss. I enjoyed a few cups of home made aquavite di vinnacia (“abbardente”, “filu ‘e ferru”) and then headed back to my illicit camp site.
In the morning I was awakened by a small heard of goats who stood around staring at me while the bells around their neck jangled making it impossible for me to fall back asleep so I finally had to get up and scare them away. Just getting out of the hammock was enough to send them scurrying as they seem to be pretty skittish animals. This area is home to a huge population of domestic animals wandering around freely: goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, donkeys and even a few horses.
After a little breakfast of cereal biscuits I packed up and headed back to the church to maybe catch some of the religious procession scheduled for that morning though mainly I wanted to retrace my steps and find the shirt that had dropped off the back of my pack the evening before. Luckily I didn’t have to go too far back into bush to find where it had fallen. I suppose it was lucky that it hadn’t been eaten by goats yet either!
I returned to the church and had some water and saw the end of the procession where they take the efigy of San Pietro out and carry him around. I bought two small brass livestock bells from a vendor there as souvenirs and headed back to the cafe at the trail head that leads back down to the beach. I had an amazing mozzarella and tomatoe sandwich with a Coca Cola, something I never drink, but at noon the heat was such already that it seemed like something I needed. The walk back down to the beach was almost worse than the walk up the day before as the sun was higher and hotter and I always find going to down to be more difficult, although less strenuous, than going up.
After transferring my load from my pack back into dry bags and launching the kayak again I headed back south towards Portu Pedrosu again. Not far from the beach I stopped at a little sea cave to cool off. As I paddled into the cave the cold air from inside hit me as a very welcome relief. I beached the boat inside and took a little swim. I also climbed out of the above water entrance to the cave, jumped off the rocks into the water and swam back in though the water level entrance.
I spent two more nights at Pedrosu. I took a little hike the next day but it was so humid and still that I was exhausted and feeling a little ill again after just 2 hours with only minor ascents. On Tuesday morning I headed back out into the wind and chaotic waves at Monte Santu but I didn’t have to battle the seas very far until conditions got much calmer just to the south. I felt much more comfortable out there on the waves than I did out on the trails. I had enjoyed a couple hikes back in May and there were a lot of tourists in the area at that time specifically there for hiking and trekking. There’s not much of that now though there are still some die hards. At this time of year the best place to be is in the shade or on the water, or maybe lying on the beach in the sun and moving as little as possible.
Below are pictures of Nuraghe Orgodùri which is not very well preserved being mostly caved in and filled in but it’s still an interesting place as just a huge pile of rocks covered with big shade trees. The cove shown is not Portu Pedrosu, but the next cove just north of it called Portu Chuau which is also very protected but not the best kayak landing.
So I figured that if I needed a new pair of heavy duty hiking boots I might as well invest in good ones that are built to last with welted soles that can be replaced when they wear out. There aren’t that many choices in this category these days though some of the best are made in Italy by Zamberlan. I first tried their Sella model and found them to be quite comfortable but just much more boot than I think I’d ever need. I returned those and ordered a pair of their Tofanes. These also felt very comfortable and quite robust but a bit more reasonable for my average on and off trail hiking and treking needs.
Now that I’d decided to keep them it was time to start breaking them in. It didn’t take long to realize that they were a bit too narrow for my relatively wide feet. They felt fine around the apartment but you can’t really judge a pair of shoes until you walk a mile or more in them, past the point of no returns. I tried loosening the laces and that helped a lot on the width but made them feel pretty sloshy allowing heel abrasion and blister development.
Since it was too late to do anything else I decided I had to do something more than just walk around in them in order to get them to the point where I could use them on an actual hike or trek. Any shoe repair joint can stretch leather shoes for you with the instruments they have at their disposal but the results are going to be variable and arbitrary. I figured I could do a better job myself with my feet as my only tools. I started by making a conscious effort to spread my feet wide and press back against the pinch I was feeling on the outer sides of the boots. That helped a little. I also wore the boots while seated and pressed hard against the sides. That helped even more and soon most of the pinch around the widest part of my foot was gone but they still felt way too tight further back around the narrower part of my feet. This is when I got really aggressive, balancing and walking on the outside of my feet during parts of an extended walk. My feet were killing me after that, the right one took 2 days until if felt right again. I think I could have done permanent damage if I had kept it up much longer. A couple days after that I tried the boots again and now they felt as if they were custom made for my feet with no pinch at all even when laced as tight as I could get them!
If anyone wants to try this I would suggest a somewhat more gradual course of action, don’t ruin your feet just trying to break in your boots. Also I’m sure the quality of the leather used by better brands makes them more apt to stretch and conform to your feet sooner or later. I’m sure that the way I did it made it happen a lot sooner.
Only an hour and a half away from midtown Manhattan by bus, this place, along with Harriman State Park, is a real treasure. I can’t believe it took me this long to finally go check it out. I’ve always admired the wooded areas just north of the city from inside the confines of motor vehicles. The weathered boulders and large trees with lots of space between them plus little to no undergrowth always seemed very inviting. If you’re looking for some place to hang a hammock for the night, as I usually am, even when I don’t have plans to actually do so, then it doesn’t get much better than this. You’re spoiled for choices here though most of the trees are actually too far apart for a comfortable hang.
Besides the magnificent trees there are rocks everywhere, of all sizes, and in many places the trails are quite difficult to walk due to the uneven surface. You never know if the next rock you step on is going to stay put or shift under your weight. The last thing you want is to fall and or twist your ankle especially with a heavy pack on your back. Good hiking boots are essential and I’ll be sure to buy myself a good pair of trekking poles before I ever head out there again. The steep trail up the north face of Bald Mountain was particularly brutal!
At the top though it was all worth it. The view was incredible and the setting was quite lovely. Water was a bit of an issue though. On the south side of the mountain there is another trail that crosses a little stream that is fed by a small swamp. No matter which part of the stream I chose to pump water out of it kept clogging up my filter so that I’d have to clean if after every liter or so. Even after it was filtered it retained a weird greenish yellow tint to it. I dubbed it “Dunderberg Tea”. It was however quite cool, refreshing and tasted just fine.
To the east I found part of the Dunderberg Spiral Railway route that was never completed. According to the map construction ended abruptly in September 1890. Sounds kind of suspicious though I suppose there’s a good reason you could find if you cared to look it up. The trail got really rough there and then I found myself between impenetrable walls of short straight trees on both sides of the path which was kind of strange and spooky in sharp contrast to the openness of most parts of the forest. I had to turn around since I had already run out of water some way back because I hadn’t been able to filter as much as I had wanted to that morning…
On the lower elevations to the north, between Dunderberg and Bear Mountain itself, you have the abandoned village of Doodletown with a number of old homestead sites and cemeteries. I didn’t get to explore it much because I was hurrying to catch the bus back to the city which I ended up missing anyway. All of this stuff was starting to remind me of the Blair Witch Project but then I have an over active imagination some times.
Again the top of Bald Mountain was marvelous and there is plenty of room to have a group camp out there some day. I believe you’re not supposed to camp outside of the provided shelters in the park(s) but as long as you’re smart and not obnoxious about it you can do pretty much whatever you want, especially in the off season. For such a gathering I would bring some kind of bucket to try to let the sludge settle out of the swamp water before attempting to filter it. I would also try the trails to the south to reach the road and use one of the bus stops there instead of the more obvious Bear Mountain Inn stop. You could bring all kinds of fresh breads, cured meats, cheeses, and wine (without the bottles) and make it a wilderness gourmet event with spooky trail hikes for added amusement. The best time would be an unusually warm and sunny weekend in spring or fall. Contact me if that sounds interesting and/or if you know of any other particularly interesting areas like that within those parks, I’m sure there are many!