***Dinner out in Olbia in a somewhat residential setting with Annie and Liam***The excellent murals on the building walls at Oliena***Exploring inside Nuraghe Sante Antine***Sante Antine from the outside not looking too special but it was amazing inside***
While wintering in Malta we met a few cruisers that had sailed Sardinian waters and all said how lovely the north east part of the island was. At that time Sardinia seemed a long way off so we never really asked too many questions, but now we know for ourselves the answers.
We arrived into Porto Brandinghi mid afternoon after our overnight passage from the Italian island of Ponza. We had sailed for about 24 out of 32 hours in good conditions and had moved west another 3 degrees of longtitude, we were now at 9 degrees. We anchored with Gone with the Wind and Eye Candy a few miles south of Olbia on the north eastern corner of Sardinia in the large sheltered bay of Porto Brandinghi. The water was crystal clear, the bottom white sand, the skies a piercing blue, the shoreline housed just of couple of low key resorts, and there were only a handful of yachts and no powerboats to be seen, pure bliss!!
This was the closest we have seen to an "island paradise" since arriving in the med, and if the rest of northern Sardinia was going to be the same then things were looking very good.
We spent 3 nights here, catching up on sleep, laundry, boat maintenance, blogs, emails, swimming, reading, relaxing and socializing. Peter and Bridget on White Rose arrived, they had gone to Rome from Ponza, so more happy reunions and corresponding happy hours!! But soon the cupboards were starting to look a little bare again, time to hit civilisation and what was rumoured to be one of the best supermarkets in these parts, so we lifted anchor and motored in light winds the 16 miles around to Olbia. This section of the coastline was spectacular, with off lying islands, many protected anchorages and flat seas, you could lose a few weeks puddling around here easily.
The approaches to Olbia looked disappointing, murky water, fish farms, big commercial port with huge ferries taking up all the room in the marked channel - after the clear water and anchorages we had just passed it was looking like this would be a quick "provision and leave" stop. But first impressions can often be wrong. We went past the ferry docks and into the inner harbour where there is a free dock, always an incentive to stay. Peter and Andrew had arrived before us and were on the dock to take our lines, we got the last space so once we were settled Gone with the Wind rafted up next to us and there we stayed for 3 nights!
Olbia has a local feel to it, not many tourists, a medium size with a pleasant downtown area, night market, and Football World Cup fever in plenty of the bars and cafes. There was a great supermarket within easy walking distance, and a WIND shop which happily excepted more money from us to make our dongle work for another month - we should be buying WIND shares!!.
We took the opportunity of having Balvenie safely tied up and shared a car hire for a day with Annie and Liam
We went exploring inland, guided by the Lonely Planet and a very incomplete road map! Enroute to our first stop we passed a hilltop village, the houses resembling concrete brick boxes, the village menfolk all sitting outside on plastic chairs, not a woman or child was spotted - we decided not to stop for morning coffee! Eventually we reached The Fonte Sacra Su Tempiesu a Nuraghic Temple, the Nuraghic people being Bronze Age inhabitants of Sardinia. The water temple was not discovered until 1953, this comes as little surprise as it is really in the middle of nowhere and once you find the carpark its another kilometre downhill walk. We were the first visitors of the day in the visitors book, and I suspect we may have been the last. It was interesting and of course very old, but missable!! On we went, searching for signs of more modern civilisation, a cafe or pizzeria perhaps. The roads were deserted, we drove across a plateau full of harvested cork trees and read later they have produced cork here for centuries. We finally reached Oliena our next stop, it too was deserted. The "traditional locals in this stunning and atmospheric place" were nowhere to be seen, neither were the bars to try the "excellent local red", we did successfully find a coffee and pastry but even that closed before we had finished. Maybe the mural on the wall of mama and her shotgun had frightened everyone away and only the several excellent murals on the buildings walls remained (and they weren't even mentioned in the Lonely Planet!!)
My itinerary suggestions were not receiving much enthusium now from my fellow explorers so when I pointed out our next stop of some more Bronze Age ruins I wasn't too surprised by the negative response! But it was only 2km's out of our way so Mark turned left and we stopped at Nuraghe Sante Antine. Its from 1600BC, a stone beehive looking fortress pretty much resembling a big pile of rubble. When we paid our 3Euro entrance fee I must say, our expectations weren't high. Right up until we entered in through a small arch way it appeared to be just more rocks, well what a surprise we had instore for us. This place was truly amazing, bearing inmind it is about 3,600 years old, it was 3 stories, all made from huge stones - not local to the area - tunnels, rooms, lookouts, towers, we have never seen anything similar and certainly not dwellings from the Bronze Age. It was just incredible and absolutely well worth the stop.
Next it was on to Alghero on the west coast, we parked the car and wandered through the medival centre and around the scenic waterfront, we had found life again much to our relief and enjoyed the small alleyways, churches and old town, taking in a late late lunch before returning to the car and heading back to Olbia. We had explored inland northern Sardinia and had not left a stone unseen!!
Cruising info for Sardinia - Porto Brandinghi and Olbia:-
Porto Brandinghi - 40 50.087N 09 41.704E 5.5m find a sandy spot. Large big bay affording shelter from almost all winds, would get swell from southeast. Worth making landfall here before Olbia if coming from Italy as lovely area from here north and shouldn't be missed.
Olbia Town Quay - 40 55.349N 09 30.407 5m If busy expect rafting. There were prohibited areas but it filled up while we were there and people were tying everywhere, no one official came around. Can anchor off good protection close to dock but town quay free so enjoy it,
Communications - Italian Dongle still working. WIND shop up main street on left if needed (somehow we needed to put more money on ours - no surprise there!) TIM and Vodafone both good signal on phones
Money - ATM at beginning of main street on left. All ATM's we tried (Alghero, Olbia, Porto Cervo, Canigione) only would allow 250Euro per transaction
Provisions - An excellent Super U Supermarket is a short walk (around 5 minutes)from dock. Cross the road by harbour and carpark and head left towards then parallel to the flyover. You will see a curbside fuel station, Super U is just past it on the right (the anchorage is on the left, and if you were at anchor you could posibly bring dinghy right there). Take your trolley - you will buy heaps. There was a 'fromaggio man' who came around every evening in a white van selling cheeses
Fuel - There is the fuel station mentioned directly above which was definately cheaper, or there is a tie-up fuel dock in the harbour. Diesel from the fuel dock was 1.33Euro per litre, from memory the regular fuel station was 1.25Euro per litre
Sightseeing - We hired our Fiat Panda from Pal@Rent in via Regina Elena (same street also had Hertz which was more expensive and no cars available). It was 60Euro a day with unlimited km's, but because we wanted it on Sunday it cost 100Euro as they are not open. We collected it 6pm Sat night and returned it 9am Monday. Our two Bronze Age excursions cost 3Euro per person entry