The terrible weather now has a name – Typhoon Cleopatra, and has made the news throughout the world. Eighteen are dead, most in the north of the island, which is where we were heading. Ahead of us are two possible routes, both of which rise to beyond 1,000m and are very exposed. There is little or no information about road closures. In fact, now we think back, no one bothered that we were pitching a tent close to the sea with a dangerous storm arriving.
We pack and check out of the campground. ” The tunnel on the main road is flooded ” says the girl at reception. We could find nothing about this on the WWW. So, there is our choice made. We are taking the SR125 and staying close to the coast.
The road plays around for a few kilometres, but then it goes about its task with earnest and up you go. There is not much let-up for the next 50Km, so thankfully it does not often stray much above 6%. From the start at Lotzorai it is stunning, but the view back is murky and almost into the sun.
In Baunei, a village at 500m, we grab a coffee. This will be the only place for a break today, now we are beyond the tourist season. People are wearing black this morning out of respect for the deaths in the island communities. The television in the bar is showing images of devastation. The old guys are huddled around one of the tables talking quietly in ‘ village Italian ‘ or possibly Sardinian. It is totally impenetrable.
Up we go, first left and then right. The trees become stunted and more lichen covered and ahead we will climb above them. At 700m, we run into a drove, drift, sounder (group) of wild pigs. These are big, but much more interested in Acorns than two cycle tourists. A few meters further on and there are more, and this time there is a huge boar. It is 11’c as we ride under the avalanche cover. The water in our alloy bottles tastes cold, much colder than the air. It chills the stomach and does not encourage you to stay hydrated.
At 723m, there is a section of flat plateaux. Goats run in front of us. They are every bit as inept as sheep when it comes to road sense. Clouds curl over the peaks that guard the plateaux and on a warmer and less windy day this would be a great pitch for a tent.
The climb continues and now it could be described as ‘ bloody cold ‘, with nothing to stop the bitter blast of the wind. There is the usual cold weather cycling dilemma of over heating on the ups and chilling to the bone on the descents. It is, without doubt one of the most stunning climbs of our journey ( By morning it will be covered with snow and once again we have been lucky ). It has been upwards from the coast for 50Km, but we are both feeling strong.
The pass at Passo Genna Silana has a cafe, it is of course closed at this time of year but we would not wish to sit and chill. It is on with leggings for Esther and I want to show just how hard I am, and remain uncovered. It is 20Km, with only the most minor of ups to disturb the rhythm of the descent. Again, the SR125 is the perfect cycling road, with smooth tarmac and without bends that tighten without warning.
Down we drop towards range after range of mountains all covered in soft cloudy light that offers little contrast to pick out what must be knife edge ridges and steep walls. The temperature warms a little as we descend, but we are running out of daylight. Dorgali, and any thoughts of camping are overwhelmed by cold, hunger and the wish to just stretch out. We give in to the temptation of a hotel.
It is a real winters night that could come straight from the highlands of Scotland. We turn out next morning to fingers nipped by cold as we pull on the brakes. The first road block is not a problem, but the second is a road we wanted to use. The bridge has been washed away and we have an extra 7Km and a hill added.
A second road is barred, and we are left with only the major dual carriageway to use. This is fast, busy and has a crash barrier that we have to virtually skim with our knuckles to give us room to cycle. It is nervous riding and only takes one Italian with a passion for social media to be on their smart phone and we are meat.
Every town here is on a hill. You move along a valley between them, but then there is the inevitable steep climb up at the end of the day. We manage to find a gap in the fence to get onto a minor road and pull away from the traffic to begin the climb. My legs are rubbish today and the town never feels closer. Every time we make distance towards it the road does a big arc to try to find a better line for the climb.
It is almost 600m and even higher than the point where we started the day. We can look down on the main road, now just a grey thread stretched across the landscape. Camping is impossible now, with fields awash and standing water under the Olive trees. If we venture off the road much, within a minute our biking shoes will have enough mud stuck to them they may as well be clowns shoes and weigh 4Kg. This is starting to be expensive, but we need a hotel.
It is a cosy place to watch the rain fall and wind blow. The temperature goes further down. For two days we scour the WWW. every night for a favourable forecast. There are none, it is pants. Rain and more rain and the only thing to do is to get a haircut, and the instructions are simple for me.
There are far worse places than Nuoro, to sit out bad weather. Every building has a roof that pitches the rain straight down onto the middle of the pavement, but we scurried from delightful cafe to further delightful cafe. There is a forecast for the morning to be dry and the wind to drop. We will be doing our very best to head on towards the west coast I promise. If you are kept here by a storm and even if you are not, the best place to be would be Silvia and Paolo B&B, and tell them you know us.