11 April 2017 – A spectacular ride from Alghero to Bosa [Italy (Sardinia)]
Our first day of riding in Sardinia was certainly a spectacular one – a beautiful ride along the coast from Alghero to Bosa, with the crystal blue-green waters of the Mediterranean to our right, wildflowers, Sardinian sheep dogs and fields of goats with bells. The mountains required our legs to work hard but the descents were spectacular, if somewhat terrifying! The kids just yelled for us to go faster…..
After a big day exploring Alghero we all got a good nights sleep in a dark room with comfortable beds. We were all asleep until after 7.15am, which was lucky since breakfast only started at 7.30am. The kids loved their bunk beds (and no one fell out!). We also pre-filled a lot of water bottles as there were no drink stops or water fountains for the majority of the ride today – and carrying extra weight up the hills is so much fun!
We woke to another beautiful sunny day in Alghero and headed downstairs to the tiny hotel restaurant for the breakfast. The days breaky was mostly cold meats, cheeses, cereals and enough croissants, cakes and pastries to sink a battleship. The kids ended up eating chocolate cake and apricot tart and croissants with ham and cheese. It was all very nice but Anto and I thought it was too sweet for breakfast, particularly before a day of riding, but we managed some food and 2 more of the great coffees the barista whipped us up.
We were not returning to Alghero that afternoon, and the days riding was listed as a moderate 43km so we weren’t in a hurry to depart. We had loved our time in Alghero the previous day so went for another wander around the cute streets of the old town, and checked out Porto Terra about another 3 times! The 14th-century tower is all that remains of Porta a Terra, one of the two main gates into the medieval city. A stumpy 23m-high tower known originally as Porta Reial, it has a panoramic terrace with terrific rooftop views over to the sea. Of course the terrace wasn’t open that early in the day!
We checked out the local fish, fruit and vegetable market. Then we found a bakery near our hotel and got bread, several biscuits and pastries for our ride all for under 3 Euro. We’d been warned that there was nowhere to stop for food after the first 5km out of Alghero so we made sure we took enough supplies for the day.
Once we got back to the hotel and got our luggage down to foyer by the 10am collection time it was time to check out. The later luggage time was easier than on the Dutch bike tour which was always a rush with breakfast!
As is usual for the first day of a bike tour, it took quite awhile to set up the bikes with panniers, GPS and kids. Finally we bid farewell to our hotel and head out of Alghero. It was only a short 500m of riding to get out of the town and away from traffic but it’s always a bit dicey for the first few kilometres of riding when you aren’t used to the bike. These bikes were at least blissfully light compared to our Dutch bikes (which resembled tanks)….
Out of town we headed up the coast on our way to Bosa. Today we had opted to take the ‘easy’ ride option rather than the ‘challenge’ option. The easy ride was meant to be ‘rolling hills’ but we’d seen the elevation profile, and more importantly the mountains surrounding Alghero and doubted the rolling claim!
The first 6km were pretty flat and a good chance to get used to the bikes and the route maps and GPS. After the 6km mark we started to climb up and away from the sea. It was a spectacular start to the ride with the beautiful blue-green of the ocean on our right and the road snaking up the coast stretching out in front of us.
It was lucky it was scenic because pretty soon we hit the first of our many Sardinian climbs, a category 4 climb with several 8-9 % sections. I do not claim to be a cyclist and I despise hills so my legs were already feeling it! This is the face I make at the top of climbs…….
Lucky it was beautiful with the wildflowers on the side of the road and Alghero in the distance. We were following the coast road all the way through to Bosa and it’s quite reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, although with a few more climbs and more enticing water. We were riding on the road (a highway) for the whole day (no bike paths) and there wasn’t a shoulder on most of the roads but the traffic was mostly well-behaved, and gave us a wide berth and courtesy beeps when passing. There were also plenty of scenic pull off areas where we could stop for drinks and photos.
We could see the road snaking out in front of us and winding up the mountains constantly. From the 13 to 23km mark there were a series of 3 more category 3 climbs. Huge mountains to our left, water on right, sheer cliffs below us and no towns (and very few cars in sight). With no spots to stop and refuel (or use a bathroom) we got pretty good at tree wees!
With Alghero a long way in the distance we found a scenic pull-off spot to pull off for some morning tea. It hadn’t been the worst way to spend the morning, the views were stunning.
Pretty soon it was back on the bikes and we were surrounded by hills. The only way was up! We were thankful we weren’t doing the ‘challenge’ route as that route was heading inland up some pretty steep climbs.
I was starting to get rather tired after every climb and we could see the road winding up and up in front of us!
At the 23km mark we’d completed quite a few hard kilometres and came across a scenic place to stop. We knew there was a bit of a monster climb ahead so decided it was time to pull off for lunch. We parked ourselves on a rock and Anto prepared us a picnic of cheese and breadrolls. It was most definitely one of the prettiest lunch views ever. We’d made it to 280m above the sea below us, not a bad effort for the morning.
Pretty soon we were joined by a stray Sardinian sheepdog who thought our food smelt pretty good. It was obviously the spot to stop as pretty soon we were joined by a young German couple who were also riding the same route as us. They were teachers from Nuremberg and we had a great time chatting and eating our picnic lunches. Their English was definitely better than our German!
Our German friends set off at the same time as us. They did not have the luxury of a the GPS route and maps with elevations that we had. We warned them there was a rather large climb coming up as they’d been caught out by the number of hills already for the morning as the route on paper (without elevations) doesn’t look too hard!
Straight after lunch we had a nice and very fast 2km downhill where we zoomed under a road overhang. There was nowhere to pull off for photos but it was pretty impressive seeing the water several hundred metres below you and nothing but a guard rail in between. As you are hugging the coast line you can see the road stretching in front of you and it was rather disconcerting when we could see the massive climb coming up with the snail sized cars moving further away up the hill. Sadly our legs were going to power us up!
The big climb of the day stretched from 24.5km to the 30km mark and included 230m of climb making it a category 3 climb. Just to really take it up a notch there was a 700m section at 13% gradient. Did I mention I don’t like hills? Luckily Anto hadn’t mentioned the fact it was a category 3 climb before we set out. When I got to the top I felt like I needed to puke, but I did not stop! Soren was rather helpful, yelling ‘go mummy’ perched on the back of my bike.
We’d almost caught our German friends who were also struggling with the climbs. Part way up we’d heard bells clanging and realised there were fields of goats with bells in paddocks perched on the side of the cliffs. We weren’t stopping to take photos of them though or we would never have started again.
At this point we were over 41om above sea level, on the side of a cliff and it had gotten rather misty at the mountain top. The temperature had also dropped several degrees. We’d done 30km for the day and were about to start the long downhill section to give our legs a break. Anto then got a flat tyre so we had to pull over in a most inconvenient spot and had the kids sitting in a ditch full of thistles for almost an hour as he wrestled with incorrect valve sizes.
Somewhere in there, both kids needed to go to the toilet which wasn’t ideal as there was no cover and lots of cars whizzing past. We also had a group of road cyclists ride past as I was holding a half-naked child up to do a roadside pee. The joys of cycling with small kids!
Finally back on the bikes the temperature had continued to drop and we were cold after being sweaty from all the climbs. Astrid had napped for about 5 minutes when we had to wake her to get her out of the trailer for the flat and both kids were tired. If we hadn’t been delayed by the flat we would have made it to our hotel by now, but we were consoled with the fact that most of the rest of the ride was downhill.
The downhill was 8km where we lost 314m of elevation and Anto claims it would have been much more exciting on a road bike without kids. I was petrified for most of it and was going heavy on the brakes and still hit 46km/h. As you were flying down the hill and around the bends you could see the sea directly below and sheer cliffs. There were guard rails but I was not keen to test how effective they were. Again it was pretty much impossible to stop and take photos, although we did have to stop for 1 traffic light due to some cliff-side roadwork…….
One last climb just before Bosa really tested our weary legs. As we neared the top of the last climb we could see Bosa down below us and it was a very welcome sight.
Both kids fell asleep as we came through town and aside from a tricky crossing of the old stone bridge we located our hotel much easier (and quicker) than we had on the Netherlands bike tours.
We were happy to find our hotel, the Hotel Sa Pischedda and be off our bikes. Our room was ready with our bags waiting for us and Mauro, our bike tour contact, had rung to check on us. We hadn’t made it in till almost 4:30pm due to the tyre incident, which was a couple of hours later than we had hoped. It turns out our German friends hadn’t beaten us by much and had decided it was also enough for a day, they were originally planning a camping spot in another town quite a way away.
The hotel was lovely and the kids were excited the hotel room had a large balcony and an upstairs section. They were however annoyed the upstairs bed was for mum and dad and their beds were down on the lower level!
We had 2 nights in Bosa so while our original plan was to spend some time exploring we were pretty hungry and tired so settled for a quick explore of Bosa in the direction of food.
Bosa is located in the north central coast of Sardinia, and is a small village of ancient origins. Crossed by the river Temo (only navigable river in Sardinia) it is characterized by typical colorful houses in pastel colors, the wrought-iron balconies, and the narrow alleys of the old town. Bosa has the reputation as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy. We walked along the river and saw all the fishing boats in for the afternoon.
Our bike tour provided restaurant recommendations for each day (and our tour contact, Mauro, had also provided a couple of additional suggestions for a few nights). However, the recommended restaurants for Bosa seemed a little expensive for over-tired kids that needed to eat quickly and get to bed. So, instead we found a pub-type place and ordered some food. After carefully deciding what we wanted to eat, it turned out they didn’t have half of what we wanted so we ended up with lasagna, a pesto pasta and a caprese salad. All were nice but not as good as most of our other Sardinian meals. Anto and I figured we deserved alcohol after all those hills so had campari and a caprikosa. You can see the kids looked a little tired while waiting for dinner…….
Feeling a little better with calories on board we then wandered around Bosa some more. The old town is quite pretty and we had a little walk before setting off in search of dessert.
The hotel receptionist had told us where the best gelato shop in town was located so we figured it was only right to check it out. She was on the money, the gelato was awesome! Astrid chose a chocolate gelato, Soren a creme caramel and Anto and I shared a tiramisu. That tiramisu was amazing, one of our favourites of the trip.
As we wandered back towards the hotel the sun was starting to set. The river Temo was looking rather pretty. Bosa, like Alghero is a rather picturesque city. It was quite different to Alghero which was right on the coast and was had more of a sea-side resort feel. The population of Bosa is only 8,000 and it’s a little more off the tourist track than Alghero!
Before calling it a day we had a quick visit to the supermarket to replenish our supply of food for the next days riding. We also had to find some new sunscreen. We’d been using a spray-on sunscreen and with the bright conditions today it had not stood up to the high UV and we were all feeling rather sunburnt. Poor Soren was particularly cooked and was pretty much glowing in the dark! All that time riding in the glaring sun and with some windy descents we were all a little worse for wear. My lips had copped a beating from the sun and wind and I ended up with blisters that lasted until the end of the trip!
Despite our exhaustion it still ended up being after 8.30pm before we got kids to sleep. It had been a long day of sun, beautiful views and spectacular riding and there was more in store the next day.
Daily statistics for Tuesday 11 April 2017 in Alghero and Bosa, Sardinia – the morning started out at 9 degrees and it was a very sunny 20 degrees in the afternoon with 93% humidity. The total walking for the day was 8.5 km.
The total cycling for the day was 47.2km with 815m of elevation (or at least twice my previous personal best daily climb). Our legs were a little sore! Here is the Strava profile of our days riding – there were some hills!
Up next….. riding through the Malvasia wine region and through hill top-villages (and yes there were a lot more hills!).