15 April 2017- Where are the birds? Riding the Sinis Peninsula in search of pink flamingos…… [Italy, (Sardinia)]
Our final day of riding in Sardinia was a loop ride of the Sinis Peninsula, around wetlands and lagoons, home to native pink flamingos. The ride also took us to the Punic-Roman port city of Tharros and past the Gulf of Oristano. It was also our final chance to indulge in some more delicious Sardinian cuisine (and gelato!).
Despite yet another late night Italian dinner, the kids were up at 7.30am and hanging out for breakfast. We were staying at the Hotel Regina D’Arborea and our room was just across the foyer from the very lovely breakfast room, which was rather convenient.
The breakfast was lovely, a very impressive spread of cakes, breads, and Italian Easter treats. The kids were particularly impressed with the custard donuts. It’s reached the point of the holiday where we really don’t care what they eat for breakfast! The cakes and donuts were rather delicious, if not the best thing to be eating before a day of riding. There were at least some meaty options for the non-vegetarians, I was just forced to eat all those delicious pastry products!
The hotel is quite small and there was only one other table set and one other family at breakfast. Somehow, despite the small numbers, we did make a pretty good dent in the food! The breakfast room was beautiful but everything, including all the plates and glasses were rather ornate and probably way too nice to be allowed near our small children! We escaped without anything being broken.
Day 6 of our Sardinian bike tour was to be our last day of riding. Today’s route of 57km was one that I had been looking forward to (and not just because it was pretty flat after way too many hills in the preceding days). We were to be riding past some beautiful wetlands, lagoons and past impressive beaches and fields of wildflowers. We were also keen to find those pink flamingos! As usual we ended up riding quite a few extra kilometres over the route notes…..
After struggling to get away riding early enough the previous few days, today we made a concerted effort to get out of the hotel a bit earlier. We were returning to Oristano that afternoon, so there was no need to pack up, which certainly made the morning a bit more pleasant. At 9.30am we were all on our bikes and our legs were weary and our butts not looking forward to another day in the saddle but knowing it was the last day of riding in Sardinia (and Italy) made it a little easier.
We headed straight out of Oristano, in a different direction to which we’d entered the previous afternoon. We were mostly riding on quiet roads as well as some bike paths and wound our way through a few smaller towns, including Cabras. These towns were still a fair bit larger than most of the ones we’d encountered in the previous few days riding.
Pretty soon we were out and riding through the countryside, surrounded by field after field of artichokes, poppies, and yellow mustard flowers. We had first spied the artichoke fields coming into Oristano the previous afternoon but this was our first time riding past fields of poppies and mustard flowers. It brought back memories for riding past the bulb fields in the Netherlands a couple of weeks prior. Of course in the Netherlands we didn’t happen to ride past a man riding a donkey…….. I really wish we had of managed to get a photo of that one!
From the 7km mark we were riding around the lagoon of Cabras (Stagno di Cabras). The lagoon was on our left and fields and vineyards on our right. Our legs were very much enjoying the flat terrain. There were a few minor inclines but it was very reminiscent of the terrain we were riding in the Netherlands. Cabras lagoon is one of the largest freshwater pools in Sardinia and is connected to the sea by a canal system.
Once we had reached Cabras we were riding on very quiet roads so made fairly good time, only stopping for the odd photo, drink, and waving to other cyclists and farmers. The kids did insist we stop to pick them a poppy that they could carry around with them on the bikes.
We were circumnavigating the Cabras lagoon and it was a couple of hours and around 25km of pleasant riding. Again it was quite different scenery today than what we’d encountered on previous days riding – pretty much every day of our Sardinian bike tour had taken us through different terrain.
We had again been blessed with very pleasant riding weather, and gorgeous blue skies. It was certainly helping our weary bodies when the riding was this pretty.
Despite our general tiredness, and still suffering from sunburn from that first days riding from Alghero to Bosa, the kids were keen for a longer day of riding and wanted to do one of the ‘extension’ rides. The previous days riding in Sardinia we had stuck to the ‘easy routes’ which were enough kilometres and hills with the kids in tow. Today, with the flat terrain, there were a couple of extensions that seemed very doable and the kids were keen to visit a beach so we chose to do the extension to Is Arutas which added 11.5km and took us from our loop around the lagoon out to the coastline.
Sadly for our legs the road out to the beach involved a small climb and our legs didn’t appreciate it, despite it being much smaller than ones we’d completed in previous days. We did however, get a pleasant ride along a road lined with pineapple trees, and boy the beach was worth it once we caught sight of the water.
It was most definitely a Mediterranean paradise, with beautiful blue-green water and white sand (which was the texture of rice). Is Arutas is known as the beach of the grains of rice, being composed of small grains of quartz, which shades range from pink, to green, to pure white.
It was a Saturday and there were plenty of tourists enjoying the beach and swimming.
Despite the beautiful sunny day it was a little over 20 degrees and the water was not all that warm. That didn’t stop swarms of German and Spanish tourists from lying around sunbaking and swimming. The kids were desperate for a swim but we settled for a paddle, which was plenty cold enough for us Aussies!
The water was glorious and the kids had a ball, it made those extra kilometres worth riding. It was also the first time we’ve been to a beach in our bike gear! In hindsight we should have chucked our swimmers in the bike panniers, why not drag more gear around with us……
This is most definitely a place to revisit in Summer one day. We had to drag the kids away. They do like a beach! We did bribe them with an icecream at the beach bar (sadly they didn’t have gelato, but the kids didn’t care).
The bar had a sit-down restaurant attached and the smells of delicious food cooking were taunting us, but they were not open for lunch for another 45 minutes so we figured we’d better keep moving as there was plenty of riding still to be done.
We bid a reluctant farewell to Is Arutas and headed back the way we came past the pineapple trees until we rejoined the main route for the day. The beach obviously tired out the kids as both were napping pretty quickly after we started riding again.
Once back on the main route we went through the small village of San Salvatore, one of the most interesting examples in Sardinia of a ‘religious temporary village’. It is only populated during religious holidays. The houses are simple and modest but the village includes churches and a sacred well. Both kids were napping on the bike so did a quick ‘ride by’ and decided with rumbling tummies we’d keep moving and find ourselves some lunch.
We were now riding along the Sinis Peninsula and along the edge of the Mistras lagoon which runs along the Northern margin of the Gulf of Oristano and is separated from the sea by two sandbars.
Our plan was to stop in Tharros for lunch. We had planned to try the restaurant recommended by our bike tour but had passed several beachside restaurant/bars with delicious smells and lots of patrons so stopped at one that looked good.
We had to wake both sleeping kids when we stopped. It seemed a shame but we’d ridden 49.5km for the morning and were a tad hungry, it was also nearing 2pm!
It turns out our restaurant choice was excellent, they were making fresh wood-fired pizzas and the kids decided on a salmon pizza with fresh mozarella and prawns as well as about half a kilo of smoked salmon. Soren was in heaven! I had a caprese salad and a spinach and ricotta ravioli. Anto indulged in an enormous fried seafood platter with squid, octopus, whole fish and prawns.
It was a good lunch and we were so full we had to pass up the delicious looking gelato that was also available. Back on the bikes we rode up the hill to see the ruins of Tharros.
Tharros was an ancient city on the west coast of Sardinia. It is currently an archaeological site near the village of San Giovanni di Sinis. It is located on the southern shore of the Sinis Peninsula, which forms the northern cape of the Bay of Oristano, by the cape of San Marco. Tharros is now an open air museum and the ruins date back to the Phoenician/Roman period in early Christianity.
We had intended to leave the bikes and have a walk around Tharros but it was a reasonable walk and it was getting late in the day, so we had a quick look from a distance and decided to ride back through San Giovanni.
The return route took us back along the Mistras lagoon and then we rode back between both the Cabras and Mistras lagoons towards Oristano. We’d been keeping an eye out for those flamingos, as this is where they should have been. There were actually a few walking groups out in search of them but we definitely didn’t spot any while riding, which disappointed both us and the kids. I’d even been carrying my rather large and heavy 200mm lens in the hope of spotting some. Here is what we were hoping to see…… next time, maybe!
On the way back to Oristano our route took us through the town of Torregrande, or ‘Large Tower’. The Tower was indeed large. It looked like an interesting little town with lots of nice looking restaurants. Not feeling overly hungry we powered on back to Oristano. The picture on the right below is of many of the what we assumed were water towers in fields just outside Oristano.
Between Torregrande and Oristano we were again mostly riding on off-road bike paths. They were rather narrow and not well-maintained, and did have a few cars parked in them yet again. It did keep us off the highway though.
We arrived back to our hotel in Oristano at around 4pm having completed 70km of riding for the day. We were rather hungry and tired so were straight down to the gelato shop for a reward gelato, we hadn’t even bothered to get out of our bike gear! Soren and I shared some Sicilian cannolis (that were a little too sweet) and Astrid had some sort of chocolate slice gelato that was pretty good. Anto had ordered some frappes that also involved gelato but the ordering process was rather complicated with our limited Italian so we aren’t sure what we ended up with…..
We knew it was going to be another late dinner and the kids were rather tired so we convinced them to have a late afternoon nap back at the hotel while Anto headed off to a laundromat to deal with the very large and unpleasant pile of washing we’d accumulated. We were running desperately short of clothes and the smelly bike gear had piled up. We had now finished riding in Italy and Anto’s hat and gloves told the tale of a long few days on the bike!
Normally late afternoon napping for kids is a bad idea but they were so exhausted that we had to forcibly awaken both kids at 7.45pm and chuck them in the huge shower to wake them up as neither was keen to give up their comfy beds. I could relate and an early night would have been nice but it was our last night in Sardinia and we were pretty hungry.
It was now after 8:30pm so we decided to check out one of the other recommended restaurants, Craf da Banana. As it was still considered ‘early’ we had no trouble getting a table. The one English-speaking waitress was assigned to our table and she was very helpful with helping us order a few interesting Sardinian dishes. Meanwhile both kids were still exhausted and were not keen on eating.
We ended up with a dish that was the local Sardinian durum wheat pasta with sheep cheese and mushrooms, and a dish of the carsau crisp bread baked in tomato with an egg. Both dishes were amazing. Simple but so delicious! The local wine which was 4 Euros for 1/2 a litre was also pretty good.
As it was our last night, we indulged in some seadas (the Sardinain deep-fried pecorino pastries with honey and orange) one more time and also tried the tiramisu. Both were so good that we were rather sad that this was our final Sardinian dinner, it was a fitting finale though. Even the tired kids managed to snaffle plenty of dessert.
As we were leaving the restaurant at 10pm, it was just starting to fill up and there were plenty of people out and about in the streets of Oristano.
Back to our hotel and the kids were both asleep pretty quickly. Anto and I had a late night of repacking bags before our transfer to Cagliari in the morning and 2 flights to Venice. It had been a wonderful week cycling through Sardinia. Our bodies were a little sore but it had most definitely been worth it. We wish we had a little more time in some of the places we visited, and Sardinia is definitely on our list of places we’d like to return one day.
Daily statistics for Saturday 15th of April, 2017 in Oristano and the Sinis Peninsula, Sardinia – it was 9 to 26 degrees with an average humidity of 73% and 15km/h average winds. The total walking for the day was 8.2km.
The total riding for the day was 70.6km with 197m of elevation, a much easier day on our legs with regards to hill climbs! Here is the ride profile for the day, if it wasn’t for the hill on the beach extension it would have been like riding in the Netherlands, the only hills were over bridges.
This was the final riding day of our Sardinian bike tour. In our 5 days of riding we covered 289.7km with 3182 elevation (mostly in the first 3 days). Sardinia is a beautiful island and very different to other parts of Italy that we have explored. We only covered a small fraction of Sardinia Island but saw an amazing variety of terrain and the views did not disappoint, nor did the food. One day we will return……
Up next – Our final morning in Sardinia took us to Cagliari before flying off to Venice via Rome. It was to be our first time in Venice, and the kids were beside themselves with excitement about our airbnb apartment that had its own water door out onto a canal!