Today it is another of those stages that I was afraid of at the beginning of the project, not only for the distance, 55 km, but above all for the desolate areas I had to pass, and the weather that could have been really bad. In fact, to go from Ussassai to Villagrande Strisaili I had decided not to go back to Gairo, but to pass from behind, right at the foot of the Gennargentu Mountains, to reach Lago Basso Flumendosa and then towards the village. The risk of frost and snow was high in this period, but today is a beautiful day, the only problem is the strong wind.
The other positive note is that I make the trip in the company of Giorgio Spiga, a cyclist who hosted me in the Marrubiu stage, and with whom I’ve stayed in touch. Giorgio was excited to accompany me on this day. Leaving his car in Ussassai,he will accompany me and then come back here by bike to get the car! We begin to climb slowly against the wind until we reach the Arcuerì pass, 981 meters above sea level, and from here it is more or less all flat. We arrive at the beautiful nuraghe of Ardasai, in the territory of Seui. The view of the Gennargentu is spectacular, a little snow on the sides, and all around nothingness. On the other side, Perda Liana stands out among the hills, and we will continue to see it at times.
We continue crossing many cows, we enter a woody part, which skirts the heels behind Ussassai, and finally we arrive at Lago Alto Flumendosa (or Bau Meggueris). A little more ups and downs. We are finally in the territory of Villagrande. On the other side we see Villanova Strisaili, a hamlet, where I won’t go, and around which I know there are archaeological sites.
We pass the little station Villagrande where the Green Train used to stop (this one too, like Ussassai‘s, is very far from the inhabited center!) We cross the bridge over the Flumendosa, here in its upper part (I saw its mouth between Muravera and Villaputzu weeks ago), and we follow the last curves uphill. As soon as we pass the top I can not believe my eyes … the plain that goes down to the sea, the mountains of Baunei on one side, Tortolì in the center, the mountains of Tertenia on the other … a magnificent view.
Giorgio leaves me here and returns to Ussassai, while I go down to the village to meet Elisabetta and Davide who will take care of me. It is already time for lunch, and after settling in Federico’s bnb Pibirinsambene, we go to the Santa Barbara forest with friends Silverio and Luca, where a spectacular lunch based on typically Ogliastra dishes awaits us. After lunch we cross the wood, the church of Santa Barbara, and descend towards the village.
The historic center is well cared for, with granite houses, many plastered. In a panoramic square there are several basalt sculptures by Pinuccio Sciola. On the walls several murals, many in the typical Orgolese style, others more recent, and showing the centenarians of the village. Here, in fact, we find the highest rate of male centenarians.
Despite the presence of several archaeological sites to visit, Davide and his friends decide to take me to what they consider the least accessible but the most interesting, the nuragic village of Praidas, which they call the Sardinian Machu Picchu, and I will soon find out why. With the car we reach the old road that connected Villagrande to Talana, now closed because it was interrupted by several landslides, and from here we walk uphill for about 40 minutes. We arrive at the base of an impressive rocky peak on the top of which some signs of walls begin to be seen.
We climb through a rift and once up high we are in the middle of the ruins of the nuragic village. The view is impressive, and the gale is strong. To get to the next level you have to climb a short section that overlooks the valley, but I get dizzy because of my vertigo feel. Shame. Davide goes up and returns with photos of the rest of the huts, well preserved and with traces of cupels in the stone. An incredible site, little known because it is difficult to access, but unique.
The light begins to fall and we must return. In this area you can see mouflons, and if you are lucky also the golden eagle, but unfortunately we do not see either one or the other. For dinner we return to Santa Barbara, where fortunately we stay a little lighter. I taste the gentian liqueur, a typical Gennargentu herb, and I manage to go to bed at the end of a very long day. For the first time since I started the journey I have some pain in my legs. In the last stages, in addition to long bike rides, I also did very long walks!
SHORT SARDINIAN STORIES
Davide teaches martial arts, and in particular Sa Strumpa, the ancient Sardinian fight. I discover that here in Villagrande Strisaili the Sa Strumpa association was formed, recognized by Coni (Italian Sport Federation) as a real sporting discipline. Sa Strumpa is a type of free fight, with similarities to the Greco-Roman one. Its origin is not well known but it was practiced since ancient times as evidenced by some findings of small bronzes and statues in fighting pose. It was then practiced at parties and ceremonies. Today there is a regional championship and national tournaments, which are often held in Ollolai, the village where the S’Istrumpa association was born, and an international tournament, where Sa Strumpa is associated with other ancient free fights of European nations, such as the Celtic one in Brittany, Scotland and England and other fights from Spain, Senegal and Brazil.
Here in Villagrande Davide keeps this ancient tradition alive by teaching it to a large group of children, about 70 members. In reality, what he teaches is above all fair play, in compliance with the rules, and above all not to surrender in front of opponents with more physical strength but to adopt other skills to win. Just like in life!