Snorkelling with octopus and climbing my first cave in Sardinia

Following on from the last post where we have finally been scuba diving on the Isola die Cavoli near Villasimius, we found some free parking just down the road from the port and proceeded to spend a couple of nights there. It was a lovely location, although we were always on edge, with the fear of being ousted and threatened by the police. This place was perfect aside from that, with a beach on our doorstep and climbing around the corner, and how good was the climbing! Finally, for the first time since the Alps, ‘granite’! It also showed in our grades as we were once again happy to push up to failiure at 6b, rather than messing around on grade five limestone! The grip was amazing, and the confidence shown in our climbing, ticking our way through the six graded climbs, one after the next. The next day we left, and went from heaven to hell, pretty quickly. 
There is no polite way to say this so I’m going to be blunt with a hint of profanity. Cagliari is a shit hole, it literally smelt, everywhere you went a weird funky smell, it reminded me of the streets of Iraq. I have come to realise I hate, more and more, built up locations, as soon as I arrive on the fringe, I am ready to leave. We stopped in the city centre for a supermarket shop and to search for wifi, it was an ugly place, I just wanted out! Eventually after driving about for an age we found a shopping mall on the outskirts of town and used McDonald’s wifi and power. We were so out of place, everyone seemed to be dressed up, heels, make up, perfume, hair, all done up, and most the blokes were as bad, I mean why? It’s shopping in a crummy mall, not Milan fashion week? Compared to my shorts and t-shirt combo that I have been sporting for the last week or two, I think we stuck out as different. It is the first time I have reflected on such a large difference between us and everyone around us. 
I recently read something in Steve House and Scott Johnstons’ book, training for the new alpinism, where they state that often climbers motivation to climb is deeply instrinsic and devoid of outside approval. However these people in the mall I’m sure are not dressed up for themselves alone and do it for societies benefit, to fit in. It could be argued that by blogging my climbs etc that I am seeking outside approval for my adventures, however I’m 100% confident that with or without this blog, everything would have ran its course as it has. As well as this, in the same chapter, it asks the reader to write why they started climbing in the first place, to help discover their motivations and drive. I believe this would be interesting to develop my own understanding of why I climb, “a deceptively simple query that has no easy answer”. 
Back to our trip from my mindless wonderings… We have moved to the coast again, just outside the city and after a quick recce of our climb site for the next day, we proceeded to settle down in a large gravel area close by. There were a couple of cars already parked, and I could see people in them, which I thought was weird, maybe a couple of locals, looking for some alone time?? However throughout the night there was a steady flow of cars coming and going. I decided that we had either parked in the lay-by where all the local youths take their ladies for a romantic time, or we had parked in Sardinias no.1 dogging spot? Either way, my walk in the morning helped to confirm the fact, as half the litter there was old condoms, we don’t half park in some luxury locations!

We decided to take our beach stuff to the climb the next morning, as there was a secluded beach below, and as you had to enter through barbed wire and cut fences we thought it would be quite nice and quiet. On the way I took a couple of photos, and soon realised that everyone was naked, it seemed we had stumbled onto a nudist beach! Not put off by the sausages and wrinkly ball sacks that we were surrounded by, we set out for a swim and a snorkel, although I had accidentally left the go pro in the van. It just happened to be the time I stumble across an octopus moving across open ground, moving in the weird way they do, it was so cool! I was kicking myself for forgetting the camera, however after showing Jess I rushed to our bags and grabbed the Panasonic adventure camera, which is supposed to be waterproof and shockproof, although over the years it has taken a beating and is now neither. Although I managed to take a couple of photos, it is safe to say the camera was playing up from the first moment, and has maybe had its last adventure, however I hope once it all dries out, there will still be life in it yet!
We climbed in the afternoon above the sausage fest on the beach, and as I have been suffering with a slight cold, we stuck to the lower grades, it was fun and one route was a bit too stiff and made me push more than I planned! I can’t believe that I have a cold in what is by and far the best weather we have had on the trip? Saying that the climbing was good, on decent rock, although limestone, so we decided to stay for another night. We left the van parked where it had been all day and it seemed like it would be quiet when the sun went down. Oh, how wrong we were… this long windy, shitty road that ends nowhere, seems to be the most popular place to be on a Sunday night. There was noise all night, screaming, singing, fireworks, horns beeping, it was party central, in the middle of fucking nowhere!

Jess working through the harder upper section

The next day we returned to the beach, go pro in hand, and this time there were less sausages on the beach to boot! We jumped in the sea immediately and within a few minutes came across another octopus, and then another, this was great! I was really hoping to see more today, but to see two was amazing! I continued to snorkel and saw star fish, loads of sea urchins that made me fearful of brushing the rocks. There were shoals of fish all over, and whilst I was looking at the rock formations trying to go micro, I again found another octopus, and proceeded to duck dive for a better view. Eventually I felt it was peeved with having me for company so I let it be. I’m absolutely loving this place and its underwater world! 

Octopus number three I think?

After whittling away the better part of the day sunbathing it seemed cool enough to climb, although I felt my strength had been sapped by the sun and I was still ill, with my nose dribbling more than a babies. We started on easy routes, although we had stayed in the area to climb a route on the caves, and although I felt ill, I still wanted to have a go. We set up at the foot after a long recce, and I set up to go. It was hard and overhanging from the start, although the holds were good, especially after a little search. My mind was working overtime to ensure my body was in the right position so my feet were taking some of the weight, this was the most overhanging piece of climbing I think I have ever been on outdoors. Although once I overcame the cave ridge, it was plain sailing to the anchors, and as always it’s a great feeling to overcome a route that you thought you might fail on!

Exiting the cave
Working my way through the overhanging moves

Cave routes and hard climbing is what Sardinia is known for, and although the route I did was not particularly hard in comparison, it was a big step for me in the right direction. Hopefully as our trip continues around the island, I can have the confidence to push harder and have more belief that these routes are within my grasp. All this in the pursuit of pushing the grade in sport climbing and improving my ability! Well it would be if this cold would bugger off! As for the camera, it is sort of working, although only when it wants, hopefully a couple more dry days will sort it out!

From the top anchor, with the beach at the foot of the cliff, awesome!
Scoping out the final hand holds, whilst on two underclings, to leave the overhanging section
Spot the fish??
Our view whilst scoping out the cave route
Spot the octopus
Just hanging around
You looking at me??
Horrible sea urchins, looking nice though!

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