In Sardinia, walking down Europe's deepest canyon

Su Gorroppu, Dorgali

I had been warned it was tough, but in line with Sardinian stubbornness, I challenged my out-of-shapeness and made my way to Europe's deepest canyon, Su Gorroppu, near Dorgali, Sardinia's eastern coast.

The deal involved parking our car (after a drive along the very edge of a steep cliff) 200 mt above the gorge of the canyon and walking down towards the valley. "It cannot be that difficult," I thought. It didn't take me long to change my mind.

From second one, I had to mind every single step in order to avoid slipping down the cliff. The path bristled with small rolling stones that made it slippery, and bigger boulders that only apparently were stuck in the ground but that actually rolled too. And even the ones that were stuck were slippery because too worn out, for that matter.

The walk started quietly, the members of my group very interested in our guides' explanations, but after a while, all our geologic interest was inevitably fading away. We were too concentrated on placing our feet on the right stones.

The view was overwhelming, every time I looked in front of me I couldn't help but thinking how small man-made wonders are compared to what nature has done.

Being naturally rich in wood, also valuable species such as juniper, the mountains have been the target of former Italian royal family, the Savoia, who, when they colonised the island creating the Sardo-Piedmont kingdom, started a real sack, exploiting the natives and destroying the forests to obtain wood, coal and scented ashes for the houses. Thousands of trees have been cut down, burnt and loaded to the ships on the way to Piedmont. The result has been a huge damage for the environment (and for the local population), and only now little by little the forest is beginning to come back to normal.

In particularly difficult spots, I started cursing myself for having chosen this excursion instead of some other great places Sardinia is full of, and certainly less dangerous. No matter what, I kept shooting, in the hope to come out at least with some good pictures. I saw the woman behind me looking puzzled: "I admire your willingness on photographing!" She told me, sweating.

The route was actually hard, full of trees (the only handhold I could rely on), and very narrow, so we asked our guides: "What if someone gets his ankle sprained?" "No helicopter nor ambulance can manage to get here," was the guides pithy answer. "We leave the weak here, wildlife have the right to eat too!" Drowsy laugh from the rest of the group.

The moments I was getting despondent, I threatened: "That's it, I'm not moving anymore!" Bad choice, really not the case to get lost in the middle of nowhere, I wouldn't have been able to find my way back to the car, I had to keep going, no way out.

Once reached the destination, my fury calmed down, being on the bottom of the canyon was worth our fatigue, and our courage was restored. Good for us, because we were about to do uphill the same route we had just descended from.

I kept shaking all evening, my mood having ranged from panic to discouragement all day. I swore I would never go back again: the day after I had already changed my mind and started planning the next excursion.


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