Wild Iglesiente – the land of forests and waterfalls

I’ve already shown some of the most spectacular multi-day treks in Sardinia as you might recall the posts about Selvaggio Blu and Grande Traversata del Gennargentu but this one took us further down to the south west of the island to an area called Sulcis – Iglesiente. I got the idea from a guidebook called Wild Iglesiente (English edition)  written by a local Sardinian guide that describes this stunning route that sets off in the surprisingly green forests and seemingly impenetrable mountains to lead us all the way down to the seaside of San Nicolò (Buggerru) or alternatively the other way around (as it is originally indicated in the book).

We, on the other hand, chose a tiny abandoned hut in the middle of the woods to begin our trek (cutting off one stage compared to the original route) because we thought that a 4-day hike carrying approximately 12/15 kg on our shoulders for at least 8 hours a day would be the right choice between being self – sufficient and avoid total collapse at the end of every stage.

The plan was the following: we were going to leave one car at the end of the route (at the beach of San Nicolò) and one at the hut called Baita Porcella (where our trek began). Once we arrived at the beach (after four days) we were going to get the other car still in the woods… Well, undoubtedly a great plan but let me show you what makes a simple trek a real journey: the unpredictable!

Day 0 – that supposed to be day 1

So this is as far as we got the first day  – after about a 20 min drive on a dirt road – as I didn’t realize that in order to reach that hut in the woods no ordinary car would make it. As a consequence, after dismissing a couple of dumb ideas, such as walking to the hut with all our stuff and leaving the cars behind, we decided to head back to the beach and have a bath (and some beers).

Making hard decisions under a lot of stress

Day 1 (for real this time) From Baita Porcella to Stazione Tiny

  • Total time (lunch break included): 10 hours
  • Altitude change: 700m
  • Length: 18 km

 

So after having slept at the dunes, not far from the beach, the day after early in the morning we were ready to go as we had managed to find a guy with a Land Rover who was willing to drive us right where we wanted to be.

Now we are talking
The abandoned hut called Baita Porcella reached after a one hour drive from the village of Arbus

My very first impression, which never went away, is how incredibly green this area was compared to the other multi – day treks of this island. Whereas  the reigning colours of Selvaggio Blu are definitely white and blu, Gennargentu is often leaf and treeless so is characterized by a brownish colour especially towards the highest peaks, these mountains are almost always covered with trees giving an incredibly refreshing view for the eye and a boost for the lungs.

After setting off, as the dirt road turns into a muletrack and eventually into a path you immediately find yourself in the heart of the mountains wondering how many other forgotten tracks, caves and waterfalls lay below the shrubland.

And sometimes you wonder where the path is…

The guidebook gives the description of not only the trek itself but the history and the most important places of interest as well. However I would strongly recommend to download the gpx tracks of the whole route (here) and bring some maps (online/offline and paper) as this trek leads you to pretty isolated places.

One of the highlights of the entire trek is Piscina Irgas, a spectacular waterfall which is usually dry in September but due to an unusally wet summer we got lucky this time!
Actually water was so cold that only the bravest decided to have a bath
Setting off from the riverbed and the nearby waterfall

Actually this first stage (stage 7 in the book) was supposed to be 13km long but we decided to walk another hour and a half since the agriturismo (rural restaurant) was closed so we couldn’t get any water supplies from there which is quite important for obvious reasons. Not saying it didn’t require some effort to add these extra kilometers considering the remarkable weight (12 – 15 kilos)  we were carrying on our shoulders the path was one of the most fairytale-like of the whole route.

Almost there
Tiny – Stazione Forestale / Forest Guard barracks was the endpoint of our first stage

In the vicinity of the barracks we found a clearing where we could set up a camp and cook our dehydrated meals (which sort of taste the same no matter what’s written on the bag) and add even some mushrooms we picked along the path. And wine. Can’t miss wine…

 

Day 2 From Stazione Tiny to Pubusinu

  • Total time: 7h (ledge detour)
  • Altitude change: 400 m
  • Length: 8,5 km
The (almost) abandoned mining site of Arenas

Our second stage led us through some inactive mining sites and some surrounding facilities, silent witnesses of a once flourishing project which did give jobs to local people but also left an evident negative impact on the landscape and most importantly on the lives of countless miners who were doomed to work underground from their very early age. Lately, some efforts have been made to rediscover these industrial monuments, in fact the route of Wild Iglesiente partly follows an even broader trek called Cammino Minerario di Santa Barbara. 

After about an hour walk we got to a well – known crag among climbers called Punta Pilocca which offers several spectacular climbing routes (4c – 7c) with utterly strange names. Here you have the possibility to follow a dirt road (why would anyone do that???) or a path which goes uphill and leads you into a stunning cave (full of shit) and to some slightly exposed passages making the route more exciting.

The entrance of the cave
Someone has left a rope attached to a rock in order to help people climbing up but bringing your own rope gives you the possibility to lift the backpacks as well and probably solves some trust issues.
They might as well write that everything is forbidden from now on

The fact that we had covered the first part of this stage the day before gave us the possibility to slow down our pace a little and enjoy the vastness of this territory as it slowly revealed itself piece by piece, hill after hill alternating steep climbs and mild walks as we were getting deeper into it.

The endpoint of our second stage called Pubusinu

Compared to other multiday – treks in Sardinia this one particular as having access to water supplies is usually not a problem since there are numerous fountains along the route. Thus fresh water was available in each place where we spent the night which really made the whole trip easier as we didn’t need to worry about making arrangements for having water supplies and I’m sure you understand how refreshing it is to have a quick “shower” after an all day walk.

 

Day 3 – From Pubusinu to Su Mannau

  • Total time: 9 hours
  • Altitude change: 400m (frequent steep climbs)
  • Length: 12,5 km
Back on track

We might even call it a key stage for various reasons: inevitably tiredness and small injuries start to slow you down a little so instead of your legs it’s your determination that helps you to overcome the difficulties that occur during the walk. Also acting like a group and finding a common pace helped us to think less and act more. On the other hand the thought that a real dinner in an agriturismo was waiting for us at the end of the stage was definitely helpful…

Whereas during the previous stages tracks were quite easy to find from here on (including stage 4) from time to time we had to pay extra attention not to get lost.
And when the batteries are low some coffee might make the difference
Counseling

This spectacular stage includes various places of interest such as ancient Roman mining sites right along the path and the Carthaginian – Roman Temple of Antas which becomes visible step by step as you descend into the valley.

In fact the last part of this stage (definitely eased by a couple beers we took at the nearby bar) follows an ancient Roman road which led us to one of the most beautiful caves in Sardinia called Su Mannau (last tour started at 5pm so unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to visit it) and the agriturismo we had booked in advance.

View from the agriturismo (one of the few places along our route that can be reached by car as well)
Setting up the camp at Su Mannau – Having some protection against humidity such as camping tent tarps come in handy at night, unless you want to wake up completely soaked in the morning

 

This is my backpack that I left out for the night – Imagine it’s your sleeping bag….

 

Day 4 – From Su Mannau to San Nicolò

  • Total time: 9 hours
  • Altitude change: 600m (several steep climbs and descents)
  • Length: 15km

To sum it up, the last stage is divided into two sections: for the first half it’s a constant walk uphill but the rest of it is a long descent until you reach the beach of San Nicolò. I remember looking at the last section of our route from the beach the day before we left and thinking how cool it would be if  our path led us right in the middle of that canyon that makes its way through the mountains and basically ends in the vicinity of the beach. Well, our journey might not started exactly as planned but it definitely ended in the most spectacular way.

Greenland
The last peak
The arrival – Our well deserved resting place at lunchtime after an all morning uphill walk
The departure – Setting off for the last part of the route along the canyon

The Wild Iglesiente Route can be done in both directions (from or to the sea) but as far as I’m concerned the thought of being able to dive into the sea after a four days walk makes me happy and I believe that my friends shared the same opinion. And nothing is more satisfying than laying your eyes upon the distant shores while you are walking the last miles of the route. (well actually there is one thing: knowing that there’s a bar on the beach…)

Getting closer
And closer
Sunset at San Nicolò

There are many other paths and routes among these stunning mountains to be explored. It’s a territory that has a lot to offer in terms of outdoor sports such as trekking, climbing and canyoning but it is also a museum out in the open air of ancient and modern history combined with architecture which once again proves how incredibly complex this island is.

Yes we had the same T – shirts and yes Mother Mary was with us. Sulcis in fundu (2018)

 

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