Today is the no introduction day. A question straight away. Have you ever wondered what you can cook
combining highline with climbing, mountain biking, casu marzu, surfing, windsurfing and
Surely a lot of things. You’re right. However, when I see this much of the ingredients altogether, I see it as a soup. A pot full of an excellent sports soup! And although there are probably at least a few places in the world where you can do all of it, a presence of one sublime supplement will be missing. This binding ingredient, giving this soup the one-of-a-kind, unique taste, is casu marzu. Thanks to it, you won’t ever confuse it with any other soup in the world and you will always know – it was prepared in Sardinia.
Although you may not know yet what “casu marzu” is, you probably already guessed – there really is no soup. Don’t worry, we’ve got a time to get hungry. While visiting Sardinia for the very first time I haven’t heard of casu marzu as well. However, I’ve heard about it on the second day of my stay and immediately started looking for it. I would importune the locals at every upcoming opportunity. And… nothing. Their slight smile was the most frequent response. I’ve been looking for it and the days were irrevocably passing. Once, on a sunny afternoon (I don’t remember any afternoon that wasn’t sunny) while being in Ulassai, I saw an old gentleman sitting under an umbrella. He was frozen in his position, with his eyes fixed on something far away. As usual I came and asked as correctly as I could: “Buongiorno, dove posso comprare casu marzu?”. He slowly, as if out of sleep, raised his head and looked at me with a glare of his dark eyes. Silently. Terrifying! The vastness of blackess in those eyes. There was definitely some mystery there.
A shiver went through me. After a moment of silence, the man puffed out his pale, cracked lips, and his face was wrinkled with effort. “A drunkard, for sure.” – it ran through my head… but despite that, I instinctively came closer. Curiosity has won. Everything will be clear soon! “If you really want casu marzu, stop looking for it. Casu marzu will find you.” – The man whispered, looking me straight in the eye. Then he lowered his head and returned to his thoughts, as if he suddenly stopped noticing my presence.
There was something in his eyes, indeed! Some hidden ultimate truth or a threat. Well, I don’t know. In addition, his whisper… I stopped looking for it… More about that later, let’s go to the festival.
The multi-sport formula of the festival was created in 2017 and it was a beautiful idea indeed! The combination of climbing with highlining and bicycles is a very tasty soup … And yes, you are right! Several ingredients are missing. I’ll tell you about water sports at the end.
Place: Ulssai, Sardynia, Włochy
Date: May, June
Lines length: 30 – 460 m
Lines height: 30 – 120 m
Distance to spots: 20 min
Spot availability: sneakers
Safety: daily checking of anchors, buddy check
Additional: public transport can be a challenge
Traditionally, I will give you directions from the nearest airport, in this case from Cagliari – Elmas. The quickest route requires 2 changes, around 3-4 hours on the road (depending on the connection) and costs approximately 7-13 EUR.
From the airport, you can reach Cagliari station by bus line 501 or by a train. From there, only travelling by bus is possible. If you suffer from motion sickness, prepare some medicine or a bag! There are a lot of turns, especially at the end of the journey. Make sure to check everything HERE or ask Google.
Traveling to Ulassai has not been much of a problem lately and bus drivers have followed the schedule, more or less. Whereas the returning trip … Well, fortunately I had a few hours of spare time, a lot of patience and great company with me.
Ulassai is a small, charming town located on a mountain slope, almost 800 m above the sea level. From here, you can see the sea at a distance of 15 km in a straight line. Such location makes us move around Ulassai through narrow streets and stairs, going up and down all the time. In the very center of the upper part there is a grassy square (Piazza Barigau), where camping area is located, for both tents and campervans (for those who prefer hammocks, the number of places is limited by the number of trees, so better come earlier). To hit the camping from a bus stop, simply go up the hill.
Yes! You see well. This colourful plateau full of tents, with a green grass background is camping. Look closely, imagine yourself traversing the square and heading towards the sea. You’ll see a tenement house with arcades, under which you’ll find the Info Point.
At the campsite you can expect additional activities: beer bars, a stage, bicycle track, shortlines or aerial silks. Next to it you will find a pitch (also visible in the photo) where the workshops (yoga, pilates, etc.) will take a place. The pitch is real, meaning there are no trees growing on it, so don’t worry about getting your tan.
What is important and beautiful is the fact that, the campsite lives its own original life, same as the whole neighborhood around here. Basically it’s teeming with life! Tribal music is played day and night, performed on drums, pots, chairs, or whatever’s at hand. People juggle, give a massages, stretch muscles and ride rodeolines all over the place. You are able to catch all of this with one long look. Incredible atmosphere … unless everyone went out to roll their favorite sports at the moment.
Since we’re at the accommodation section now, the best lodge to observe surroundings is the wooden bar (Kiosco Internet Caffé), which is super close to the camping site, but situated a few meters higher. From here you can watch all activities in the tent area, and – in the distance – you can see highline spot No. 1 (with shorter lines) and a longer highline, which is the second spot. Yes, there’s Wi-Fi at the bar, although sometimes you can get the impression that during the day it is also having a siesta break. Behind the bar you will find restrooms and showers.
You’ll buy all your necessary groceries in the town, so don’t load your backpack with unnecessary things. Additionally, remember that Sardinia is not a particularily expensive region of Italy. An Italian-style breakfast (croissant + espresso) can be found in the bar mentioned above. As for culinary curiosities, in one evening you’ll be able to try treats of the local cuisine and taste products of a local winery and distillery. Last year it cost 10 EUR and it was really worth it. The tickets for this culinary event were available at the Infopoint. Remember not to be late – the queues to these delicacies tend to get huge! Stalls with various regional specialties will also appear around the campsite. I found baked dumplings „almost like my mum’s”. If you’re not keen to try new things, take the stairs down to the pizzeria.
Make sure to try out the local beer – Ichnusa. Both in the shop and at the bar you can encounter various types of it. You may be surprised by the way it is served in a pub, in a bottle with a napkin pressed in place of the cap. I didn’t see many flies in the whole Ulassai, so probably that’s not the issue. You can taste varieties of great craft beers at the dispensers everywhere between the stalls. Moreover, if you are lucky, by the end of a closing party, the staff announces free self-service for everyone and goes to have some fun themselves. You definitely want to be there!
Since we are talking about food, it is time to explain the mystery of casu marzu, if it still remains a puzzle for you. Casu marzu is a traditional Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese called “alive”. The way of making it involves a special species of fly larva’s that are added into it to accelerate its fermentation process. The cheese is eaten with live larva’s, which are reportedly able to jump to a height of 15 cm above your cheese. Good players and probably very tasty. On the other hand, dead larva’s mean the cheese is unfresh. It tastes best spread on bread and served with a dry red wine. Probably!?
Do you remember my encounter with the strange black-eyed man? So I’ve stopped looking for casu marzu but it hasn’t found me yet. I have no reason to suspect that the man told me the half-truth or was lying. I concluded that casu marzu was still looking for me, running somewhere around Sardinia or jumping like a larvae. Probably, it wants to shout out my name loudly, but let’s be serious, it’s just a speechless cheese and iy’s far away. It can’t succeed. Therefore I’m asking heartily – would you do me a favor? If you will be at this festival, please bring me my casu marzu! I already have some red wine and I will be happy to share it with you.
All around only cyclists, climbers and highliners. In total, 350 participants were registered here in 2019. Everyone’s running in the same festival shirts, so you can distinguish the mountain biker from the climber only by his calves. The first has muscular ones, the second – slim. A highliner? Hmmm …. The calves are something in between. But luckily you know him by sight, so you don’t have to check his legs. Enough of this off-top, let’s go to check out the spots.
In order to reach both of the highline spots take the same route from the town and go up the mountain for 20 min. You already know the direction quite well, you’ve seen the first spot form the bar. Remember? Go towards the canyon – see the last photo. You can enter it through a very
narrow passage, as long as you want to go climbing or to watch the lines from below… or someone’s feet on them. However, if your life is highlining, you bypass the canyon with the left side. Getting to spot 2 is very easy, just follow every possible path to the left. On the other hand, the road to the spot 1 was not so obvious for most festival novices. Generally, at the stone mound turn right and follow along the path with mounds. Sounds pretty simple. You know the direction of the lines, you’ve even seen them from below, in the canyon … and still you get lost 5 times. Life.
Spot no. 1 has two levels. The sea can be seen in the distance, the town below, and climbers underfoot. When getting on or leaving your highline, pay attention to loose stones around. It’s beautiful and the wonderful silence reigns here. However there is also the gravity and plenty of people below you.
The lines on the lower level are 30-50 m long and about 30-40m high. Upper level lines are 60-100m long and ~ 50-60m high. That’s only my assessment – I forgot to take my laser here. I don’t remember if there were workshops for beginner slackliners and highliners.
However, if you just starting your highline adventure, the lower level will be perfect for you. The lines are relatively short, and the space enclosed by a canyon becomes really cozy. Same similar feeling appear in the soul.
Spot no. 2 was created in 2019 and was inaugurated by one highline, almost half a kilometer long, at a height of 120m. That doesn’t mean there won’t be such lines in the future. After all, festivals tend to develop. See for yourself, the possibilities are countless.
Summing up, it is a very unique festival from a nomadic-highliner’s point of view. It’s very tribal. The main tribe here is of course the group of Italian highliners, climbers, circus performers and musicians. Most people are fluent in all these four areas at the same time. Here, you will experience a return to our pre-civilization roots. I’m not able to describe it as well as I’d like, so just listen to this music. Hmmm … right? And that’s how the night is going … The tribe makes music, the tribe makes shows (Eli on aerial silks), the tribe has its own tribal colors. This is a lovely and very creative tribe.
And? Have you decided to come? Not so fast? Want to get some rest? Then come for a moment and immerse yourself in water!
Water – Wind – Wave
If you’re in love with the water sports as much as with highlining, you have no other choice but heading from Cagliari straight to Porto Botte. It’s in the opposite direction to the festival, which is southwest. Fortunately it’s not far away. Plan some time to get there either before or after the event.
Porto Bottle is a village inhabited with just 6 permanent residents without any public transportation. I guess it sounds good to you, huh? The gusty wind blows there for almost 350 days a year. You’ll get there as usual, because you always arrive everywhere somehow. You will find a wind-kite-surfing base called Skyhigh. Yeah. To make it even worse, there is even wakeboarding here! The Skyhigh is run by Marta and Karol – wonderful people who fell in love with water sports many years ago. Here you can rent any piece of equipment you need to be happy.
What’s more, due to its strong winds, Porto Botte is a place strictly for wind- and kitesurfing. Therefore not for surfing … But they’ll tell you where to go to find a good swell at 6 am. You know what I mean? If you don’t quite get it yet, just look at the first photo. The sports collage with a casu marzu in the middle. All photos of the water sports in this collage (thanks to Skyhigh.pl for sharing them) are taken in Porto Botte and somewhere around.
As you have already noticed, you cannot miss Sardinia this year.