We're too tired to even ride back up through the mountains on the east coasts of Sardinia and Corsica. Now that we've decided to leave Europe, we find ourselves in a great rush to get the heck outta here.
Since we've both agreed not to venture any further south, the ferry at Cagliari is useless to us. The only boat back to mainland Europe leaves from Olbia, 275 kms away on the northeastern corner of Sardinia. We don't even think about it. The next morning we jump directly on the highway and within hours we're checking in at the ferry that will take us away from the islands.
It took us four whole days to wander down Sardinia and now that we're on a mission... three hours to come back up!
No pictures of the boring highway ride back.
But here's one of the ferry back to mainland Italy
Ten hours later, we're spit out onto the shores of Genoa.
From here, we're planning on heading east back to Croatia to dump the bikes and fly to Thailand.
Neda had a thought. Since we're going to be passing through Cinque Terre on the way to Pula, why not drop in and see the famous Italian Riviera? It's on the way...
Sure. Why not?
Beautiful southern shores of Italy
As the name Cinque Terre suggests, this part of the Italian Riviera is comprised of five towns. Although the towns are all within 20 kms of each other, it's still too much to see in a single day, so we're going to set up a base at a campsite on the west end, in a town called Sestri Levante.
Riding out to our campsite. This whole area reminds us of the Amalfi Coast, further south on the boot of Italy.
Our HQ for the next couple of days
We had actually wanted to visit Cinque Terre when we first landed in Europe back in 2014, but when we got close, Northern Italy experienced severe flooding, so we skipped the Italian Riviera. This part of Italy frequently gets flooded. The worst one was back in 2011, nine people were killed and there was extensive damage to several of the villages.
Heavy rains in the spring of this year led to extensive landslides which closed down several hiking trails and roads. Several months later, the roads still haven't reopened. This means that we have to take the main highway all the way east to La Spezia and then double back to visit the villages of Cinque Terre.
This is unfortunate. There's a system of narrow, twisty roads that connect all the villages, and it runs along the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea! :(
Routing through the city of La Spezia
La Spezia is pretty, but it's not one of the old villages of Cinque Terre
We make it to our first Cinque Terre town: Monterosso al Mare
Wonderful pastel-colored buildings line the pedestrian streets. It's definitely off-season, but there are still a lot of tourists enjoying the Riviera's warm, late-fall weather.
I found out that the buildings were only painted these pastel colours in the 1970s
The medieval buildings here remind me of when we visited the mock-Italian villa of Portmeirion in Wales
Now *this* is what the real Italian Riviera looks like!
We continue strolling west past the town's centre to the beach on the other side.
Of the five villages of Cinque Terre, Monterosso is the only one that has a sandy beach.
There's a huge rock just off the coast that everybody climbs
However, they warn people not to get stuck on the rock when the tide comes in. Or you'll get stranded and have to swim back to shore!
It's not that far a swim...
Monterosso al Mare's sandy beach. It must be packed in the summertime!
Looking over the colorful beach blankets the vendors have laid out on the sand
It's so pretty and scenic here. Not too many people and the weather is warm and sunny. But still... it seems like we're just not enjoying it fully.
Like we're just putting one foot in front of the other.
Aurora Tower - they say that this is the marker that separates the old town (where we were earlier) with the newer part (the beach)
Back to HQ
It looks like we're only managing to see one town a day. At this rate, we'll be here all week. Not sure I can handle that...
The next day, we visit the second of five towns: Riomaggiore
The single pedestrian road through town leads to a dead end at the waterfront
The classic Cinque Terre shot
Riomaggiore is the perfect example of the Cinque Terre cascading buildings perched on the cliff, crowding each other to the very edge of the water like lemmings driving each other over the edge.
The rocks in the small harbour in Riomaggiore are a popular place for photo shoots
All these boats are for tourists. The only real fishing village out of the five towns is/was Monterosso
The entire village rests on these rocks, you can walk around the base underneath
Well, that's two villages down. Three more to go!
We head back to our campsite and the skies darken considerably. Uh oh. Looks like rain!
And rain it did. All night and into the morning. Neda's waterproofing spray job failed to plug the leak in our roof and we were once again swimming inside our tent in the darkness.
In the morning, we shook the water out of our shelter. I think the tent is done. And so are we. We're tired and miserable and we just found out the place we called home for the last half decade will have to be binned. :(
I don't know why we keep shuffling our feet on our way out of Europe.
Well actually, I do know why. And it's the same reason why we travel so slowly.
We have a bad case of Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). Everywhere we go, we feel like we may never come back again, so we want to see and do everything. Which means not only do we end up staying a long time in each place, we completely fatigue ourselves out in the process.
We should have just skipped Cinque Terre, but once again... FOMO strikes again.
Two out of Five is good enough. We're outta here.
For real, this time.