|20 May 2008
After yesterday's drizzle the weather cheered up, with big clouds scudding speedily across the sky, interspersed with hot sunshine. We took the twisty turny road up to Luras for a dolmen hunt.
The wildflowers refreshed by the recent spring rain threw themselves at the sky in glades of bright colours; so many different kinds of grasses, rock dwelling bushes and alpines, wild lavender and herbs and yellow dandelions and purple vetch.
Wading through this natural rock garden, more worthy of a prize than anything at the Chelsea flower show, we found Ladas dolmen, which is actually a bit of a mess.
But today on its rock garden perch, partially shaded by cork oaks it looks fab. It has two capstones still up one if which is very large indeed. Internally, it's partly supported by wooden pillars, unfortunately.
A short stroll down the flower strewn lane brought us to Ciuledda dolmen. While smaller than Ladas, Ciudella was somehow more lovely.
A little bit out of Luras, perhaps 1 km, in its own little walled enclosure protected from the verdant olive trees and cork oaks is dolmen Bilella.
Constructed on a curious split level rock platform its supporting stones are therefore of different heights – as if stepping downstairs. It has a nice capstone with a pleasing curve on the top and dead flat on the underside. But something about it didn't quite ring true – possibly a poor or fanciful reconstruction perhaps to make the site seem more poetic? We couldn't quite work it out.
This was something to ponder as we sat and tucked into our pizza, listening to the deafening soundtrack of songbirds and trying to catch glimpses of the singers – finches, bunting and flycatchers for sure, though exactly which species I couldn't say.
The fourth dolmen at Luras we saw was Alzoledda.
This tiny, unobtrusive and very simple construction is hardly worth a glimpse in the context of Sardinia. But if it was in, say, an Oxfordshire field, people would come from miles. Alzoledda has its own reserved patch of ground on the edge of town and is policed by three pretty cats from the house which overlooks it.
Four dolmens in a couple of hours is not a bad morning's megalithing. But although I love dolmens, while I was in Sardinia I was most interested in seeing tombi di giganti.
Tucked away in the most arcadian, peaceful valley in the world (possibly) just to the east of Tempio is Pascaredda tomba di giganti. Striding through seas of grasses and flowers following a path beside a tree lined stream of bucolic perfection, we arrived at a clearing surrounded by the gnarly ancient cork oaks to find this sweetest of tombi, complete with much of its barrow.
Thirteen out of 14 of its original capstones are still in place covering its deep tomb corridor. The curved arms of its forecourt stones sweep round elegantly each side of the stele. The stele is unusual in that it only has the bottom square with catflap – it lacks the arched top section that we'd seen at Coddhu Vecchju or Li Lolghi. Not that it mattered – this place was exquisite. Moth and I both looked for signs that it once has an arched topped, but found nothing to suggest it had.
With purple orchids in flower among the more than 16 species of flowering grasses and birdsong filling the warm scented air, this place is nothing less than orgasmic.
Apart from tomba di giganti Sardinia is well known for its thousands of nuraghe, fortified stone towers, often the main building of an ancient settlement. I'm not hugely into them but when in Rome…
Just outside Tempio is Nuraghe Majori, my first nuraghe. This one is run as a tourist attraction with shop, café, loos and a stuffed wild boar. Picking our way through the cork oaks (which were festooned with hairy caterpillars hung freakily from long silken threads waiting to ambush me) we finally arrived at the nuraghe.
Made of huge blocks of stone piled up carefully to create thick walls, they look like Menorcan talaiots, the difference is that nuraghes have internal chambers, perhaps used for food storage, would be my guess as they were very cool and dark inside. This one had two corbelled chambers leading off from the main corridor, an in one hung some sweet little bats right up in the apex. The corridor continued through the wall and spiralled up and out into an higher external platform giving great views all around.
But the plain fact is that nuraghes, though plentiful and much studied, don't thrill either me or Moth like tombi do.
Picking my way carefully back through the caterpillars with Moth in front acting as 'larva detector' we returned to the café to sip peach juice and nibble at peccorino cheese.